She’s been telling me this all along. I just didn’t believe it. My thirteen-year-old daughter is perfect.
Today we went to the pediatrician for her annual exam. I hold enormous respect for Julia’s doctor; a bright, personable, professional and compassionate practitioner. But hearing her say those words to me, after Julia’s first ‘teen’ appointment (when you have to leave the room for the exam so they can talk), hit me like pie plate full of shaving cream.
I mean, yes, she’s pretty awesome. Our girl is an honors student, a star athlete, a great alto, tall, blonde, blue-eyed and can be both compassionate and funny simultaneously. She’s been handed some significant gifts, it’s true. But perfect? Really? How did she fool her into that one? Silly doctor.
Of course I sat outside the examining room, straining to hear things like – my mother is a psychopath, or – they beat me, starve me and burn all of my clothes at least once a week. I waited anxiously at the door dreading that my daughter was doing something that I didn’t know about, and that she didn’t want me to know about. Boys? Drugs? Alcohol?
It all seems to be starting now. She often tells me about kids her age who are experimenting with sex, or who are trying out for the role of town skank. Kids at this age are testing the waters and have boundless energy to burn. These same little babies who might have played on a sports team with her, or sat in the backseat of our car to get a ride home. How could their world of promiscuity, ignorance and rebellion be even close to my girl’s?
Julia does her homework, but procrastinates and complains about it. She does chores if I pay her and I’ve made her watch ‘The Odd Couple’ on TV so she can see how her room is almost identical to Oscar Madison’s (He has beer bottles, she has sparkling water bottles – same thing). She won’t tell me who she likes, and she wants to marry the blonde guy from One Direction. Who doesn’t?
My daughter knows she will lose her phone, or be grounded for the weekend if she gives her father or me any kind of significant problem, or refuses to take accountability for what she’s done.
She also accepted without complaint that she had to get her school clothes last year at a second-hand store when our family finances were so tight that we groceries from all 5 food groups was a luxury. And as money has started to flow in again, she still is capable of reining herself in and appreciating all we, and the rest of her family, fortunate enough to give her.
She displays patience bordering on saintly with her sweet little cousins who idolize her, and all little ones she encounters, watching over them better than I watched over her (Well, no. But close enough). She doesn’t get upset with me when I cannot spend an entire weekend at her basketball tournaments out-of-town because I have to get laundry, dishes and groceries, bill-paying and a whole bunch of other stuff done so the family doesn’t capsize.
I really miss those games, watching her so focused, so good at something she loves. But I’ve learned that keeping her home life stable and consistent helps her act the same way. And it helps me too. I pledge her coping skills will continue to outshine mine for as long as I can influence her. She gets anxious sometimes, about stupid things, but we can always talk her down. She’s not catty, or a mean girl, and her friendships are strong with little drama. She gets that from her Dad, the calm, the thoughtfulness, the think before you speak.
Julia is loud, and boisterous and wonderful and her friends all think she’s funny and pretty, tbh (That means To Be Honest for those of you over 16.). Her comedic timing is right on, and I can’t wait for her to start acting and performing again. Tonight we sat watching The Sound of Music as she gets ready to portray Julie Andrews for a school project. We hadn’t watched it together in years. She couldn’t remember all the words that she had memorized just a few years back, half her life ago; but now she understands what the Nazi’s were trying to do and why ol’ Uncle Max kept calling out “The Von Trappe Family Singers … The Family Von Trappe …”
Nobody is perfect. Perfect is great to shoot for, in moderation, but too high of an expectation for anyone to take too seriously. But if I consider all of the bad things that could be going on in my girl’s life that aren’t, and see the character of the young woman emerging and unfolding before her father and me, shining so bright and brilliant that I have to squint to take her all in, I can understand the doctor’s words today.
Is this a gratuitous love letter to my only child. Yeah. She deserves it.