Childhood’s Curtain Call

It’s been a big summer for my daughter, turning ten (“Double-Digits, Mom!”).  I spend lots of one-on-one time with my girl, and the upcoming school year will be transitional, as she heads to a new school, in a grade that “promotes independence”.  We’re starting the “tween” years, and I can’t help but feel a bit of “empty-nest syndrome” setting in as she gets ready for back-to-school.

I teach knitting lessons to all ages, and have friends with daughters older than mine.  I’ve watched them grow up.  It  amazes me the difference in a girl who’s between eight and ten, and one who’s between twelve and fourteen.  I’ve noticed that girls my daughter’s age are more like my generation was at twelve, and twelve and thirteen year olds are more like I was at fifteen. (Moms of sons: do you feel the same way?  Leave a comment, I’m interested in knowing if you feel this way about your boys, too).

This summer, our hopes to see family in Denmark were put on hold due to the entire world flying into Europe to see the Olympics.  While we were disappointed, it  gave us the chance to spend some quality time with our daughter.  When asked what she wanted for her tenth birthday, the answer was always a trip to the American Girl Doll store in New York City.  I think I was just as excited about going as she was!

When I was a little girl, I had two great loves: dolls and books.  I wish American Girl dolls were around when I was a kid! The closest was my “My Friend Mandy” doll, which I kept and have given to Audrey.

“My Friend Mandy”

I had a beautiful doll house my father built, and Madame Alexander baby dolls from my mom each Christmas. When I was three or four, my dad’s sister made me a life-size rag doll. She had long, brown yarn hair, arms and legs jointed together with huge buttons, and an embroidered face.  She wore my clothes, and I literally loved her to rags.  When I was old enough for my first Barbie doll, it was an event:  my mom, grandmother, and I got dressed up, went  to lunch, then to the “T,G&Y” dime store to pick out a Barbie. Playing with dolls, I could be a princess, a cowgirl, or a superhero. I’d play “school” and be a teacher, I’d play “house”, or be a mom grocery shopping with my baby in the cart.  Funny how grocery shopping with a youngster in tow wasn’t as much fun in real life as I had imagined …

One of my most treasured pictures of my daughter. It was her second birthday, and she had picked out the doll and stroller herself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a mom trying to re-live youth through my daughter. She’s her own person, but we’re a lot alike, and share a love of dolls. Childhood is short; I figure there won’t be many more birthdays where she’ll want dolls.   The American Girl doll store is part big department store and part museum, with displays of dolls and the era of history their stories occur. There’s much to see and do.  Inside the restaurant, girls are seated with their dolls next to them, and the menu is as delicious as any other fine New York restaurant.  Even my husband walked away stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey… although he had an overwhelming desire to watch the movie “Rambo” when he got home.  The visit ended with Audrey spending her own money on a new doll, “Kit Kittredge”, from the 1930’s.  While some argue the dolls are expensive, each one comes with a book, and we don’t spend money on things like pricey video games.  I admit, I’ve been caught styling the dolls’ hair when Audrey was at school.  Okay, how many of you have played with your kids toys when they weren’t around?  Admit it…

My daughter’s love of reading was turned into a passion by her third grade teacher.  I’m always surprised when I hear, “Mama, I need something else to read. I finished my book”. She certainly doesn’t need me to read to her, and it tugged at my heart when I realized she no longer had me read her a bedtime story. It didn’t happen overnight, just sort of gradually, like a whisper in time.

One of the things I’ve wanted to do forever was share the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder with my daughter. I remember the Christmas I got a new, boxed set of the  books, circa 1977. Those books were one of my favorite gifts ever. I read and reread each one until they literally fell apart.  We checked out Little House in the Big Woods from the library, and have spent time this summer reading it together on a blanket in the shade by the cutting garden.

“Just one of the girls having a tea party on a rainy day”

Kids have much pressure to grow up fast.  There’s shows and movies aimed at my daughter’s age and younger, with “sassy” characters or that focus on “older” subjects like dating. Everywhere, kids are being told they need to be a pop star to be somebody.  Try clothes shopping for a tween girl! So much is inappropriate for any age.  I’m horrified that most “training bras” nowadays are plunging, push-up, and padded! Our society definitely sends mixed messages.

So this summer, I’ve spent happy moments playing dolls, catching butterflies, and reading classic tales with my daughter.  I know the clock is ticking on childhood, and I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.

Leave a comment 10 Comments

  1. carol says:

    Here, Here, Mom! You are on the right track. Time goes way too fast. I remember those days with my little girls…the urge to step beyond their years. I often told them to "enjoy being a ‘little’ girl, because once you cross the line to womanhood, there is no going back. Along with the privileges comes much responsibility." My girls are now married with babies of their own. I just recently heard the author of the book, Be the Mom. She had a lot of Wisdom to share with moms today.

    Thanks, Carol!  You are so right!  I love what you say…’once you cross the line to womanhood, there is no going back.’   I’ll also have to peek at that book!  Thanks so much for the comment! -Nicole

  2. Kathy Romero says:

    Beautiful!! I have THE most incredible granddaughter, Olivia, who will be starting kindergarten this year. Having had four children and realizing how quickly time passes, I have had the privilege of doing a lot of the same things you have experienced this summer. There is NOTHING more important in life than time spent making memories with children, grandchildren and family.

    God bless you and your sweet daughter.Just keep up the good work and those memories will remain alive forever. Believe me, I know from my own mother and grandmother.

    Kathy, thank you!  I bet Olivia is excited about kindergarten.  I’ll never forget our first kindergarten day…it was all I could do to keep myself from running after the school bus!  Our elementary school years were precious.  We were both sad when we said "Goodbye" in June, but I’ve heard good things about the next step, too!  Take care, and enjoy those precious grandchildren! -Nicole

  3. bonnie ellis says:

    Nicole. I think you are lucky to have time for those things. Childhood is just too precious to miss. I have two boys and was lucky that my husband could be home sometimes too. I loved the childhood years and had those moments as a mom with my boys. My sons were taught to be independent and of course move away from home. I am lucky that one lives in my city. When we have times together now, they are extra precious. Enjoy your daughter and I can see you will do everything you can so she doesn’t "grow up" too fast.

    Thank you, Bonnie!  It’s so hard when our kids are little sometimes, to not say we are too tired to play or to read with them; life can be so hectic, but each year seems to go go by like a blur

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting!  Farmgirl hugs, Nicole

  4. Mary Ann says:

    Beautifully said, childhood is so precious! I’m so glad you had a wonderful summer with your daughter and took time with her to build memories to last forever! I have two sons and while they were young, I did spend a lot of time with them, spending summers by the pool, traveling, visiting gardens and museums. When they were young we visited by train Washington DC one year and New York another year. Then as young teens we took them to London, so many fun memories and now they both love to travel. It’s nice to keep the innocence alive as long as you can, and so enjoy it.

    Mary Ann, Sounds like you really had some wonderful times, and I bet your children treasure those times!  Thanks for reading and commenting!  – Nicole

  5. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Nicole, I remember the picture of Audrey at two years old giving the bottle to her baby doll. I was there when we took her shopping. She is so sweet in the green dress I gave her! Audrey would not leave that store until we bought the doll stroller, even though she had another stroller at home. Audrey knew what she wanted at two years old!
    I loved reading to you when you were small and then you memorized every book before you could read! When Audrey visited me, here in Georgia, she would read to our dog Sarah. Thanks for writing these memories about your dolls and books. I love you,

    Didn’t we have fun that day?  Remember she also knew EXACTLY what lunch she wanted for her birthday!  Sometimes I wish I had her decision-making skills!  Hard to believe that day was over eight years ago.  Miss you and love you, Nicole

  6. Betty says:

    I have been crazy about horses (I’m 71 now) since I can’t remember when. Having access to a library (finally) when I started school, led me to the Walter Farley Black Stallion series. I have never enjoyed dolls, in fact I think I probably disappointed my mother in that respect. She wanted a daughter, which she got, but that one was a tomboy. The second daughter turned out to be the doll gal. Anyway, I’ve collected statues of horses, book about horses, and even spent a summer/fall taking care of someone’s horse for them. Have a great summer/fall, everyone.

    Betty, I love this comment!  I’ll tell you, my girl is also an animal and bug girl, and when she was smaller, she played more with rubber snakes and bugs than dolls for awhile. I was pretty happy when she got more into the dolls, about six or seven years of age.  Horses are another great thing for a girl to be in to.  For me, it was the Marguerite Henry books.  I loved those as well as Laura Ingalls’ works, and my room as a child had horse posters.  For Audrey, it’s cats.  :)  Thanks for the comment! -Nicole

  7. Valerie O'Sullivan says:

    What beautiful pictures ! I am looking forward to my daughter’s tween years. Each phase of her life was/is so special. These are the last years that we will have little girls. Soon they will be remarkable young ladies. I am sad to see the summer come to an end.

    Thank you, Valerie!  Well said, I feel the exact same way!  Big hugs, Nicole

  8. Dianne says:

    Nicole, you are a beautiful mom, giving so much time and love to your daughter is the best thing you can do. You are setting her up for success! I’m a big fan of nurturing the soul, and by giving her the fine example you are, she will go out in the world knowing she is loved and that is what will keep us all going!
    My son is now 24, and I can hardly believe it. All the years of cub scouts, travel, music, reading and playing have helped him become a fine young man. He still has so many friends from childhood, and I get a real kick out of seeing a bunch of "men" hanging out at my house (when they are all back in town), watching cartoons. I guess some things will never change!

    Dianne, you are too sweet!  Thank you for such a nice compliment…it means a lot to me.  I love how your son and his friends "hang out" at your home and watch cartoons!  You sound like a great mom, too.  Hugs, Nicole

  9. Joan says:

    Praises to you for being a real Mom!!! You and Audrey will never regret how she was guided through life – loving/caring parents can never be replaced with anyone or thing. And Kit – my favorite – love the books and have seen some videos that were right up there too. Congratulations to both of you for having such a lovely young’n. Do cherish each and every step of the way. God Bless

    Thank you, Joan.  I’m so proud of the person my girl has become and is becoming.  Blessings to you too.  Hugs, Nicole

  10. Debby Carrico says:

    I didn’t experience that with my boys though my eldest had his first son at 19. Then two girls and another son. So I would certainly say it’s true of my grandchildren. My eldest grandson is taller than Grandpaw, Daddy and Uncle at age 14.

    Debby, I hear ya…my daughter already wears the same size shoe as me.  I love to share my jewelry, I’ll be happy to share my clothes, but I’m funny about sharing my shoes.  They never come back in the same condition.  Since her foot hasn’t grown in two years, I guess she’ll stay the same size as me (and my mom)!  God’s got a funny sense of humor!  -Nicole

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