Milestones, Birthdays, and Growing Up So Fast—From Toddlers to Tweens

 

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Eleven years ago this spring, Victoria joined our family, and our parenting journey was launched. How the years have flown! I’m always up for a good retrospective, so on this milestone birthday, I pause to reflect on our parenting journey with this delightful child.

Since she’s our eldest, everything we’ve experienced with her has been a parenting first, from the digital files of hundreds of baby photographs documenting every week of her life, to the fun and elaborate tea party I threw for her first birthday (the high-water mark of my creative party planning genius—no subsequent child has rated such a feat or feast, alas), to the open-ended decision to have her ears pierced for her tenth birthday.

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Now, I have five little brothers. I thought, going into this parenting proposition, that I knew a thing or two about raising children. But the actual practice of raising my very own child has proven to be an experience beyond all my expectations, both in frustrations and challenges, and also in rewards and affirmation.

Victoria’s personality is an eclectic blend of sweetness and sophistication, combining an astute precociousness with a down-to-earth, hoydenish tomboy spirit. Longtime friends still recount with amusement a conversation they had on the occasion of baby-sitting a then-two-year-old Victoria:

Victoria: Victoria want a cookie?

Friends: What, Victoria wants a cookie?

Victoria: Okay!

Ah, good times, good times. If only the challenges of raising children consisted mainly of whether and when to hand out cookies!

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Quite the character

Victoria’s blossoming vocabulary increasingly showcased an inquisitive mind. She was a reluctant reader at first, which puzzled us as she clearly possessed a keen intellect and knew how to use words. We finally realized that her hesitation to practice reading out loud was because her perfectionistic nature recoiled from the “sound-it-out” necessity of phonics: she didn’t like risking a mispronunciation. It wasn’t until her younger sister threatened to overtake her in the reading department that Victoria buckled down and figured it out—within a matter of days, as I recall.

Throughout the years, she’s dived headlong into many pursuits, following her interests with a passion that does her youthful energy credit. She’s fancied riddles, games, treasure hunts, logic puzzles, math quizzes, Bible drills, fort-building projects, and money-making schemes, to name a few pastimes. More recently, after we introduced her to the classic parlor game Tri-Bond, she’s been quizzing us with her own homemade Tri-Bond questions (“What do pepper, church, and door have in common? Bell!” “What do meat, sugar, and skin have in common? Raw!”)

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Ever the little lady..

As her mother, I’ve seen her come a long way. But just when I might think I have her pegged, I become struck anew at her ever-changing and growing sense of autonomy and self-possession, as illustrated by a recent exchange.

I was standing in the kitchen giving general directions to the troops, and while I can’t remember my exact words, I said something to Victoria that must have been patently obvious in its simplicity and transparency. A disrespectful teenager might have rolled her eyes and muttered, “Well, duh!” at my obvious cluelessness. Victoria simply shrugged tolerantly and said, “Rather!”

Oh, snap! Because, obviously, I had said something obvious! She wasn’t even conscious of being clever or using a British colloquialism. It’s just something we say. And it dawned on me that, yes, we have tweens in our house.

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I’ve heard and read about the joys and challenges of parenting “tweens,” a common terms for youngsters (usually considered in the 8-12 age range) who are outgrowing their childhood years but not yet fully into their teens. Over the last couple of years, we’ve definitely experienced some heightened drama as our familial delegation, helmed by three girls in a stair step age trio, has gradually edged into tween territory.

Well, if this be tween season, I’ll make the most of it! I rather like the interplay of wit, self-awareness, and self-deprecating fun that is often bandied about amongst the principle characters in our family drama, as long as care is taken that no one is mortified or embarrassed by such light-hearted teasing. I saw this dynamic on display when one child asked, while kneading cinnamon rolls for my birthday breakfast, “Do you want to knead?” Victoria drolly replied, “Yes, you must master wanting before you can attempt to need.” Ha, ha! That’s my girl!

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