I Want To Be Like My 12-Year-Old Daughter When I Grow Up​

My daughter moves unabashedly through this world taking up as much space as she damn well pleases.

"Can I just cut this off?" my 12-year old asks, pulling her gorgeous, perfectly beach-wavy hair into a ponytail. 

I cringe. I've paid thousands of dollars to salons to have an approximation of this hair. My daughter couldn't care less. She’s had it bleached and dyed rainbow, then royal blue for the first day at her new school. It’s now faded to a pale green that looks like she’s been swimming in chlorine.

“Let’s wait two weeks,” I say. “If you still want to cut it then, go for it.”

Was I supposed to teach her that how she does her hair is important? If I know that her way — not caring — is better, why do I chase her with the flattening iron? When friends tell me that she has a beautiful body and ask me why she doesn’t show it off, why do I shrug? ​

She is three inches taller than anyone in her class. Once a week, someone comments on it. Family, friends, strangers.  

“She’s gonna be a tall one.” 

“She’s a big girl.” 

“She’ll dominate in basketball.” 

“Does it bother you when people say things about your height?” I ask her. Talking to an adolescent about her body feels like tiptoeing on eggshells. I have to get this right.

“Not really,” she answers. "I'm proud of my height." 

My daughter moves unabashedly through this world taking up as much space as she damn well pleases.

She also doesn't care about fashion. When we stayed with my sister for a week this summer, she co-opted her uncle’s T-shirt.

“It’s super soft,” she says, drowning in it. 

I take her to the mall, hold up some stupid trendy thing that’s ripped on purpose. 

“What about this shirt?” she shrugs. I show her some cut-offs. 

“These shorts would be cute on you.” 
 
“Meh.” She prefers elastic waists because they are comfy. 

She just doesn’t GAF. 

So why do I?

Middle school is a cruel time. I was not comfortable in my tallest-in-the-class body, and being bookish wasn’t cool yet. (It’s cool now, right?) I remember some project that required the class to break into groups. I tried to ESP Mrs. Wisnewski. Please assign us to groups — don’t make us choose. She ignored my silent entreaties. Every single girl in the class was invited into one group, except one other girl and me. 

Is it that I don’t want my daughter to experience those feelings? Is it that I don’t want her to be left out? Or is it something else? 

When she was five, we went out for ice cream with some friends. For the occasion, she dressed all in polka dots, seven different colors from hat to socks. A parent asked me, “Does she dress herself?”

 

You Might Also Like: How To Talk To Your Daughter About Her Body

 

“No,” I said, sarcasm dripping from my words like the ice cream from my cone. “I just really like polka dots.” It didn’t bother me then.

So why now do the comments irk me? 

Was I supposed to teach her that how she does her hair is important? If I know that her way — not caring — is better, why do I chase her with the flattening iron? When friends tell me that she has a beautiful body and ask me why she doesn’t show it off, why do I shrug? 

After school, my daughter hops into the front seat. 

“Can you kick Andrea off the basketball team?” she asks.

“Why?” 

“Today I tried to show her something and she said, ‘Ew, don’t touch me, you ugly bitch.’”

Fucking seventh grade.

My breath was knocked out of me.

“I’m sorry that happened,” I said. “What did you do?”

“I just went back to what I was doing with Brandon,” she said. I surreptitiously look at her face. She was surprised by the meanness. She was mad. But no tears. No trembly lip. Not even really a scowl. Just outrage. The hurt feelings are my own.

“You know,” I say, “when you have a lot of confidence like you do, you’re like a target for people who don’t. They want to bring you down because they know you’re up above them.” 

She nods. “But can you kick her off the team?”

“Probably not,” I say. “But I can put you against her in drills so you can dominate.”
 
“Okay,” she agrees.

At bedtime, I rub her back and ask her again, “What’s the secret? How can I be like you? Not care what other people think of me?”

“I don’t know. I just have too many other things on my mind to think about,” she says.

“Like what?”

“Anime, ice cream, manga, school stuff, you guys, basketball…” she trails off. “I don’t have time to care.”

Her sister chimes in. “Also, we don’t watch those shows where people act like that stuff is so important. And they’re rude to each other and stuff.”

“And,” my sage 12-year-old says, “No social media.” I’ve talked to her about that a time or two. How it makes people feel crappy about themselves.

I kiss her cheek. 

“You’re brilliant. I love you just the way you are,” I tell her. “I love everything about you.”

She smiles. “I love you too, Mama.”

I head to my bathroom, wash my face, and smear cream under my eyes. I pull up my sagging cheeks, surveying the effects, then let the developing jowls droop back down. I mouth the words to my reflection, “I love you just the way you are.” I feel like Stuart Smalley in an SNL skit. I roll my eyes and pull out my toothbrush. I’m not there yet. But tomorrow I’m gonna wear that dress. The bodycon one that shows the pooch on my belly. I’m going to take up however much space I want. Wear whatever the hell I want. I’m going to think about my friends, beach volleyball, and other stuff that brings meaning to my life. And not GAF.


Related: 

If you like this article, please share it! Your clicks keep us alive!

Articles You'll Love