I don’t know what I expected, exactly. But I didn’t expect you to smile at me and say sweetly, “Thanks, Mom,” when you’ve got a cold and I bring you tea. You could just as easily have growled at me.
I didn’t expect you to want to hang out with me when I’m just in the kitchen, doing the dishes. “Good, I get more time to talk to you,” you say cheerfully when I ask if you’ll help me clean up. You’re not asking to go do something else, something more fun.
I didn’t know my hobbies would become yours—that you’d help me tote water for gardening and excitedly show me the flower seeds you found and that we’d work together in the dirt, side by side. That you’d hold my hand on the way back to the house, and I’d look down at our two dirty hands, clasped together. You don’t mind getting a little dirt under your nails with me.
I didn’t know you’d be watching others so intently or that you’d have a word of encouragement just when a friend needs it. I don’t think I ever felt prouder than the day you put your arm around the neighbor girl who was crying on our front porch. I wish I could say I taught you that, but it’s just you and the soft heart God gave you.
I never dreamed that you’d extend that same friendship toward me.
That you’d want the same thing I want, and that you’d say it like this, “Sometimes I don’t think of you as my mom, but as my friend.”
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I didn’t expect your opinions to mature so quickly. When we hear about another hard thing that’s happening in the world somewhere, you say, “Let’s pray for them,” even before I think it. You’re not lost in your own head or your own world or your own drama. You’re awake to the world around you.
I didn’t know that lending you my jean jacket would be so fun or that you’d take (almost) as much ownership of your baby brother as I do or that our favorite books would sit on the shelf side by side, and I’d have another Jane Austen buddy to chat with.
I didn’t anticipate that days at home would be lovely. Just a few short years ago, days at home with you were work—hard work. Now I still work hard, but it’s different. Sharing everything, even the work, has made our days different.
In short, I didn’t know your tween years would be so fun.
Maybe it was the culture around me that tried to poison the idea of these years. Too many messages out there saying, “Teens are sullen, selfish, and weird.” Or maybe the fear came from within—the idea that your tween years would be like mine. That I’d magically transform into a different kind of mother when the calendar flipped to your 12th birthday—that you’d sense the change and back away from me—and that we’d barely eke out the rest of our years together.
But the calendar has flipped, and no magical change has occurred. There are no unicorns, but there’s no scary-mom transformation, either. And there’s definitely no scary-teen transformation. You’re just you, but taller, wiser, more beautiful. And I’m just me, still learning how to be your mom, still imperfect but trying.
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So let’s thank God for this good thing we’ve got going.
He’s keeping you in the palm of His hand just like He’s kept me. And in these tween years, He can keep our relationship in the palm of His hand, too.
I know He will because He’s already blessing me in a way I never thought possible.
He’s blessing me with you, my tween daughter, my friend.