My baby – who is very much not a baby anymore – turns 11 today.
It’s such a weird age, one I remember well from my older daughter, five years earlier.
At 11, she has one foot in each of two worlds, one firmly planted and one much more tentative, testing the ground to see what it will hold – still very much a child and yet starting to inch, with great excitement and some trepidation, toward adolescence.
At 11, she asked to go to Build-A-Bear and for Squishmallows … but also for a razor so that she could shave her legs.
At 11, she still loves to swim and has to be bribed and persuaded to leave the pool … but also is starting to care about how she looks in a bathing suit.
At 11, she still can’t quite figure out how to turn on the shower … but also wants to find her “signature scent” shower gel from Bath & Body Works.
At 11, she loves going to the zoo … but is starting to think she is too old to ride the carousel.
At 11, she covers her eyes when people kiss in the movies … but she peeks through them sometimes, just for a second.
And having done this once before with my older kid, I want to stand in front of her and wave my arms wildly and make her stop.
“Don’t rush it!” I want to scream. “Stay a kid for as long as you can!”
Because right now, at 11, she still loves ice cream and doesn’t think about the calories.
Right now, at 11, she raises her hand proudly when she knows the answer in class and doesn’t worry about what anyone will think.
Right now, at 11, she thinks alcohol and cigarettes are completely disgusting and can’t contemplate why anyone would choose to put those things in their bodies, ever.
Right now, at 11, she thinks I’m awesome and funny and her favorite person in the whole world.
Having an 11-year-old daughter when you’ve never had one before is exciting in a way that having an 11-year-old daughter when you also have a 16-year-old daughter is not.
But I also know that I can’t stop any of this; I can’t hold her back. It’s bittersweet and beautiful and terrifying, all at once.
I’m proud of her, in awe of the person she is becoming, watching her learn new skills and figure out more about the world around her every day.
I just wish I could keep her safe a little bit longer.