Little Girl and Young Woman: The Land Between

Warning: I’m about to sound like an old woman.

When I was young, we called “flip-flops” something that is now unacceptable. We called them “thongs.” I learned that lesson the hard way after I asked my oldest daughter in public – in the middle of Old Navy –  if she needed new thongs. “Flip-flops,” she said under her breath and through clenched teeth.

When I was young, we called “sleepovers” something that now sounds retro. We called them “slumber parties.” When I asked my youngest daughter if she wanted to have a slumber party for her birthday, she looked at me for a few moments then said in a sweetly patronizing tone, “You mean a sleepover, don’t you?”

So Alison had a sleepover last weekend for her 11th birthday. It was a long time coming. She’s been to sleepovers and she’s asked to have them, but we’ve always put her off with a handy scheduling conflict. We’re a little old-fashioned and think sleepovers are best suited for older girls. Actually, we’re just lazy.

I remember the sleepover we had for our oldest daughter when she turned 10. We overdid it and allowed her to invite 10 girls. Five of them got mad at the other five and one little girl ended up spending half the night sitting in front of the laundry room door, pouting and eating Smarties that she had stashed in her pocket. The party was fun in a kind of punishing way. The girls left the next morning drowsy and ambivalent and I felt like a failure. And, truthfully, that may be most of the reason we waited until Alison was 11 to try this again. But honestly, I was dreading the sleepover gig.

Most girls between the ages of 10 and 12 are desperate to skip over these ages and get to the good stuff: cell phones, facebook, dangling earrings, a mani-pedi every now and then, and lip gloss with a tint. And some parents let them fast forward, but we’re achingly slow when it comes to letting our children grow up. It’s not because we’re such great parents. It’s because we have sharp memories of how grueling and awkward our own teenage years were. But against our best efforts to warn them that the approaching years are not all they are marketed to be, kids – especially girls – want to get on with it. So I prepared for a sleepover evening of nail art, dance party, boy talk, and makeovers. The birthday gifts affirmed my expectations.

Alison received earrings, jewelry, nail kit…the usual 11-year-old girl stuff. And yes, the evening did include a little dancing, a little nail salon action, and probably some boy talk, but that was most certainly done upstairs in the privacy of the sleepover room. It also included a very long time jumping with abandon on the trampoline, watching the movie Despicable Me, and a conclusion to “cupcake wars” that left the girls with icing smeared across their faces.

Alison and her friends are journeying in that very small space of land between little girl and young woman. It’s a short trip, but I’m going to do my best to enjoy it while it lasts. I only have to look at my oldest daughter to be reminded that those teenage years are soon gone, and then, standing before me is what looks like a woman. Erin leaves that teenage world on Thanksgiving when she turns 20. Alison will enter it in two years when she turns 13. I’ll do my best to be ready and I’m certain she will too. The time will be right for growing up, and together, we’ll navigate through the crazy world of slumber parties and thongs.

3 thoughts on “Little Girl and Young Woman: The Land Between

  1. That sounded like a fun party!
    These “in-between” years for girls are filled with flip-flops – not the shoe kind. They want to be young women one minute, but still play with our dolls. I remember my parents asking me what I wanted for my 12th birthday. Still have child, but longing to be half woman, I asked for a negligé and a pogo stick. I got both – but with a warning from my dad, “No jumping on the pogo stick while wearing the negligé.”

    1. Okay, the neglige and the pogo stick is a perfect illustration of this land in between. Now I’m picturing all these girls between girlhood and womanhood. What an image! Love it.

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