Do you remember Twelve?
It was, literally, the dawn of a new decade (one of my favorite decades, in fact...the one of straight-leg jeans, big hair, and Prince).
It was the last summer before I entered junior high. I spent it lying on a big towel, under the big tree in our front yard... reading Nancy Drew and Black Stallion books; staying up late on Saturday nights to watch "Love Boat" (and "Fantasy Island," if I could sneak it past my parents); riding around the neighborhood on my bike and skating to the "Xanadu" soundtrack in my garage.
I turned 12 right before school started... the year I entered junior high. It was the year I had to learn to open a locker for the first time; walk in the halls with "real" teenagers who were much bigger than me; and crush on Scott with the curly blonde hair.
I remember the birthday party Mom and Dad let me have with my friends. I invited six girlfriends and we pitched a tent in the backyard; we stayed up late, told scary stories, and "pigged out" on nacho cheese Doritos and Dr. Pepper. It was one of the best birthdays ever.
And that year...
I was happy, but emotional.
I was carefree, yet knew I was on the brink of changes.
Twelve was a year filled with fun and adventure; I truly have good memories of it. But it also wasn't the easiest year ever (by its nature, it can't help but be challenging).
And this is where I find my middle child today.
Delaney celebrates her twelfth birthday today and I greet her birthday with the knowledge that Twelve is a complex year. It will be filled with the giggles and silliness of girlfriends; the "he's so fine" declarations about boys; the childlike fun of someone who still knows she has permission to act like she's a year away from teenagehood.
But, I know it will also involve hormones, and crying, and lots of eye-rolling.
As my girls grow older by the year, I continue to learn that parenting is full of conflicting emotions. I love the little children they once were, yet I don't want to stay stuck in those years. I love the young adults they are evolving into and feel proud of their progress. Yet, at the same time, I tear up when I think of the little child they are leaving behind. It truly is a Parenting Catch-22.
So, what to do?
On this day, today, I will simply celebrate the wonderful arrival that came into our home back on June 11, 1996. I will watch her open up her presents, blow out her candles, and make her wishes. I will enjoy her blissful smile and the sweet "thank you"s she will give me, her Pop, and her sisters.
I will thank God for the blessing that is Delaney.
And I will tell her, "Happy birthday, sweetheart. I love you."
And I will whisper, so she can't quite hear it: "Welcome to twelve. May it treat you well."