Today I am going to share some things about Rowan, my pre-tween.  I fell into mad love with my little girl the minute I saw her little, squished-up face.  She was difficult to get out of my body.  It was a long labor that foiled my drug free birthing plans, but as soon as I saw her, my very own brand-new person who was now mine to keep alive, my vision of the ideal birth slipped into the abyss.  She was a fabulous breast feeder, and was more likely that not in a sling on my hip.  That is where she liked to be, close to me.  She was cautious of new people and new situations, finding both a reason to ask to nurse (I could clear a room at mommy and me time when I sat down to nurse my huge toddler - I saw it as educating others).  Things seemed so easy back then, when my little girl just wanted to please me.  Now, not so much.

Rowan is eight years old now, she will be nine in January. Nine.  Geez, that seems so old.  She is still leery of new people and new things, but she is starting to understand that the awkward first moments of meeting someone, or trying something new, wears off and the experience can be really fun.  She is aware of herself, of how she looks, of how she might be perceived.  She is so smart and sweet and fun.  She is so good to her brother - even though she want to kill him sometimes (hard to blame her).  She likes order.  She wants to be a teacher.  She loves school.  She is not really into me exerting my control issues on her.  Nor does she want me to tell her what she "should do" when she doesn't ask for it.  Oh man, I'm in trouble.

Right, maybe I haven't mentioned this.  I am a controller.  I like to have the plan and for everyone to do what I say.  Did I mention that I am the oldest?  There is a great quote from my little brother when he was trying to help my little sister deal with me...  He said, "Casey can be really intense, but if you just do what she says, you end up having  really good time."  This works out well when I am the only controller, but it turns out that other people enjoy that role too, and sometimes I just need to sit back and get over myself.  This is the lesson I am learning from Rowan (among others).  She doesn't really want to hear about how things played out for me when I was her age - she wants to experience life for herself.  Who doesn't?  And I keep imagining her at 15...  16...  17...  What happens to teenager daughters when mothers are controlling?  HELLO???  I've got to get a handle on this desire to control everything quick, middle school is right around the corner...

Oh, nice.  Perfect example.  Rowan just came running down stairs and skipped over to me with her bathing suit top on under her shirt stuffed with socks.  She kinda gave her chest a little rub and said, "What do you think?"  Seriously???  My response?  "Ummm, why are you pretending to have boobs?"  She says, "Because I like to!" and off she skips.  So I am sitting here thinking that I want to go upstairs and tell her to stop pretending to have boobs, that it is inappropriate.  It makes me uncomfortable.  Squirmy.  It is a reminder of what is to come.  But those are all my issues, not hers.  She is 8, almost 9, and fascinated with growing up.  Nervous about some things, excited about others.  It makes perfect sense that she would want to play around with what she knows is in her future.  So yay for me for sitting here and keeping my mouth shut.  Didn't I play the same games when I was her age?

This whole pre-tween stage is really a trip.  I mean, she is young, but she's not really a little girl anymore.  She wears skinny jeans and stylish scarves.  She thinks Justin Beiber is dreamy.  She came home form school a few weeks ago and wanted to do Jr Cheer with the local high school cheerleaders.  This was a one day clinic at the elementary school and then the kids got to cheer at the football game.  I said no.  She persisted.  "Rowan, I just don't think it appropriate for little girls to be cheerleaders."  "But why mom?"  I couldn't really articulate how I felt in a way she could understand.  Because it right up there with pageants?  Because cheerleaders are so often portrayed as sluts, bitches or airheads?  So I decided to buy some time and said, "Well, let me talk to your dad."

Rowan accepted that response and I put together my argument for Ben.  I fully expected him to see my point and stand with me.  I brought it up after the kids had gone to bed, launching right into what I thought about the whole thing.  Ben was quiet for a moment, then said, "I just don't think its that big of a deal."

Oh my gosh.  He was right.

It totally wasn't a big deal.

So Rowan went to the cheer clinic and we all went to the Friday night football game to watch her on the field with all the other junior cheerleaders.  She loved it.  Every minute.  And there was my girl, that same girl who would spend hours in the sling, not wanting to be put down, searching for my breast any time her reality changed...

Fast forward to today.  Rowans friend came bouncing into the house, saying that the cheerleaders want her to be on the junior cheer team.  She says, "And I am going to find out if Rowan can do it too."  Before I even take a breath I say "Rowans not going do the junior cheer team."  It came out as all one word.  Oops. I look at Rowan, smile and said, "If you want to be a cheerleader in high school I will totally support you, but you don't need to be on the junior cheer team."  Her eyes meet mine, she smiled and said, "I know, mom."  Would that have gone the same if I refused to let her do the clinic?  Maybe, maybe not.  The good news is I will have plenty more opportunities to practice letting go of control and keeping my mouth shut.  And don't worry, I'll be sure to share :).

By the way, if you have a daughter over the age of 8 I highly  recommend reading The Girl's Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up YOU, by Kelli Dunham and Laura Tallardy with her.  This is a fantastic book that really respects girls and the life changes (aka puberty) that they face as they move into the teenage years.  Rowan and I read it together and had some amazingly rich discussions.  Also check out my friend Amy Lang's website,  She specializes in coaching parents through the uncomfortable trials of their kid's sexual development - because guess what?  Even if you don't talk about it, it still happens!!!