Ahhh, summer! Today is Friday for The Bean. After the holiday weekend, she has a mere 3 1/2 days of school left. Three and half days until her middle school career is over, and she moves on to high school. This summer, of all summers, I am going to relish. Time is moving entirely too fast. This summer, I am going to enjoy my middle school kid. I’m going to do all the stupid dances, sleep in a tent in the woods, remodel her playhouse into a “teen hang out,” turn her swing set into a teen-friendly reading oasis, paint her purple bedroom with her purple pig comforter a neutral color, and turn it into a “boho” teen girl cave. I am going to enjoy every minute because these minutes are fleeting.
In the grand scheme of things, I only have maybe a year or year and a half left with her. Once she turns sixteen, gets a driver’s license, and begins to go out on the weekends with her friends, I will be the proverbial chopped liver. I will be the last resort choice of who to hang out with. Her friends and social life are already taking precedence over the time spent with me. We no longer have morning cuddles on the couch before she gets ready for school. She no longer hangs after me like my little shadow telling me blow-by-blow detail of her day. Instead, she grunts a greeting, grabs a snack, and heads to her room, only to be seen when she needs laundry or food.
She spends all her time reading these days. I have always wanted her to be a reader. She’s always liked being read to and enjoyed select books, but she was never an avid reader like me until recently. Lately, all she does is read and ignore me. I admit I do annoying things on purpose to get her attention. I will ask her a million questions when I know she is enjoying a good part of the story she is reading. I will play rap music and throw gang signs at her…I don’t know any real gang signs; I move my hands in weird positions and yell, “Yo, yo, yo! What’s up? Who’s my Bay?” I will break out all my dance moves like the running man, moonwalk, or the Roger Rabbit. Sometimes, if I’m really desperate for her attention, I will put on Katie Perry’s song Fireworks and do the dance routine I originally made up to make my nephew laugh. It includes a lot of twinkle fingers and splits. Like a neglected and emotionally deprived child, I feel negative attention is better than no attention at all. Sigh. I make myself laugh. Usually, I’m the only one who is laughing.
Although she fails to find me funny, I am enjoying this phase…mostly. Right now, she is really into Shakespeare. I find this very cool. She has read and watched Romeo and Juliet a least fifty times. Currently, she is reading Much Ado About Nothing. She seeks me out and asks me questions about the play, the characters, did I teach this, do I like it? I am enjoying these conversations with her. I even let her borrow my leather-bound collection of Shakespeare’s plays. Now, when I mention going to England for a summer, exploring all things Shakespeare tweaks her interest, and she reluctantly agrees spending a summer across the pond might be okay. She told me she would spend a summer in England with me if I agreed to go to Bali after graduation. No arm twisting is needed for me to travel to a tropical paradise.
It is a good sign that she is including me in her future plans. At this point, I will take the win where I can get it. Mostly, I feel like she would rather eat my face off than spend time with me. I know this is just a phase. I know she will be a human being again in a summer or two. I also know she will be a new, more mature version of herself. If I’m being transparent, I miss my needy little toddler, my little cuddle bug who believed the sun rose and set with me. I miss my little jack o’lantern smile peanut with the pixie haircut that is incensed over the world’s injustices. I miss my Laverne to my Shirley. However, I know this is something we have to go through. It’s not possible to keep her with me forever. It’s not normal for her to think I am awesome and cool. It’s not healthy if she isn’t annoyed, irritated, and angered by me and my stupid rules like setting a bedtime, expecting good grades, not wearing shirts that show her belly or shorts that show her butt cheeks, or giving her chores she hates and expecting her to do them well and with a good attitude. This, too, shall pass; when it does, my baby will be one step closer to adulthood.
This summer, of all the summers, I will enjoy her. I will listen to her stories, watch TikTok, and do everything she believes is important. I will relish the nights spent lying on the roof or the driveway watching the stars. I will be secretly thrilled when she reaches for my hand, but I will be cool about it and not gush or giggle. I will ask her to join me on walks to discuss Shakespeare or whatever book she is into. I will sit with her and read quietly, sneaking glances at her and smiling when her face lights up over a highlight in her story or her frown lines deepen when the antagonist triumphs. I will undo her childhood room with a bit of sadness but be excited about her new ideas and budding interior design style. My heart will break slightly to remove the doll furniture from her playhouse. However, I will bask in the joy of watching her turn into her own person with her own ideas, opinions, and interests. This summer is indeed bittersweet.
On this beautiful Thursday, stay safe, be smart, enjoy each fleeting moment, don’t throw gang signs, real or fake, go ahead and annoy the children in your life…it’s kind of entertaining, and keep washing your hands.