In my oldest daughter's bedroom sits a wooden dresser. It has been painted countless times over the years, and it has seen me through childhood and adolescence and now houses the clothes of my own girls.
This weekend I was organizing the clothes for winter, storing the summer clothes and cleaning out the girls' drawers. When I emptied the top sock drawer, I smiled. Etched in ballpoint pen on the wooden base of the drawer is the careful I Love Brandon. I wrote that 25 years ago, and to this day, I can remember how strong my crush was on this boy. For two years I was his friend, and watched in agony as a girlfriend of mine "went" with him (do you remember? "Will you go with me? Circle yes, no, or maybe"). I remember being transfixed by the way his shoulder blades moved through his t-shirt when he would use his pencils as drumsticks on the top of his desk. On the last day of school, our junior high homeroom teacher awarded two leadership awards, one for a boy and one for a girl. Brandon and I were chosen, and I recall feeling the happiest I'd ever felt as an angst-ridden pre-teen.
I scooped the rest of the socks out of the drawer, and underneath my memory-rich scrawl was another message. In writing nearly the same as my own, I read I Love Jake. I smiled. My oldest, in seventh grade, is nearly the same age I was when I wrote my declaration of love. My smile faded, though, as I thought of how she must feel. The difference between my daughter and me at this age is vast. She is lovely. She is ethereal and flawless and has absolutely no idea how stunning she is, only that she hates that she doesn't look like her friends. If Bob and I were the type of parents to allow our daughters to "go" with a boy at this age, she would likely be with this boy. But we're not. Remember, she has good reason to believe that we're conspiring to "turn her Amish." Our hard and fast rule is no dating until junior year in high school, as long as NHS grades are maintained and at least one activity per semester. This may as well be a hundred years away for our daughter.
Then, last night, as I clacked away on my computer in my office, I felt a presence outside my door. I looked up to see tears running from crystal green eyes, her blond head shaking in the hall light. She is filled with anguish that this boy she "loves" is dating a friend of hers. Worse, this so-called friend is filled with glee that she has something my daughter doesn't, and makes efforts to point this out during school as often as she can.
I listened as she poured out her heart, both thrilled that she trusted me and miserable with my inability to fix things. I thought of how mediocre this friend of hers is, how she will likely become like her family, scratching away a life with little purpose, flat expressions on all their faces, apathy toward children that need to be supervised and guided. This little girl is "lucky" because she basically raises herself and her younger brother. The level of independence and lack of supervision is stunning. She is rough, with thick features, a mean streak, and always looks dirty to my mom-vision. She is one of the most popular girls in the class.
I want to tell my daughter this. I want to tell her this young girl will likely peak in a few years, and that she will forget her pain of the moment and go on to have a wonderful life (I hope, oh how I hope). I want to be mean-spirited myself and predict teen pregnancy for this girl, or STDs or a future of housecleaning. But I don't. I just look at my daughter and then hold her and murmur, "It will get better sweetie. I promise."
My heart hurts. But probably not as badly as hers.