Today’s youngest child’s thirteenth birthday. Or the youngest youngest as she tends to be referred to in this blended family. Yes, we have two youngest children. One is flying toward twenty-two. The other flew to thirteen.
I must admit a bit of triskaidekaphobia when it comes to girls turning thirteen. Thirteen seems to be the universal age of girl angst–no matter what stage of puberty they have hit previously. Ah well, I have survived it before, it will be yet another year where her brother brushes off all behavior as “she’s a thirteen-year-old girl.”
But, the thirteen years leading up to this one: wow. Youngest bounced from before day one and never stops bouncing.
We call her the circus freak. She takes circus classes instead of the more average gymnastics or soccer. It suits her. She scrambles up a rope like a monkey. We can watch aerialists on YouTube and honestly say that youngest does better. We gasp watching her and sometimes I hardly restrain myself from jumping over seats and saying “Stop! That’s my BABY!” This past summer she snagged the leading role as Bert in the summer circus performance of Mary Poppins. She earned it.
Turning 13 seems to be an arbitrary milestone for her since she picked up teen mannerisms early. She’s smart as a whip and not afraid to call adults on anything. She’ll grow up to lead. She leads now. I asked her today about best friends. She thought. She counted. “I have ten best friends.” Yes, true enough. We (her siblings, me) have been known to refer to them as her harem. She’s a social creature and comfortable in her skin right now. I want it to stay that way.
On the other side of flighty and bouncy–she cuddles with glee. She’ll talk with abandon.
She spends long hours with my mother–talking, watching tv with her or just “parallel play.” My mother with a book, her with a book, computer, or phone.
Recently the other youngest child came “home” (Mommies are where home is until you are a real grown up, even if you haven’t ever lived in that particular house or town before, right?) and while the 15 and 17-year-old are happy enough to have a sister home, youngest seems most pleased. There is another youngest child who understands girl stuff, who understands the benefits and the drags of birth order, and those older siblings that found her annoying a few years ago (or a decade ago) don’t so much anymore. It’s a bit of a glimpse of the woman she will be and a glimpse into the relationships she will have with her siblings. We will see if 13 will be the year she makes peace with the sister right above her in age. Maybe. It might take longer though.
In the meantime, part of me loves the idea of 13. One more year until high school and all the good things those years bring. One last year of middle school (I can’t stand middle school. I love my middle schoolers, but ai yi yi the sea of hormones!) and we will be done. But, being done means so much more. She’s still my baby in the sling, the babe at the breast, the co-sleeping baby, the one who never reliably napped or slept. (Does she sleep through the night yet? She’s still a night owl given half a chance.) She’s the youngest and the one I most often measure time by. (mothers do this–her sister is “I got my first job on the Internet so x number of years.”) She was in the car with me when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. I told her like she understood what no one would understand. I rambled about small planes hitting tall buildings.
She watched Barney and Teletubbies–the only one of the “little kids” to really do so. We despaired for years that she would ever wear clothes. Now she does, with her own twist. Once upon a time not so long ago she ate chicken noodle soup and chips and cheese as a preferred diet.
This year she hit 80 lbs. She grew a foot, literally.
Today we went to the Choo-Choo restaurant where she had a vanilla malt and a hamburger and fries delivered via train. She secretly coveted another child’s cupcake with sprinkles, candle and train whistle, delivered on the train, even as she protested that it would be embarrassing for the song and she was too full for cake. We bought illicit (she has braces) popcorn from a popcorn store. I am about to go make eggs Benedict with holiday sauce.
I was going to bake a cake, but she found a completely silly bee cake when we went for eggs Benedict ingredients. She also found a clown tablecloth. We got both, of course.
Because, she is the baby. Yes, she’s a big girl now and far from being a baby, and we love her to death, so a bee cake and clown tablecloth it is.