Growing Up Girl

My daughter’s teacher told me recently that second grade is when girls start comparing themselves to other people to find out not only who they are, but who they want to be around. Oh, snap, I thought. You mean it hasn’t even started yet? I was terrified. I thought we were already halfway through she-bop crazytown.

When my daughter first started showing signs of social angst a year ago, her first-grade teacher said it was important that I model appropriate emotional behavior every day. Show her how it’s done.

I thought about all the evenings when I’d been hauling groceries inside—bags ripping, kids kicking each other in the shins, freelance emails waiting, my mother calling, baby wailing, and the dog goosing me like a wet wipe, front to back.


That’s when my girl and I started checking in every night, sharing each day’s rose and thorn.

I always go first. This helps, because when it’s her turn, I have work to do. She recently said that her favorite part of the day is at night when I’m calm and apologizing for stuff I’ve freaked out about during the day.

How’s that for an elbow punch in the baby maker?

I know these nighttime conversations are like little pearls that I’ll recall some day with a gilded tilt, so I keep them up, even if I’m so exhausted that I talk while lying face down on her pillow.

Once, she asked me to tell her a childhood secret, but not the one about how I used to wipe boogers on my bedroom wall. “You already told me that one,” she explained.

I’d forgotten.

So I told her about the time I stole a shiny hematite rock from school because I wanted it so badly, even though taking it wasn’t the right thing to do.

She reciprocated with a story about how she’d wanted the colored marbles at preschool so badly that she took them home. In her underwear. Her what? Her underwear. She put this stunt on replay until she’d filched a whole collection, later stashed in a sock, as big as a knobby winter squash.

After the big panty-smuggling marbles reveal, our chats got even more serious.

A few weeks ago, trouble was brewing with her best friend.

“I just want to be friends with other people and not have her be mad at me!”

It was a teaching moment, delivered right in front of my face, like goey egg yolk on toast. Scoop that up. Now!

I started sweating. She scooched over toward the window.

“Mom, do you need some room so you don’t fall off the bed?”

I love you so much, little girl. Please don’t ever kick me out of your bed.

We hashed out the details. She worried that she’d retaliate against her friend’s anger with her signature silent snub.

I slipped into the only mantra I could think of. I told her that what she was feeling was okay, and that it was okay to talk to her friend.

She asked me if we could role play what the conversation might look like.

For serious?

She exercised the awkward hemming, hawing, and lip chewing she would go through.

Afterward, she turned to me and said this:

“Mommy, I hope you live for a hundred years!” and she hugged me.

I didn’t tell her that I would have jumped into the underworld and eaten cottage cheese for eternity just to share that moment with her.

After I kissed her goodnight and told her that I loved her no matter what she does, she popped her thumb in her mouth and rolled over. I wanted to burrow my arms into the mattress around her fawnish body—all limbs and elbows—and kiss her downy brow, no longer furrowed in distress.

Instead, I stood next to her bed and said the kind of silent prayer that my godless heart knows best, thanking the holy mother ethereal spirit of Carol Gilligan that I probably got one right.


29 thoughts on “Growing Up Girl

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  1. This is only the second blog post I’ve read of yours, but it’s freaking amazing on so many levels. Your honesty with motherhood, and not the gaggy mommy blog type. Your ability to craft what could have been quite a lengthy story into one drink with the use of thoughtful, skilled brevity. And most of all: your lyrical voice, which is so very apparent and is what really kicks this post up from a simple tale to a full showing of writer’s craftsmanship.

      1. you deserve it. This *is* writing. I’m curious if you have any publication creds under your belt? (in lit mags?) You’re skill is very apparent. If you are looking for places to submit, I subscribe to the biggest list serv with regards to literary magazines looking for poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and essays. I can send you the info if you’re at all interested.

  2. Love, love, love! Keep up the good mommy-work! Toughest job you’ll ever love.
    (I swear, if only guilt burned calories, I’d be as thin as a rail.)

  3. Here’s what’s great about this post. It’s sentimental and wonderful, but even more, it’s your use of words; creative, surprising and unique. I could have read this same type of post a hundred times over at other blogs, but you made me truly enjoy reading it. Thanks!

  4. I like your rose and thorn ritual. I tried a dinner table idea that was kind of like that, but it petered out after a day or two. I loved the description of “all limbs and elbows” and her unfurrowed brow.

  5. This is so sweet and beautifully written! It also conjures up vivid memories of all the social pitfalls associated with being a young girl. Thank goodness for moms! In fact, I’m going to call mine right now. 🙂

  6. wow. i’m in tears again. I pray for these kind of moments with my little Lovie (almost 4– though I hope she doesn’t put marbles in her underwear when at preschool). you told this brilliantly well.

    1. It starts about now–at 4, my little girl was totally ready for this kind of nightly love, but I didn’t realize we were already moving into the next phase. I’ll be playing catch-up along side her for years, I think.

  7. Wonderfully written!
    We do Roses and Thorns sometimes, too, and this reminds me we need to make it more routine. My daughter also always worries there isn’t enough room on the bed for me when we cuddle.

    She’s in second grade, too, and the piece I wrote for Yeah Write was about the body image issues that have started to crop up. She’s turning 8 tomorrow and was sobbing tonight because she wants to stay 7. It’s hard to become who you are, isn’t it?

    1. Wow. She sounds so much like my daughter, who turns 8 in three weeks. My daughter cries at the end of every school year because she wants to stay in the same grade. Mine also has body image stuff beginning…I commented on your post this week because it totally resonated with me. Totally hard to become who you are. Painful to watch, and I’m constantly wondering if I’m getting it right. Thank you!!

  8. I adored this post — just everything about it — what it shows about you as a woman and a mother, what it reveals about society, the way it was so beautifully written, every single word choice. This was just truly, truly wonderful …. and I’m totally jealous of your writing abilities. I must also note that I have loved every other thing you I have read of yours through yeah write. I also did some snooping around the blog, and it appears to me the blog is relatively new. So, on that note, I was awarded a liebster last year, and I still have five of those to give out. I’ve been choosy (and a lazy blogger for a period of time). If you are interested, I would love for you to be the recipient of one. Head on over to this link to read all about the details …
    Then please leave me a message on one of my posts letting me know if you accept or decline. Once I have your response, I’ll feature you on my blog and add you to my list. Great writing and story-telling here. Your little girl is lucky to have you!

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