My eldest daughter turned eight last month.
For me, it has been the most bittersweet birthday yet. Not because this birthday marked the end of another year of huge milestones; she’s been reading on her own for two years and riding a two-wheeler for one. Not because her father and I are not married anymore; we have been divorced for three years. And certainly not because I am buying her more books than toys now.
It was the most bittersweet birthday yet because it is entirely evident that my daughter is starting to need me in a different way.
She doesn’t need to be entertained by me or need me to read to her anymore (although I still do). She needs someone to talk to about friends and bullying, she needs quick snacks while I schlep her to her after-school activities, she needs a “hand in your homework” reminder and- a new one- she needs privacy.
I remember being eight years old. I remember it very clearly. It was the year that I became acutely aware of the social interactions around me. It was the year that I had my first boyfriend. It was the year that my older brother and I really started to bump heads. I gained a lot of independence that year and started to see my mom in a different way; she just didn’t understand what it was like to be eight. Is that going to happen to my daughter and me soon, too?
My daughter has sleepovers often and has more of a social life than I have. I love her three best friends and am happy when they let me hang out with them- fully aware that my time doing so is limited. I am immensely proud of the young lady she has become; loyal, sweet, friendly and funny. She is a great big sister and a loving daughter.
Every day she is more independent.
She is going into 3rd grade in the fall; to a school that is a combination of kids from her elementary school as well as the one across town. New kids, new social dynamics and new situations. While I am not worried about her socially, I wonder what types of situations will occur that are just “too old” for her.
I can’t protect her from that. I suppose I never really could shield her from the world, but it was easier when she paid less attention to what the other kids were doing.
Furthermore, not only are her needs changing, but the world has changed a lot since I was a kid. Social media is EVERYWHERE, and it is still a bit overwhelming to me, and I have Facebook.
At her eight year old check-up last month, my daughter’s pediatrician told me that she does not see any signs of pre-puberty. I wanted to yell, “Was that even an option right now?” Forget not expecting that, I was not even close to ready for that word. Puberty? Nope. Seems like I have some preparing to do. It has been years since I went through puberty or had crushes or felt the first pain of being rejected by groups of girls.
I find myself letting my new eight year old stay up a few minutes later each week. Just another minute of her reading out loud to me. Just another minute of cuddling on the couch while we watch The Voice. Just another few questions about her day so I can understand what life is like from her perspective. As we know- and I am feeling all too much lately- childhood goes by so quickly.
So, every time she calls me “mommy” and asks for my time, my heart melts because I know we are on the other side of her needing me so much. This era is fast coming to a close. I wonder how our relationship will grow and change in the future.
Written by Sarah Kessler
I grew up in Vermont and even though I have lived in different towns over the last several years, I have ended up back in my hometown of Colchester. I live there with my two daughters, Isabella (8) and Louisa (almost 6). They keep me super busy and entertained on a daily basis. They also help me maintain perspective, and for that I am grateful. We love to read, go to the beach, bake, run, eat ice cream and snuggle. I work at Marathon Health and have been in the healthcare field since I graduated in 2006 (although, most of my career was spent at UVMMC). I earned both my undergraduate degrees and my MBA from Champlain College and plan on going back for my MPH, but need to decide where and with what free time!