January 8, 2018. This is twelve.

Watching my daughter gaze at the ocean, I want to whisper, “The whole world is yours.” Twelve is a precipice for both of us. She is coming into her own, while I am discovering how to mother my almost teenager. The preview of those moments are appearing. “Momma, I like brighter colors,” or “Don’t worry, I can do it myself,” or the classic eye-roll suggests a future speckled with defiance.

Twelve. Twelve. Twelve. This week it screamed at me as my middle-aged feet landed on the ground. I ambled to her room and said, “Happy Birthday.” Her grin sported new braces, another reminder of how she is a pre-teen. I asked my typical questions as she dressed for school. We made breakfast together, two sunny-side-up eggs with an English muffin. She asked if I enjoyed the Golden Globes award show  – a question I deemed something a friend or adult would ask. I dismissed it, partly because it took me off guard and forced me to acknowledge how she is aware of who I am, what I am, and the activities I enjoy. She is getting to know me as much as I am learning about her.

I still look for glimpses of my little girl. The baby hair near the top of her forehead, her calling me “Momma” instead of “Mom,” and all the times she asks me to tuck her in and “hang out for five minutes.” There are less of those requests. I reminisce by looking at old photographs, the chub on her thighs, the wobble in her walk, the way she loved to smear ice cream all over her mouth as a toddler. There are moments I’d like to forget, but still remember: the incessant crying, her clinging to her father during her first birthday, and her need to default toward the emotional, rather than the rational. Sometimes I don’t understand my daughter because the texture of her personality feels so different from mine, but this is a gap I am eager to explore. What kind of person will she become? What will mean the most to her? Who will she be in the world? What will be her legacy? These questions are ones I am still contemplating myself and I see her foray into the teenage years analogous to me finding my footing in middle age. These inquiries hold weight for both of us.

Twelve is dramatic with doors slamming, back talk and daydreaming. Twelve is scary terrain because she isn’t a child, nor an adult. It is an age of influence. The friends she makes, the activities she chooses, her inquiries about the world are becoming the brick and mortar of her future personality. It is a place of losing innocence and gaining knowledge. My answers won’t always satisfy her questions. She will look to other places and people to make her own impressions about the world.

Twelve feels heavy with the unknown, but just as I contemplated writing about her new age, she says to me on the drive home from school, “Don’t worry, Momma, no matter how old I become, I will always cuddle with you.”

How I wish that to be true. Forever.

Happy Birthday, to my twelve-year-old “little” girl.