Friday, 2 July 2010

There Goes My Baby

Truly was born on January 6th, the Epiphany. Because she was my first-born, and I was the first of my friends to have children, we brought out the fatted calf and sounded the bugles (I misplaced my vuvuzela). The three Magi came bearing gifts. We heralded her arrival with all the pomp and pageantry that befitted the second coming. Unfortunately, our scheduled parade through the streets of town was cancelled on account of the Blizzard of ’96.

We swarmed around her cot bed like flies buzzing around a picnic basket, hovering over this tiny new life, catering to each and every demand, and oftentimes anticipating the need before it was voiced. I made the switch from gazing at my own navel to gazing into her eyes, plumbing the depths of her soul, searching for the answers.

‘She’s wise,’ my sister said.
‘An old soul,’ I said.
‘Do you think she knows something we don’t?’ my sister said.
‘I hope not. That will make it difficult to keep up.’

Throughout the toddler years and pre-teen years, I managed to stay a half step ahead of Truly. This was, in part, thanks to the set of encyclopedias and later the Internet, always within fingertips’ reach. Also, when she was younger, I could get away with weaving tall tales which I fobbed off as truth. There was a time when she would come to me with all her woes, her stories of heartbreak, her moments of indecision, her cuts and bruises that required a bandage or a kiss or a special treat to dry the tears and light up her face.

However, as anyone will tell you, kids grow up. I’m not sure how I missed that section in Parenting 101. As children grow, we parents think we’ve been around the block for a while and assume that we get wiser and savvier, despite the teenager’s conviction that we know less than nothing with each progressive year.

Truly and I have a good relationship. She doesn’t get in trouble and rarely rebels. She excels in her academic studies. Unlike a few of her classmates, she steers clear of harmful substances and alcohol. Her star chart is filled with enough gold stars that I can overlook the occasional bouts of sulkiness, the wails of ‘it’s not fair’, and the bedroom that needs a ‘hazardous for humans’ sign on the door.

Recently, however, it dawned on me that maybe teenagers had a point. In some ways, we don’t know anything about their world. We know about the grades they’re getting in school, what they’re wearing when they leave for a friend’s house, the movies they’re watching, the books they read and the food they like.

But they are very selective about what they tell us when it comes to the inner workings of the teenage mind. Very little. The other day I took a trawl on Truly’s Facebook wall, perusing the tons of photos and comments, heavily peppered with enough LOLs to make me wonder if I had just laughed out loud without realizing it. Luckily, I didn’t find anything that would force Truly into a house arrest. But it brought me back to my own teenage years, the little secrets I kept from my own mother, and the conversations I had with my friends, secrets that my mother was never privy to. It’s not because I had anything to hide. I didn’t. I never rebelled until I went to university and that barely counts. It was more of a reminder that teenagers have their own language, their own location jokes (of the ‘you had to be there’ variety), crushes on boys at the school whose motto (according to the girls) is ‘God’s gift’, and a whole world that they only share with each other.

Truly is growing up and it’s a bittersweet time for me. She still has four years before university but she’s no longer the little girl who needs me to kiss it better. But you know what? She'll always be my baby.