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Thoughts On Parenting A Tween

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

— From Li Young Lee’s From Blossoms

I don’t like August. Not because another month has passed and we’re all a month older, but because in just a few days Juliette will start another year of school, and these past eight months we’ve had together will come to an end. She’ll be off on her 6th grade adventure, and these can be such trying days for a young girl.

Did I tell her? Of course I did. The day she was born was the happiest day of my life. All the more stunning that now, at nearly 12, she brings me even greater joy.

Warning: Parenting A Tween

Every time someone warns me about the teenage years, I want to punch their lights out. They don’t know her like I do. How together we embrace the woman she’s becoming, and how the more I get to know her the more I want her to be everything she already is. The pulling away to test her independence, to invent herself; to surrender to the glorious person God has created in her; these things do not threaten me.

Watching her grow is one of the greatest adventures of my life, even if it coincides with her borrowing (and losing) my hairbrush; spilling bright blue nail polish on the carpet and using up all the hot water in long showers before Robert or I have a chance to take one.

Daily, I am in awe of her smile maturity, humor, kindness, wisdom. I ask myself how I got so lucky. And, I remember that stranger who came up to me and told me she had a word for me. “The banner of God’s love is over your daughter’s life,” she said, and then she mumbled some words in Hebrew and walked away. I took those words to bed every night during the years I was a single mom. When I worried, when I cried, I remembered the banner.

Bellies

When Juliette was a baby, I kissed her belly every day for at least eight years. Now, I take her to my chest, and I kiss the top of her head as it brushes against my chin. She is more beautiful today than the day she was born. And, she was perfect on that day. She came into the world looking for me, and I looked at her, all five pounds of sugar. Stunned, I whispered to myself, “I’m her mommy,” and I marveled that inside my big, fat tired belly there actually had been a baby.

I believe so many great things await Juliette, an orchard even. I pour out all my life experiences in sweet nectar, and stories of peaches – the round celebrations of life, and the ones the locusts devoured. They had a dinner party on my peaches! It wasn’t funny.

Don’t Hold Back

In drives to the grocery store and when I sit on her bed at night before she says her prayers, I hold little back – the rich blessings I’ve not deserved or the events that changed her childhood; not the wonders of first kisses or shopping for fancy dresses or planning a wedding or packing for college or high school dances or best friends – even the ones she’ll cherish some days more than she will cherish me.

I tell her about the girls who were mean and the ones I still miss; the boys I crushed on and the ones who broke my heart. I tell her about how I planned my camp wardrobe, and the things in life I could have planned better, and how I wish I’d moved to New York, and how glad I am I didn’t, and how in 1986, when I had the chance to go to Leysin, I wish I’d taken it, but how if I had, she might not be here. That would not be OK.

I tell her there is so much to be gained in going and staying, and that whatever she chooses, I will support her. I tell her to live the life God would have her to live, and the closer she stays to His heart the fewer regrets she will have. I know she believes me.

And, I tell her to enjoy her youth; to be careful not to live a life she will regret, burdened by either things she wished she had done or things she wished she hadn’t. Every time she has a concern or worry I can’t fix, I remind her that this is her opportunity to grow her dependence on God. I do not try to solve it all. She has to learn to pray – to take her burdens to God. If not now, when?

So, I don’t dread Juliette growing older or secretly wish she was a baby again. I kissed that belly once, and now I choose 12.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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9 Comments

  1. Jennifer K

    Now you have me puddling up, Jen. What a beautiful tribute to your lovely daughter. And if Juliette is as thoughtful, kind and dignified as her mother the world is truly blessed.

  2. Anonymous

    Jen–
    Lovely, Lovely–
    Such a touching relationship between mother and daughter.
    God has truely blessed you both. HIS BANNER is like an umbrella, in turn, your entire family is covered and blessed. I am blessed. 🙂
    Hugs– Mom

  3. jenX

    @TR, TERRITORY MOM – Thank you!

    @YOGI – I’ve seen his picture! He has a precious light inside of him!!

    @BALONEY – No kidding about boy stench! I was at the park yesterday helping Sullivan cross the monkey bars and he was stinky! I said, “Sully, you’re too young to stink!” He thought it was hysterical that he stunk and ran around all day saying “I stink, I stink.” =/

    @WILDBILLYELLIOTT – Oh, for the courage to keep going! I Love that story. A good friend of mine was a huge fan of that show. I wish I hadn’t missed it. BTW, xoxoxo

  4. Anonymous

    Jen, so beautiful. Your prose genuinely flows from the heart. Rob

  5. Yogi♪♪♪

    Oh you have a way with words Jen.

    “The banner of God’s love is over your daughter’s life,” I know somebody gave you those words but you remembered them and passed them on.

    I feel similarly about my son. Its like every day of his life I feel, “God, he is perfect, if he could just this way for a little longer.” Of course he changes and I feel the same way the next day.

  6. Territory Mom

    You touched my heart again. How wonderful that you girls have such a close relationship. Your daughter is growing into a great woman because she has a great mother leading her. God bless.

  7. T.R.

    What a beautiful tribute to a mother-daughter relationship and to inspirational parenting.

  8. wildbillyelliott

    you remind me of the last episode of SIX FEET UNDER. Claire, the only daughter and youngest child in a very mixed up family longs to go to photography school in NY NY. She goes through all the drama and angst deciding to go… or not to go. Her Dad was dead, now her brother was dead too, & her mom was selling the Funeral home and offering her HER PART of her inheiretence early… this was her chance!

    So she finally decides to enroll, and they all throw her a going away party and tell her how much they support her decision to follow her dream and move to New York. Her car is packed to the gills, & she is feeling pretty great, as she takes the last peice of mail from the mailbox.

    It is a letter of rejection from the Photography School.

    She tells no one, and leaves LA anyway, headed for New York.

    I loved that. We should all do something like that!

  9. Baloney

    If you offered a parenting class, I would sign up. I’m choosing to look forward to the teen years but dreading the boy stench coming up. 🙂

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