Sunday, 18 January 2009

At Eleven

My youngest daughter: Skating away

At eleven, my daughter has the coltish legs of someone who hasn't quite matured into her latest growth spurt.

At eleven, my daughter will fuss over her hair, but forget to brush her teeth.

At eleven, my daughter listens in on grown-up conversation. She knows a lot more than her older sister did at the same age.

At eleven, my daughter still tells me (most*) of her secrets.

At eleven, my daughter likes me to read to her. We are working our way through the Little House on the Prairie books - a series that I also loved as a child. (She got some of the more obscure titles for her birthday.) She likes books with spirited heroines.

At eleven, my daughter wants to help me in the kitchen.

At eleven, my daughter understands the world in a way that is precociously wise . . . and yet so innocent, too.

At eleven, my youngest daughter will kiss me - without embarrassment - on a city bus. (My older daughter scowls at us. "Stop it," she says, in a hostile voice.)

At eleven, my daughter is uninterested in cell phones. She enjoys her friends, but they are not all the world to her. She has a solitary streak.

At eleven, my daughter and her friends still bring their teddy bears to sleepover parties. They wear sweet flannel pajamas. They talk unselfconsciously when a mother enters the room. And yet: they experiment with make-up, know all of the lyrics to the Katy Perry album and dress up as the St. Trinian's girls. "I'm a posh tottie," one of them says to me. (I'm speechless. "That's nice, dear," I choke out like someone's maiden aunt.)

At eleven, my daughter is still holding tightly to me with one hand, but reaching out beyond me with the other.


36 comments:

Travis Erwin said...

Great post. You captured the sentiments very well.

Kate said...

Beautiful post, Bee.
Wait until she turns 23.
Sigh.
I recently rearranged some pictures in the house. The kids' First Communion framed photos have gone from the hallway into the master bedroom. Each morning they're the first pictures I see when I awaken. The memories are a blessing!

Julz said...

This post reminds me so much of my 12 year old daughter. You captured her spirit very well.

JaneyV said...

Oh Bee that last line brought a tear to my eye. My eleven year old daughter was looking over my shoulder as I read this post (pretending to say good night but really just being nosy) and she looked with great envy at your daughter ice-skating and made a point of mentioning again how much she wants to do it. She also admired your daughter's jacket. They have a lot in common, your eleven year old and mine, although mine is inseparable from her phone.

A sleepover! Bless you for being so giving. I think that I would've needed the painkillers as well. The "posh tottie" line made me guffaw. You kept your composure beautifully.

Happy Birthday to your daughter. Years from now she'll read this post and will love you even more for it.

Beth said...

Age eleven - a year to be cherished.
But then, aren't they all?
Enjoy - she sounds like such a treasure.

Bee said...

Travis - Thanks so much! I've been thinking about you . . . hope you are well.

Kate - 23! I can't imagine it. Memories are good; and photos really help them along.

Julz - It is such a lovely age - on the cusp of bigger things, but still full of sweetness and mommy-love.

Janey - My daughter likes to read over my shoulder too!

As for the ice skating, we went to Somerset House in London right before Xmas. It really was wonderful. These Xmas things are sometimes a let-down, but this one wasn't. I want to make it an annual tradition now. (I would just like to point out that I risked injury to my person to take that photo! Trying to skate AND take a picture really taxed both of my shaky skills.)

Beth - She is a very easy child to love.

Laurie said...

What a lovely post and what a lovely daughter. Being the older sister, I do relate to big sister's angst though. :)

CashmereLibrarian said...

That's beautiful. Children growing up--it's both hard and wonderful.

Braja said...

Oh what a relief to hear of the anti cellphone solitary streak...nurture that :)

Anonymous said...

Spooky Darling (said in best Dame Edna voice) I too saw Bride Wars yesterday and had a tear. It was not as cheesy as I thought it would be. Despite all the pranks I felt there was a depth to their pain at a lost friendship. I think that it is heightened awareness as I am deep in the heart of Texas with my old girlfriends and it made me feel a pang of regret for the years I have been without them. Unlike you I ahd not had a sleepless night with young girlies up to the wee hours. But as you well know I have had many in my time.
Hold on to that 11 yr old hand my 12 yr old let go and has never looked back sigh...

willow said...

I loved this post, Bee. Is today her eleventh birthday? If so, Happy, Happy!

It seems ages since my daughter was eleven. She is 26, but even at eleven she thought she was 26! ;^) Cherish this time. It goes by soooo quickly!

She said...

Ever read "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros. It's one of my favorite birthday stories.

And I absolutely loved THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE books as a kid!

Loads of fun!

Great post!

NAVAL LANGA said...

I have come to your blog from Mr. Travis Ervin's Blog.

I have read some of your posts and would like to revisit.

If you like reading short stories from an Indian writer, then a visit to my blogs would be an interesting one for you.

Naval Langa
SHORT STORIES by NAVAL LANGA
Another Interesting Blog
BIG CITIES OF INDIA

Bee said...

Laurie - I'm a big sister, too! Older daughter is mostly opposed to PDA's. (She won't let me kiss or hug her in public.)

Cashmere Librarian - Yes, somedays I look forward to it . . . and other days I wish that I could stop time right here.

Braja - Right! I so agree . . . my older daughter is constantly plugged into something (phone, Ipod).

Bon Bon - You described exactly what makes BrideWars a touching film - despite the silliness. I'm glad that you are having such a good time in Houston; hope it won't be too big a wrench to leave again. 11 is SO precioius precisely because you know it's the last gasp of baby sweetness.

Willow - Her birthday was on Saturday, but we were celebrating all weekend because she had a 24 hour party!

She - I have read Cisneros'(fellow Texan!) story . . . long ago. I wasn't really thinking about it when I wrote this post, but the title was probably in the back of my mind. Thanks for visiting!

Naval - Thanks for visiting. I will look you up.

Barrie said...

Love this post. My daugher is eight. And I'm really enjoying the time because I know some of the changes ahead (since she's the fourth child)...

Dave King said...

Warm and interesting, a lovely post.

su said...

Cherish the moments to get you thrrough the tough times.

Nan and =^..^= said...

Hi Bee, Very poignant post, you captured the age and the times beautifully! I very much look forward to your reading your posts and your photos!
with best wishes,
Nan from Maine
ps. you may get this twice for I thought I had send this but it didn't appear!

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Ahhh, so sweet! This was a lovely poem and tribute, and I thought it was funny that you said you were like a maiden aunt! So literary.

I have an 11 year old too, but I think she has her hand less grasped to mine than your's does to you. She has a cell phone and worships it and her friends are her world, but that is how she was pre-wired. She was meant to be an overly social creature. I don't understand it as I always had a solitary streak like you daughter.

Love that you still read to her. How precious.

nishgurl said...

The poem about your daughter is so beautiful i loved it. I can't wait to enjoy those times and feelings with my future children8D

Susanna said...

I loved the little house series when I was about that age, and my father, bless his heart, even drove me to South Dakota (from California) to see the real little house.

Beautiful piece. Has she read it?

Brave Sir Robin said...

A beautiful, beautiful post.

The sweetest thing I've read in a long time.

Happy Birthday little one.

:)

Elizabeth said...

Oh gosh, such a transitional year.
At ten they are yours entirely.......
I think you have captured the little hints of change.
A thoughtful and lovely essay.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Happy Birthday to your sweet girl! What beautiful memories to hold close to your heart. They grow up much to fast. Roxi started "health" class today. You know what that means. UGH!

Reya Mellicker said...

Eleven is such a tender, difficult age to negotiate. What a beautiful post.

Pete said...

Lovely post, Bee! Reminds me of Cecil Day-Lewis's "Walking Away": how selfhood begins with a walking away. And love is proved in the letting go. (Except his is sad and yours is happy, with just a twinge of regret at your daughter growing up?)

Bee said...

Barrie - I don't think parents ever realize how quickly adolescence can swallow up the child that they once knew. I do think that you cherish the "baby" more, precisely because you realize how fast the time will go.

Thanks, Dave.

Su - Good advice!

Thank you, Nan, and thanks for visiting me.

Alyson - Your oldest daughter is like my oldest daughter. Sometimes the realization that you are raising them to leave you hits before you are emotionally ready for it!

Nishgurl - The best bits of motherhood really are the BEST.

Susanna - I'd love to take that trip someday. (Which house is it, though? I thought that they were in Minnesota? Is it Laura's adult house?)

No, she hasn't read this. Maybe I'll show it to her when she is older.

BSR - THANKS. I know that you know exactly what I mean.

Elizabeth - Yes, 10 to 12 changes everything.

Reya - As I was reading your comment, it occurred to me that 11 is the age of cross-purposes. They want to grow up, and the parent wants them to hold up on that breakneck pace.

Pete - Thanks for the reference to that Day-Lewis poem. I will look it up. My husband "likes" all signs of pushing the parent away, as he sees that as an important part of the maturing process. I have to admit that I'm not so sanguine or accepting about it . . . I find it really difficult.

Taffiny said...

beautiful

how well you have captured it, and shown that you only get to hold onto it for moment. Butterfly that she is.

I feel the changing so keenly with my 12 yr old son. Yet you have to love how grown-up and how young they are at the same time. Something so unnerving and touching about it. You touched on it so exactly, and so lovely.

by the bye,
love the birds and flora header.

Bee said...

Taffiny - I'm so delighted to hear from you! You have such a delicate way with words; it is a "butterfly" moment. Exactly.

Lisa said...

This beautiful post brought a tear to my eye because I can relate so well. Having the benefit of an older sister, my youngest (who just turned 10) is moving closer to maturity faster, but is also clinging like the baby of the family she is.

Happy birthday to your daughter. I'm glad you survived the sleepover.

Bee said...

JAPRA - We just finished reading "Caddie Woodlawn" tonight. (Did Roxi ever read that one?) We both cried when her dog came back. I've been blubbing all day long.

Lisa - It is impossible to figure out if we keep the "baby" of the family that way, or if they collude in the process! As for the sleepover, what do you think is worse? Mass sleepover or road trip to visit colleges? (I was just reading about your weekend activities!)

herhimnbryn said...

Oh, beautiful. (Funny too)

Lucy said...

How lovely, and to have such a wonderful, observant mother too!

I loved you frosty post too, and the Inauguration sidebar.

Rachel Cotterill said...

That's a very sweet, poetic portrait.

Bee said...

Thanks, Lucy. xx

Rachel - Thanks for you kind comment - and also for visiting me!

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