Just showing up doesn't cut it anymore

So today, I am officially the parent of a teenager. Actually, I feel like I've been one for quite some time. But today is the day, in fact, as I post this, we're down to the minute, that my boo-boos (don't dare call her that in public anymore) turns 13.

Oy. It's cliche to say how time flies, but it does. It was just yesterday when I was shopping around for grade schools to send her to, (here in Milwaukee, you can actually pick as opposed to "you live here, therefore your kid will go there") and now I have to make appointments to look at high schools. When I was in highschool, you just went to a high school for your district. You didn't have to pick. You didn't have to apply and hope you got in. You just showed up.

Stella's at a point in her life where just showing up doesn't cut it anymore, and that's a hard lesson for a teenager to learn. She's never been a girly girl (well, maybe in kindergarten), but she's mostly been athletic ( but not competitive), tree-climbing, get-her-hands-dirty girl, but she is turning into a young woman. She's trying different hair colors (in my day, you would have never heard of such a thing), but her adversity to needles steers her away from pierced ears (or anything else), tattoos, and other arguments I don't have to make with her. She's been begging for contact lenses, not believing me when I tell her that she's one of those beauties who actually looks good in glasses, so she's got several packs of disposables and has gotten the hang of getting them in and out. She doesn't wear makeup (yet) so my advice about putting your makeup on AFTER the lenses goes in is unnecessary. She has a fashion sense -- not a girly or slave-to-Vogue sense-- but a fashion sense nonetheless and I think I have a good feel for her style. It's part Goodwill finds, part basics plus a flair for accessories, and not tacky ones, part, I'll-splurge-on-one-excellent-piece and augment that with basics, and it's always comfortable. She doesn't wear heels, she doesn't have time for things that she can't lounge around in comfortably. She wishes her hair would stay flat and straight, but I've told her, if she's going to mess with haircolor as much as she does, her hair is NOT going to look like a Pantene commercial. She accepts this.

And yet, some things don't change. We had girls over for a slumber party, and a game of Truth of Dare was taking place, with the dares being having to drink some disgusting concoction that they'd created by raiding my spice rack and that shelf in the fridge where one keeps their bottles of rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, hoisin sauce, jerk marinade, some salad dressing I bought that looked better on the bottle than it did on the salad, and those three leftover olives (and their juice) from an old martini party. I'm not sure if I wanted to impart my advice to Stella about how to survive Truth or Dare or not, which is, of course, to lie. "Do I have a crush on Billy Johnson? Of course not. Don't be ridiculous." But the reason that i didn't bother was a) Stella can't lie to save her life and b) it's not like she's going to take my advice about anything.. Maybe about the contacts, but that's about it.

And that's where I have to accept this growing up part. I can give her advice, but I can't make her take it. She has to make her mistakes herself-- they're the only way she's going to really learn life lessons. It's always been this way, but before, the life lesson was, "Trust me, don't spend your money on this stupid Barbie set that's only going to work once." Now the life lessons are harder, and the mistakes are ones I wish she didn't have to make to learn. I'm having to accept this is a time in her life when my ability to protect her is going to be less accessible, yet more needed.

It helps a lot that fundamentally, she's a good kid. She's a whiner, but she capitulates and does her homework and academically I'm not worried at all. She still calls me on it when I -- or anybody-- uses vulgar language, and while she whines about the rules, she follows them. She cares for her animals (she has two adorable rats named Finn and Jake) as carefully as a new mother cares for a child, and the neighborhood kids -- all younger than her -- follow her around like the pied piper. She's not perfect, but she's a darn good kid who's hitting a hard part of life. And she's all of thirteen, on the brink of turning into a young adult. It's scary and exciting, but, deep breath, here goes.

Happy Birthday Boo-Boos Stella! I love you, even though you may not believe me about that, or anything else!


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