Last night was Susie's night in the kitchen. Being two years older than The Boy, she's a bit more coordinated and was able to do more of the actual prep work for a dinner of salad sandwiches. She peeled and chopped the eggs and mixed up the egg and olive, and squeezed out all the moisture from the spinach and helped mix the spinach salad.
None of the cooking was remotely difficult or reliant on attention to cooking times, so we spent the time chatting about various things, mainly her newfound ability to cry with almost no provocation at all.
She's noticed it, too.
It's science fair time, and in fourth grade the kids are required to submit a project. Much of the work has been completed in class, in stages, so the parents haven't felt pressured to make a science project for their kids. But the project is culminating (and hopefully, baby teeth are decaying in our samples of soda and other liquids as we speak) and she's stressed.
In part she's stressed because she opted to work with a group instead of on her own. (Which is a mark of how different she is from me.) (And I'll post about that in greater depth some other time.)
Susie is a great student - really a teacher's dream - and as a result, our telephone rings a lot each evening with a few of her friends calling for homework help. The first few times it happened it was cute. It was a compliment. Now it's annoying. Susie needs downtime and she really likes her family time in the evenings. We're a busy, on-the-go family with lots of activities throughout the week, and the quiet evenings are crucial for her.
Add to that the fact that one of her friends is a high-drama friend who has trouble with the idea that "Best friends" does not mean "Exclusive friends", and you've got a 'tween who needs some time with mom.
I wish I could tell her that all this will end fast and that it's all going to be okay and not to worry about it, but I can't. That would be dishonest. My life at school was sheer hell from fourth grade to seventh, and only marginally better for eighth to eleventh. Really, in all honesty, I much prefer adulthood. Eight to seventeen was a time I would prefer to forget.
But Susie has social skills that I couldn't have dreamed of having when I was twice her age. At two she was so self-assured and confident and got along well with other kids. (My mother once remarked, while watching her play with a bunch of other kids at at La Leche League meeting, that there was no way I could have done that at the same age.) When she started preschool the teachers were stunned that she'd never been in daycare or preschool before. She's very, very good with people.
She also has an amazing degree of intrapersonal awareness (Gardner fans, that one was for you!). She knows what she's feeling and often she knows why. She can describe what "stressed about science project" feels like in a physical way (feels like crying and swallows down that lump in her throat). And she knows why her friends get on her nerves.
Living with a kid with this much self-awareness and social sophistication is humbling. It also keeps me a little on edge, reining myself in, because it's very, very easy to slip and treat her like she's older than she is. So I walk a thin line to keep my expectations of her and conversations with her on an age-appropriate level. Because nine going on thirty is really still just nine.
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And she's really good at chopping eggs.