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My Middle Life Crisis
It has been coming on for a while. There have been indicators all along that this period of life was fast approaching: An increase in the number of birthday candles. Hormones that have begun to swirl. Changes in attitudes. An increased attraction to young males. Even an interest in cool cars. And I have read enough about it to recognize the signs. So why then, if I knew it was coming, am I so surprised that itís here? Iíll tell you why.
Because while anyone can have a midlife crisis, it takes your oldest child entering middle school to bring on a Middle Life Crisis.
(Yes, I know your mind had formed around the vision of me having hot flashes in my Corvette with a poolboy named Rafe in the passenger seat . . . I am not that old, thankyouverymuch.)
You see, I have always referred to Culley as my training wheels on the two-wheeler of parenting. Everything she does is "a first", and I learn right along with her. So by the time our third daughter gets around to "the Talk", for example, I wonít fall off the "bike", let alone even blink.
But today I blinked a lot, trying hard to hold back my tears, lest I embarrass her on her first day of Middle School.
I have never been a crier either. First day of Kindergarten? Not me. I was the parent who looked like a Senecot - "I feel good" commercial, leaping off the school steps into my brief freedom. Part of that has always had to do with my daughters never being clingy. If anything, they have always seemed to face their first days with a sense of adventure and self assuredness. They have always made it easy to walk (ok, sprint) away.
So what was up today, that I am getting choked up just typing this piece? I mean, she was no less confident as she stood in line to obtain her class schedule. No less self assured as she greeted past friends and began new friendships. She did not cling, was not mute with fear. And when her homeroom class was called, she kissed me and strode confidently away.
And I struggled to reconcile her with the child who once needed my hand to simply stand.
It was in that instant, I think, that I finally acknowledged something I have tried for months to ignore. My first baby, my training wheels, is beginning to balance her own two wheeler through life, and no longer needs her training wheels (me) as much as before. She is simply not a baby anymore.
She turned eleven this year, and it seems Mother Nature has kicked Mother Nurture (me) to the side. She is firmly in control of the metamorphosis of this budding young woman. No longer in a cocoon of baby fat cheeks and sizes that end in "T", she is emerging as a beautiful preteen, complete with curves and strategically placed "padding". I think that I was teary too, because as I watched her walk away, knowing she is just as beautiful on the inside, (and that means we have been doing something right all these years), I also knew I was losing her ever so slightly. The shift may be small, but the girl I dropped off this morning will not be exactly the same girl I bring home this afternoon.
So, filled with a mixture of pride, sadness, joy, melancholy, and just a little bit of cockiness ( I did make her you know), tears came of their own accord.
I know this school year will change her more than all the others that have preceded it. She is running with the big dogs now. She changes classes for every subject. She has electives. She has a locker with a combination. Boys will no longer have cooties. They will be cuties and be calling our home. There will be school dances. There will be dramas played out around her and starring her. There will be laughter, there will be tears.
As she embraces her middle school life, I shall struggle with my middle life crisis. We are both doing what life demands of us - we are growing up - and my wish for her is an abundance of laughter. I will take the tears, and cry them when she is not around.
Youíll have to excuse me now, I donít pick her up for another hour and I need a new tissue.