I’m not so sure how I feel about you becoming a teenager. Personally, I think I’m in shock that we’re at this momentous point in your life. It feels just like yesterday I had you sitting on a training potty in the middle of the kitchen, anxiously waiting to hear a tinkle tinkle and now you’re in my kitchen making cheesecake from scratch. The kitchen is really the heart of the home.
Raising a daughter is tough on its own. Raising a teenage daughter is uncharted territory. I feel like I’ve been in bootcamp the last 13 years, training and testing my physical and mental agility all in an effort to prepare me for these upcoming years. I’m going into battle at last. Sure, it’s not daily physical and emotional combat but I have to be prepared for the sleeper attacks. We’re sitting at dinner, enjoying polite conversation when BAM, I wasn’t supposed to mention that you’ll have to wear your running shorts to school tomorrow because all the denim shorts are in the hamper and now the battle at Oval Kitchen Table is on. Eye rolls galore, trying to take out the frontline. You’ll take a POW (Miles) and torture him until your rage is expunged. You will eventually submit to the laundry basket and accept your denim defeat and sulkily accept the running shorts for the sad pathetic garment it is. This will be a stain on your week. Maybe even the month depending on the feedback you receive from your peers that day. You will remember who brought this upon you. It is, I. Mother of Teenage Daughter. Stealer of Dreams. Sucker of Joy. Unwasher of Denim. You will forgive me for the time being. That is until I mention our dinner consists of shrimp. BAM! Here we go again.
Thankfully your rage isn’t completely diabolical yet. You still retain some control of your emotions and you can still be easily distracted with dessert and baking ingredients when you start to teeter on the edge. You’re not always open with me when something is wrong despite my best efforts to talk to you but I get it. Not everything is for me. Now that you’re a bonafide baker though, it’s pretty obvious when something is wrong when the stress baking starts coming out. I’m not going to lie, having Snickerdoodles on a random Tuesday is fine and dandy. I just need to be mindful when it’s Snickerdoodles, then cake, then Mochi balls, then fudge. All in the name of of avoiding feelings. I am particularly fond of the Nutella stuffed cookie you produced last Easter with the Cadbury eggs sprinkled on top. Stress bake away, my love. Stress bake away.
In the same vain though, I’m highly impressed by your culinary prowess. It’s not as if you grew up in a kitchen where I was making fresh pasta and slow simmering stews. You have embraced the kitchen with zeal and patience. Patience unlike anything I’ve witnessed from you before. You enjoy being in the kitchen. You’re at peace in the kitchen. You make horrible messes in the kitchen. But, I must be grateful that I no longer have to be the sole contributor of meals now. I love your Dad with every fiber in my body but he’s never had an inkling of motivation to reign in a meal. There is a real fire in you to create something with food and I could not be more proud. I’m not just saying that for selfish reasons although it’s up there. As a parent, one thing I’ve always wanted for you and Miles is to find a passion. Find something in this life that inspires you and brings you great joy and fulfillment. For the time being, cooking seems to be that flame in you. You tell me how you dream of becoming a chef in Paris and Tokyo one day. You might even consider being a contestant on Top Chef. The only thing I ask is that there’s always a spot at the chef’s table for me. I promise not to ridicule your food and comment on the lack of seasoning. Although, one pinch more is always a safe bet.
One of the biggest events of this past year is your return to in-person school. What a moment in time, am I right? I can’t fathom what impact these last 18 months will have on the grand scheme of your existence but you handled the situation out of the gate with such maturity and grace. Now, you really didn’t have a choice in the matter and if I’m being honest, I’m sure the idea of not having to sit in a classroom day in and day out was more of a welcome than not. It’s kind of like receiving the news that I don’t need to go into the office. You mean pants are now optional?! Hell yes! I’m afraid your introverted ways are inherited by me and while we embraced the loneliness and solitude, we knew this couldn’t last forever. We would be forced back into the world once again. With People! There was anxiety at the start of the school year. Even though you are a seventh grader, you spent zero time on campus as a sixth grader. Middle school carries its own weight of anguish. Coming into your second year with no first hand campus experience must have been scary. I understood your fears and I sympathized with you immensely. You have so much courage though and despite your feelings, you pushed through. There were awkward moments of finding your place at a lunch table. Trying to identify friends that you’ve only met online and now you have to identify them by their eyes and hairstyles alone because masks are a mainstay for the time being. It was not easy and I wish I could have taken the brunt for you but nonetheless, you handled it. You took care of it because you’re a badass and the nonsense that would have made me catatonic with fear, made you stronger and wiser. I am in awe of you.
So, it has been some time since I was a 13 year old girl. You must be reflecting while reading this and asking yourself, what does a 13 year old girl like these days? Besides a feverish infatuation with Billie Eilish, you have a newfound interest for boba although, now that you have braces, you are restricted to the milk teas only. I know, I’m a horrible person but you really don’t want to break a wire on a Friday evening. You’re obsessed with all things Japanese–ramen, anime, Pokemon, kawaii, HelloKitty, sushi, Kirby, cherry blossoms–I could go on and on. Your dream is to visit Japan and it’s mine as well. Problem is we’re still in a pandemic and Americans aren’t exactly viewed as responsible folks right now. It’s high on my international travel list and I’m very much looking forward to exploring this country with you one day. Until then, you can devour as much Demon Slayer and Tonkotsu ramen as humanly possible.
Among the likes, crushes don’t seem to be a part of that group just yet. Your friends are definitely discovering the power of desire and attraction and it bothers you whole-heartedly. You will always have at least one friend that attracts the opposite sex in huge numbers and it will be annoying as people walk right passed you, like a deer in headlights, with an urgent need to speak to your friend immediately with no regard to your existence. You will watch your friend giggle and say the most random things in response. You won’t understand it if you don’t share those same feelings or if you’ve never shared in that experience. It’s annoying and boring–your words, not mine. Don’t fret, you too will be equally annoying and boring with the introduction of your first crush. Just remember how it feels right now so you can emphasize with the family around you who has to deal with the rollercoaster of emotions that accompanies a crush.
Despite what hints I have provided to you about the current state of our relationship, the truth is we have a very good relationship. I’m very lucky. In fact, everyone who meets you is lucky. You have such a big heart. The lover of love. You’re so patient except when it comes to needing me to go to the store to purchase something for you. Other than that, you are so incredibly patient and warm. The younger siblings of Miles’ baseball teammates have grown fond of seeing you at the baseball games because you play with them and you actually enjoy it. Little kids can see light and love and they gravitate towards you because you have a brighter light than most. You’re creative and thoughtful, still always coming up with unique handcrafted gifts for those you hold close to you. Gosh, I love you so much it feels like sometimes my heart will explode. I’m scared of you but I love you. It’s a weird dynamic and one that can only be marked as the relationship between a mother and daughter. You make me proud every day. Even when you forget deodorant. Continue to forge your path and embrace the things that bring you immense joy. Especially if that joy is in the form of churro chips.
Happy 13 trips around the sun, my dear O-Bear.