I was looking at the photos I took of the Ryan the other day, thinking how grown up she looked in them, and I suddenly realized she’s going to turn 9 in a few weeks. Nine! How the hell did that happen? It’s a weird age, I think, as she’s straddling this invisible line… on one side, she’s a ‘tween (the new word for pre-teens)… on the other, a little girl. It’s a bizarre (and frustrating) dichotomy. For example, she’s more technically savvy than many adults I know… but she still has temper tantrums when the computer hiccups (of course, so do I). She is picky about her clothes and what coordinates… but she doesn’t see the mass of wrinkles that result when she stuffs her clothes in her dresser drawers. She has the attitude (and mouth) of a 15-year-old… but she still wants me to lie with her for a cuddle when I tuck her in.
I don’t like this growing up stuff. Part of it is because I know she’s going to be a massive challenge as a teenager and I’m scared witless. Part of it is that I simply miss my baby. But it’s inevitable, isn’t it? This past Easter morning, when we woke in our tent (bundled in our sleeping bags and parkas, hats, gloves, etc), we had “The Santa Talk.” Actually, it started out as the Easter Bunny Talk, as she wanted to know how he managed to leave her basket in my locked car, at our campsite. She wasn’t upset at finding out he isn’t real (I pointed out that the whole concept of a 6ft bunny waltzing into your house with a basket of candy is just plain creepy), but the whole Santa thing bothered her for a few minutes. I was a little sad about that… but relieved that I’ll never hear, “It doesn’t matter if I don’t play with it. Santa brought it, so it’s not like anyone PAID for it” again. Grrrrr.
Every now and then, though, I am reminded that she is still a little girl. My friend Todd, who lives in London, corresponds with Ryan via email, both as himself and as Jonesy, a red Welsh dragon who fishes in the Thames, types with a pencil (because of his long claws, you know), and lives in Todd’s spare room. Now, Ryan knows deep down that Jonesy isn’t real, but she’s still willing to suspend her disbelief and carry on this really lovely correspondence with her friend… her friend who just happens to be a dragon. And she still believes in fairies. When we were in England the summer she turned 5, she and her cousin Georgia saw one at the bottom of the garden (I missed it because I was on the patio, drinking beer… go figure). Since then, there is nothing anyone can say to convince her they do not exist, though her resolve does waver every now and then. After being told by a boy at school recently that there is no such thing as fairies, she asked me if I believe in them. I said I absolutely do; there’s no doubt in my mind. My affirmation worked, just like when she was little and I kissed the boo boos and made them better, and all was right with the world again. But I know the day is coming, in the not too distant future, when my words won’t mean a thing. Sigh.