Jackie K has recently written about how much she enjoys the innocence and enthusiasm of her twin daughters and I found myself reading through it with a mixture of amusement and sadness.
My daughter turns thirteen on Wednesday.
She no longer gets excited at being bought an ice-cream, having her face painted or seeing ‘Maisy Mouse’ on ABC kids.
Snorts of derision, eye rolls and ‘my god Mum, you have no idea’ are becoming more common than seeing her before 10am on a weekend morning, holding her shoulders back with a confident smile out in public or ears without sound buds firmly inserted in them.
Her bedroom is now her sanctuary from not just school, chores and social pressure but from me, sometimes; emerging just in time for dinner before rushing back to rejoin her friends on Skype, Minecraft or Facebook.
However, this is a recurring pattern as I too endured each day of high school, grunted 'I'm home' to my mother and gratefully entered the haven of my room. My room - only place that was mine and mine alone. My bed, my desk, my music, my books, my posters and my day dreams.
Mum understood. If advice, consolation or company was needed, she could always be found tenderly caring for her pot plants out in the garden or creating several new costumes for the Murray Bridge Players and Singers at the sewing machine; or (mostly unwillingly) rustling up dinner in the kitchen. Looking back, she was prepared to be picked up or dropped whenever it suited me and I thank her for that. That role has now been handed down to me.
These days, snacks are ready in our funny 1970s orange kitchen and I'm waiting in the study, hunched at the computer with Milly at my feet, tail wagging a frantic hello for that longed-for moment when Sapphire gets home and sticks her head in the door.
Some afternoons it's the grunt and a need for alone time and other days it's the breathless de-brief, a plonking down on the sofa bed next to the computer and some shared laughs. Always punctuated with hugs. I love those days.
Today the three of us decided to treat ourselves to Sunday lunch in the city. It was a balmy spring day and we walked to our favourite Indian place only to discover that it had closed. We wandered aimlessly back home via another route and I noticed that Sapphire was walking next to LC, their sides touching each other companionably. She wasn't much shorter than her father and yet I still saw a white blonde toddler tugging at the knee pockets of his cargo pants, Elmo in the other hand.
We found a pretty decent Chinese/Korean place that actually supplied chopsticks and, like Jackie, I discovered how easy it was to find five things that made her uniquely lovable.
1. Her wicked - and rather adult - sense of humour. Several times she had LC and myself roaring with laughter over lunch. "Dad, for the last time, I don't want to go bike riding with you. Why are you trying to encourage domestic violence?"
2. Her determination to better herself - she takes her school work seriously, cares about her friends, asks us loads of questions about how we grew up and what our opinions are about a range of issues and is, at the very second I'm typing this, running on the treadmill.
3. Her generous, affectionate nature. Thank goodness she is naturally a hug and kiss lover and still needs a cuddle after a bad day or I'd suffer serious withdrawals.
4. Her powers of observation. The ability to 'see' pictures in other objects, nature's patterns and weird designs in odd places makes us often view the seemingly ordinary in a very different light. This skill translates into brilliant cartoons and drawings and a taste in clothing and decor that is not, repeat NOT inherited from either of her parents.
5. Her wisdom. Being an adolescent is tough for everyone, but some of the lessons she's learned and how she can sum up why other kids behave the way they do humbles me. I was so clueless at the same age. That doesn't mean that she's immune to peer pressure or fitting in or can react any better when it's her turn to suffer the taunts of the class boofhead but she can think it through afterwards and understand why the game is being played.
Of course there's more, so much more. When she throws her head back and laughs, I nearly cry. In relief that I can sometimes still amuse her; with gratitude at getting a glimpse of her growing comic timing; and the surging thrill of us connecting during the all-too-brief drive to school every morning.
Mostly though, it's in awe. Beauty just doesn't describe it, that all-encompassing dazzle; that blend of personality, soul, heart, learning, growth, love and participation. I don't think a day has passed where my heart doesn't get a punch at least once when I see her, smell her, touch her or even just walk into her room to drop a bunch of clean clothes on the bed to put away.
Every night I kiss her forehead, feel the softness of her skin and smell the warm fragrance of her hair, smoothing the sheet over the blanket. What a privilege it's been so far: my ticket is still valid and I'll do whatever it takes to stay on this ride forever.