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.
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.