Friday, May 13, 2011

Season of the Swan

Our refrigerator is covered in invitations right now, their brightly-colored edges and fancy fonts like a dusting of leaves from a Disney-fied forest. Each one, held up by its own homemade bottle-top magnet, heralds another junior high school student about to make a major transition in the life of their faith: bat mitzvahs, bar mitzvahs, confirmations. These fluttering cards just rub in the visual evidence that I am fastidiously working to ignore:  my 13 year old daughter, and all her friends, are hurtling towards adulthood.

My daughter goes to an all-girls junior high which my husband and I selected because of its academic excellence, not at all because of the reassuring lack of absence of male distraction in the place, no sirree, not us, never crossed our minds. Throughout 6th grade, she rolled out of bed and into whatever clothes happened to be on the floor under the giant stacks of books she loves to read, plopped her glasses on the bridge of her nose, and pronounced herself ready for school. I congratulated myself for keeping the "child " in "childhood" for her.

But the hairline cracks in my plan to keep my daughter forever young appeared at the start of 7th grade, and have been widening ever since. A co-ed dance here, a co-ed birthday party there, the realization that months of ballet study have given our daughter the long, strong figure of a dancer and the graceful carriage to boot. Who could have seen that coming?

This spring it's just picked up momentum. We sent out our own invitation a few weeks ago, inviting a small circle of friends to witness the culmination of our daughter's confirmation process. Then began a series of changes that could broadly categorized as "Getting Ready for Confirmation," and subtitled "Freaking Out Mom and Dad."

First, there was a haircut that took my daughter's long, straight locks from simple to sophisticated. Then we shopped for confirmation dresses (all her dresses had inexplicably shrunk) and the ones that fit her were in the women's, not children's, department. We found two that were sufficiently cute for her, and sufficiently modest for me, at least if I threw a sweater on her and buttoned it from neck to hip. Months of her surreptitious study of fashion magazines, which I have long pretended were just a kicky way to find collage materials for craft projects, meant that my daughter knew exactly what jewelry and hairstyles would complement each dress to best effect.

We'd agreed that she could wear her first pair of heels, but I insisted on buying the lowest ones available in the department store. Who would have guessed they'd also be the most flattering, nude patent leather slingbacks with little flowers on each toe? They managed to make her long legs look even longer. Backfire.

Then came the contact lenses, something that she convinced me she needed for ballet more than anything else. Until she took them off, I didn't realize how much I'd relied on her old tortoiseshell frames to fix her in my mind as the fourth grader she was when she got them. Without them, her blue eyes pop.

Only one thing to be done: buy more glasses. "The contacts will be uncomfortable when you're reading," I said, scrambling. "Better to have some glasses you like." At the opticians I encouraged her to buy the biggest, most Buddy Holly looking glasses they stocked, almost exact duplicates of David Byrne in the "Once in a Lifetime" video. Did they tamp down her looks? No, they did not. She now looks like a smart girl who has the added sassiness to pull off Geek Chic glasses. 

After her confirmation service last week the older church ladies surrounded me. "She's so grown up!" they said, marveling. "She doesn't even walk; she just glides when she moves!"

I only have one tool left in my arsenal: braces. When I mentioned to her that maybe we should call the orthodontist to see if she needs them, she nodded vigorously. "Because if I get them right now, I'll be done with them before high school," she reasoned. High school. As in the co-ed high school she'll be attending, or gliding through, with actual boys.

Am I crazy for thinking we should bring caftans and poke bonnets back into vogue before next year?

In honor of my daughter and all the girls in her posse who we are about to unleash upon the world (thank or blame us later,) here's the Airborne Toxic Event singing "Changing" from their latest album "All At Once," which I heartily recommend.

Looks like Oakland on a perfect Saturday night.


  1. I totally understand. I cried when my daughter lost her first tooth. So pathetic! We sacrifice so much to take care of them and then they punish us by growing up! So unfair!

  2. LOL! Teen years coming up in full swing... Love your writing style...

  3. thanks for the sympathy guys...always easier to know that I'm not the only one being whipsawed by parenthood...


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