In less than 24 hours, my Earbaby turns 18. She wants dinner with us at one of her favorite Italian restaurants, and she's going to get her belly button pierced. I'm good on one of those, unhappy about the other, but now officially letting that battle go. Legally it's her decision to make now.
But this has been a good month in this lead-up to what will be probably be her last official birthday celebration with us in our house. At least for awhile. I expect she will be celebrating the next three or four out of state at some college somewhere and her dad and I will call her, then toast the wonder of our parenthood (and wonder what the heck do we do now?) from afar.
I'm not sentimental about all this yet though. As I said, it's been quite a month.
Earbaby has been reconnecting with a lot of her friends, and despite her ongoing frustration with their lack of planning, promptness, or insight on how their inability to stick to a plan affects others, she loves them, and they love her right back. So when one friend took advantage of a couple of snow days and asked if he could come over to have me re-twist his dreadlocks and brought three others with him, I was glad to see them all, and experience the wonder of boys.
For one thing, they're loud. And funny. They are still kids though, and I found myself feeling very protective toward these young black men who would probably be perceived as a threat by the outside world, but packed their backpacks with board games so they could sit in my kitchen and play Monopoly and Connect 4, while another reveled in getting his hair washed and conditioned. We pulled out frozen chicken wings to heat up and feed the gang and EB's dad brought home pizza and Coke, and I marveled at the difference in energy of teenage boys and teenage girls. Girls tend to be much quieter, conversational, and organized, but boys connect with each other in different ways. They decided they wanted to go to a party at a community center and as I fixed hair on yet another head (my dread-locked friend was under the hair dryer), they proceeded to show another one how to dance. EB was given permission to go to the party with them (I trust her with these guys, who are the brothers she never had), so as she ran upstairs to get ready, I watched the boys talk to each other and demonstrate rhythm in a way I thought only girls did. Boys teach each other to dance? I was tickled by getting this rare view into a world I didn't know existed.
Of course I am also fascinated by how EB interacts with them, and they with her. When she's wearing her sweatpants and has her hair pulled up in a bun, they tease her mercilessly and she gives it right back. But EB reappeared after a fashion, ready to go out dancing and looking like a goddess. The boys fell silent for a millisecond, and then went back to pretending they don't notice that she's beautiful. They went to the party with her, made sure she got safely into a Lyft for the ride home and it was another successful day getting back to her old, better self. And yes, her friends are foolish, but she loves them.
Then there's the big dance. EB started talking about her senior prom months ago. We had to iron out some bumps in our relationship after the debacles of last year, but now that for the most part, she's finding her way back to sanity, it's been pretty good. So when she started talking about going all out for prom, I was more on board than last year when she started talking big money.
She also was OK about possibly going on her own, or just with a few friends. That is until she decided to invite a former classmate who transferred to a different school, but still liked hanging out with his old classmates. Even though there was no romantic entanglements between them, EB decided she couldn't just call or text him and float the idea of going to the prom. She created a poster, conspired with mutual buddies to show up and videotape the event and of course, got an immediate affirmative hug.
The dress shopping this year also was less stressful. Her first choice dress was $650, which she dismissed as too expensive even before I had time to object. We went to a great place one afternoon, pored through many styles and colors (she looked fabulous in every one of them), and finally selected a gorgeous gown that was simple, elegant, and different from the current mermaid trend. I told her she reminded me of Diana the Huntress. Now comes the hunt for the perfect shoes and a matching tie for her date. Since there may be several friends going together as a group, I told her we should explore limousine services. Even though she has her license and drives to school most days, she has no interest in chauffeuring herself to the prom in formal dress and heels. I figure this is her last hurrah, she should go in style.
Then there was the wisdom teeth surgery. EB had to have all four impacted teeth removed and chose to have it done right before winter vacation. Good thing too, since the anesthesia made her emotional and loopy for a few hours and the subsequent pain knocked her out of commission for five days. It was necessary to have them all done since the bottom ones were growing in sideways and her bottom teeth were being pushed out of alignment, an enormous problem for someone who has already had two stints wearing braces. It was more than a full week before she stopped being achy and miserable, but still rallied to go out with friends, because she just didn't want to stay in the house, in her room, in her bed, for another day.
As for that belly button thing? That's EB's present to herself. She's wanted one for awhile and so the day she turns 18 will be the day she will strike out on her first act as a legal adult. She knows it will be painful, take awhile to heal (and after last week's surgery that she doesn't have the highest threshold for pain), but has already decided if she doesn't like it later, she will just let it heal over. A friend told me that if that's the worst thing, let it go. So I have. In the grand scheme of things, this first strike for legal independence is minor. She's got a whole lot of days ahead where her decisions will be good ones or painful ones. It's just part of becoming an adult.