Saturday, May 21, 2011


In case you're wondering when your little girl starts to seem less like a little girl and more like a small version of the teenager and young woman she's going to be become, the answer is first grade.

Kindergarten did little to taint her innocence; even at the end of last year, she was still wholly ours, still wrapped in the bubble of the shows we'd let her watch and the music we let her hear and the stories we'd told her ourselves.  When school is only three hours a day with just one recess, the peer group doesn't hold much sway.

One year later, though, we have an independent little person on our hands.  For one thing, she can read absolutely everything, so billboards, newspaper headlines, and news tickers crawling across the bottom of the television are all fair game for questions.  She wants to know about earthquakes and cancer, God and charities for local hungry kids, tennis and divorce.

She has her first crush (on her friend's big brother, no less).  We don't call it that, per se - don't even talk about it in front of her, really - but that's what it is.  There's giggling in his presence, reporting that he gave her a high-five on the playground, and confiding, "B is weird.  In a good way."  I find her yearbook splayed open to his picture on her bed, and I want to sigh that first grade is Far Too Young for an honest-to-goodness crush, but then I remember jokingly trying to tackle a boy from behind while waiting in line for the drinking fountain in first grade, my own awkward ways of trying to get his attention, the list I kept in my diary of the cutest boys in the class.  In my first grade world, girls chased boys on the playground, and she does that, too.

She goes home from school with friends or has friends come over, and there is music in the bedroom and whispered secrets.  She knows, somehow, which songs Justin Bieber sings even though we own zero of his music.  She plays math games on the computer with no help from us at all.  She can count change at her lemonade stand.  She cares what her hair looks like when she goes to a birthday party.  She has lost another tooth.  She paints her own nails.

There are things she doesn't want to tell me, things that she writes in her diary or just plain refuses to talk about when I ask.  I'll ask what I think is an innocent, chatty question about a friend at school or who she talked to at lunch, and she'll say, "Moooo-ooooom."  Two syllables, and never 'Mommy,' anymore.  So I have to wonder what she's doing, saying, thinking when she's not with us.

I drove yesterday for her class field trip to the zoo, wearing my khaki shorts, my sensible closed-toe shoes, and my school name tag - feeling for all the world like the stereotypical suburban class mom.  While we were still at school, waiting for all the kids to use the bathroom and wash their hands before the caravan drove to the zoo, another mom/driver who I don't know well sidled up to me.

"I have to tell you," she said, "when C got his yearbook, he drew a heart around Annie's picture in it.  He said, 'Mom, she's just the prettiest, nicest girl in the whole class.'"

There are only three weeks left of first grade, and she's not wholly ours anymore.  She's leaving us, bit by bit, because that's what children do.  But we think she's turning out pretty great.


  1. Okay, so this put a HUGE lump in my throat. I can see this on our horizon and I am NOT ready for it.


  2. I'm with clueless on this one. While Annie is certainly turning out great, I AM NOT READY!