She’s arrived here at her own pace, free from impediments and devoid of turbocharged power boosts that would race her toward an imaginary checkered flag.
My oldest daughter is 12. And a half, technically. A tween by any definition, and her childhood is still going strong.
Some days she’s got the swagger of a confident individual who has all the answers, in a distinctly adulting kind of way, not like a sassy know-it-all toddler.
Other days, my tween seems troubled by … something or many somethings, maybe, and in those more confusing moments she requires nothing more than a quiet hug, a dependable shoulder, a listening ear, or time alone in her room listening to music, drawing, or snuggled up with a book.
Then there are the days, and there are still so many of them, where she’s a giggly, ticklish, baby-talking, stuffed-animal-carrying-around little kid.
His name’s Falafel and he’s been in school every day of sixth grade since she received him as a 12th birthday gift in the spring. Now, this is just me riffing here but the speckled grey bunny had come to symbolize her childhood in so much that he was being clung to with vigor by a girl who is aware that she’s growing up but refuses to let go of all that is glorious about the opposite, by a girl who knows full well that changes will be arriving soon but is defiantly unwilling to let any of those changes impact her youth or her youthful exuberance.
It’s right here, in observing her in those varied moments, that I believe the Mrs. and I have done a solid job as parents because while she arrived here at her own pace, she didn’t arrive here by accident. My wife and I actively worked, and are still plugging away, to make childhood a long, pleasant, exploratory and collaborative period of time. The results, so far, are two happy kids who appear in no hurry to close that chapter of their lives.
We envisioned these very results which is exactly why we made the decision a dozen-plus years ago to promote childhood over anything and everything else. My wife and I decided we wanted to raise children, not groom future college students or prep them for cubicled middle management, and to invest in childhood at every turn. The returns on our investment of time, energy, thought and, at times, money, have been, more than half way through the process, nothing short of remarkable.
In fact, forget my old 401(k), our house, and my wife’s Roth IRA. A long, lovely childhood for two bright, curious, creative and kind young ladies is far and away the best investment we’ve ever made, because our oldest daughter is 12 1/2-years-old and her childhood is still going strong.
A version of tween first appeared on Out with the Kids. Photo: Jeff Bogle.