“Mom, how do you spell...amazing?” Emilia asked me, her arm cupped tightly around the small pink book she was writing in, her feather-topped pen bobbing with each new thought.
I walked slowly back into the kitchen and told her from there. It’s a strange process to help her spell her secret thoughts; learning only snippets of sentences I’m not supposed to read. It’s like helping a CIA agent compose a classified memo. “How do you spell ‘espionage?’”
My curiosity piqued. What or who is so amazing? I hope it’s me. I bet it’s some kid I’ve never met.
I knew the day Emilia added “diary” to her birthday list that we were crossing an invisible line into new parenting territory. Privacy is no longer a concept we’re teaching her, but a value she holds. There are thoughts she wants to keep to herself. There is a world she inhabits that we may not always be a part of.
There are other examples, too.
The time she spends playing in her room, which used to be a free-for-all of sisters and noise and open doors, is now marked by a closed door and quiet conversations between Barbies. She likes to slip away and organize her expansive assortment of plastic pets, vacation souvenirs and handcrafted masterpieces with the puttering precision of a Hummel collector.
Our short walks to school are evolving. First, I waited close by until her class went inside. Then, at Emilia’s request, we switched to a kiss and hug and a quick departure, giving her time to stand with her class, sans parent. Now, I watch as she crosses the street with the crossing guard. We wave from our respective sidewalks, and then she dashes off to join her class while I walk home, hands in pockets. Heart a little heavy.
Of our three girls, Emilia has always been the most independent. Her need for autonomy has always been a key element of her character, but I can feel it expanding.
And while I’m not completely ready to accept it, I understand it. Time alone is relaxing and reenergizing. Independence is exhilarating. Our thoughts, written on paper, help us understand the ones in our heads. Figuring out who you are, outside of the people who’ve defined you since day one, is vital.
Emilia got that diary for her birthday — a gift from a friend. It’s small and pretty, emblazoned with the quote from Shakespeare’s a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” that means so much to girl parents everywhere.
“Though she be but little, she is fierce.”
I want her to be fierce and brave. Confident and independent. As she gets older, I want her to know that she can close the door, and we will be waiting patiently on the other side. And, on occasion, I hope that if we knock gently, she’ll let us in.
Catherine Kraemer writes twice a month for Momaha.com. She and her husband, Matt, are the parents of three young girls – Emilia, 6, Grace, 3 and Phoebe, 1. Originally from St. Louis, Catherine lives in Omaha and works at a local advertising agency.