Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Innocence Lost

Today I came across a book I bought the summer before my daughter went into 5th grade. It was $2.99 in a bargain bin and is called "A Year in the Life of My Daughter". The "preview" on the back cover states this:

This unique journal offers the rare opportunity for parents to capture a single year in their daughter's life -- a year they can relive and remember as they flip through the pages in years to come. It is filled with "thought starters," writing prompts organized around the four seasons that reflect the issues, interests and challenges that parents and their daughters face."

I LOVED this idea and when I bought it I had every intention of documenting my daughter's 5th grade year. But did I ever get around to it? No. And for that I am sorry.

5th grade was what I consider the last year of innocence in my daughter's life and from what I've read, that is common for most girls. At 10 and 11, girls feel invincible and able to do whatever they want. The world is their oyster and they feel capable and good about themselves.

5th grade was the year she had her "most favorite teacher", the year she earned her Black Belt in karate, the year she had a group of friends who just "clicked" and a best friend she thought would always be there. It was before she knew what it was like to wear a bra. It was before she knew what it was like to have a crush and not have it returned and conversely before she knew how it felt to not like someone but have them tease you because they like you. It was a time when the girls she knew didn't wear makeup and didn't talk constantly about boys but talked about their own interests.

It wasn't until after 5th grade that she lost some innocence when her best friend went off with another group of girls, girls who acted older and tougher than they felt and later when another good friend moved out of state. And another piece of innocence was pinched off when she felt the betrayal of a friend's cutting words. But worst of all, it wasn't until later that the tragedy of suicide struck the son of her "most favorite teacher".

I look back and remember that the morning of 9-11 I was having a conference with her "most favorite teacher" a teacher who said "I really don't need to even have a conference for a child like her." It was a contrast in feeling pleased to have such a child and in feeling horror while watching the events of 9-11 unfold that day. I sometimes wonder if that was the signal that my child was soon to lose her innocence, just as the country lost theirs that day.

None of us can grow up without losing our innocence. Our lives will never again look as good as they do from the vantage point of a 10 year old. It's a necessary step to survival in this world to realize that bad goes along with the good but even though it's a passage, to a parent it feels cruel that our children have these lessons to learn. And we pray that the lessons won't hurt too much, that our children will be able to handle whatever is thrown their way and we hope they know we would switch places with them in a minute and bear any hurt for them if we could.

High school is coming up this fall and I have made a vow to use this book for her freshman year. There are new journeys to document. She has survived the growing pains of junior high, she is older and wiser and she is happy. I may mourn the loss of innocence but I am thankful for the happiness and for the strength she has acquired in the journey.


Alison said...

Deb, I just stumbled across your blog while trying to update the photo galleries on the SB BB. You write so well & I wonder if you have ever considered writing for a living? Anyway, my DD is in 5th grade this year & I think you could be right about the loss of innocence. Thanks for blogging.


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