The Archaeology of My Daughter's Coming of Age
We measured ourselves the other day. I am still taller but only by half an inch. Her hair is longer, swinging like a horse's tail, the signature look of girls her age. She borrows my shoes and, occasionally, even my clothes. I won't let her wear makeup yet, she doesn't need it. She has her father's eyes, her grandmother's cheekbones, and lips all her own. She is, in a word, beautiful. But then again, I am partial.
When she was still in her stroller, and we were new to the neighborhood, we spent our days searching out long-necked excavators as they filled open-mouthed dump trucks. We watched them tear down houses and level lots. Soon other families with young children and bright pink bikes and play houses that looked like castles would begin their lives on top of the residue of those they had supplanted. My daughter loved to laugh and wave at the ever present construction workers. They whistled and waved back and sometimes even called out to me, "Hola, mama linda." I would scowl and flirt right back in my limited Spanish, "Hola. Como estas?"
As she grew older, we liked to walk the dog together in the afternoon, before soccer practice and homework dominated her attention. We would stroll the neighborhood, admiring the new homes on their way to replacing the old, tired ones. We wondered where the families, children now grown, had gone. The men, hammers in hand, often called out to us, "Hola, chicas." We ignored them, mildly complaining to each other about the dust and the machinery and the noise. We knew the constant dismantling and rebuilding is part of the natural order of things.
Now, in the late afternoons, when she is too busy to walk with me, I still stroll the familiar streets, still marveling at the ongoing construction and wondering, is nothing sacred? Why this insistence on replacing the old with the new, as though old has no merit, no value? What of history? When I pass the framed structures, raw wood hinting at the life soon to be inside, I think of my daughter, her body still in its own development. Her breasts are undaunted by the demands of lovers and children. Her waist is long and flat and perfect for the summer bikini we've just purchased. Lost in my reverie I suddenly realize, despite the noise, all is quiet. There are no whistles, no flirting young men. No one calls out to me, anymore.
I have no doubt she will soon pass me by inches, telling me my clothes are not cool enough, sneaking makeup on the bus to school. She will insist on doing things her way and will complain when I offer unsolicited advice. I will tell her what my mother told me, "Just wait until you have a daughter of your own. You'll understand then." I know now my mother was right; despite the constant cycles of new, some things never change.
- Kathy Stevenson writes about her first spring break without her daughter.
- Claire Dean offers some beautiful ideas on how to honor your daughter’s coming of age.
- Mother/daughter duo, Sil and Eliza Reynolds, share their thoughts about raising informed, aware, empowered girls.
How are you honoring your own archaeology while building for your daughter's future?
Gloria Steinem once said, "The first problem for all of us, women and men, is not to learn but to unlearn." I am working on unlearning each and every day. How about you?