the order of the teen-ix (xii)


This is where it starts to get hairy, literally. On Wednesday, my eleven-year-old daughter became—whisper it—twelve.

On Twelfth Night, the anniversary of my own epiphany, Serena Joy Utah Miller began her after-dinner chores by dropping my new butter dish. It was an accident of course, but I was a little loud about it; I’d finally replaced the one my husband chipped in 1995.* The lid of the new dish was unharmed, but I tossed it in the trash along with the bottom in a heap of exasperation, then restored the chipped pink butter dish, a wedding gift to us, to its former spot of glory on the counter.

The next night, while cleaning up from dinner (the previous night’s leftovers of beef stew and cheese bread), Serena dropped the lid of the old butter dish, which shattered into tiny pieces on the tile floor. We all erupted momentarily, under the impression that our daughter was spending too much time watching TV and playing games on the computer, because clearly she’d lost her ability to pay attention to what she’s doing.

Then it hit me: the yelling, the inattentiveness, the rolled eyes, the appearance of humiliation when we speak to her friends, and the kicker—Wockenfuss chocolates for breakfast. I smiled the all-knowing mom smile, fished the blue lid out of the trash, washed it, and placed it on the pink base. (Now I have a hideous, mismatched butter dish, and, with my luck, no one will break it.) I decided Serena should call her band Butter Finger. She cried. As I hugged her, I wondered how much longer she’d let me.

Unlike eleven, twelve is not merely “one louder.” It is what Bob Schneider posted as his Facebook status update and what the tabloids have called Lindsay Lohan and her ilk: a drama tornado. The way I deal with anything these days in this, the year of my annoying positivity (which, incidentally, is lost on my family) is to write a song about it.

“Hurricane Serena blew into town / like a hundred cannonballs / she touched down / now she’s raining axe handles / and barn doors / and I can’t find my little girl anymore.” Chorus: “a drama tornado / whisked away my daughter / dropped a house upon her / now she is a goner.”

Last night, after some random disagreement, I gave her a belated birthday present—the DVD of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. She said, “You didn’t need to get me anything. The Les Paul is sort of holding me over.” I saw a glimmer of my daughter under all that brand-spanking-new twelve-ness. Then she looked down at the movie in her hand and, in a moment of perfect self-realization, declared, “Oh my God! I am Hormone-y Granger!”

I am still waiting for the Dark Mark to appear, waiting for the Hairy Potters to dazzle her with their magic, waiting for her to choose some creep I’ll call “He Who Must Not Be Named.” But it won’t be long. The boy who asked her to the dance surprised her with a set of guitar strings and designer picks. And I hear things breaking in the distance. And 15 chocolates are now missing from the Wockenfuss box.

* We still argue about who’s responsible, like it matters when you’ve been together for 27 years. (He is.)

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P.S. If you like my writing and can spare a minute, please vote for me. I’m not exactly a Mommy blogger (and I hate popularity contests because I’m unpopular), but what I write is informed by motherhood, as well as wifeliness, writership, and rockerism.

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13 Comments

  1. Fran January 11, 2010 at 1:25 am #

    I voted. Where's my sticker?

  2. Aunt Teena January 11, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    You should have gotten the book my friend Janet got in Junior High School…Popularity Plus. I think we were 12 years old at the time.

    But since you are so unpopular, I voted for you.

  3. Art2 January 11, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    I love how it all came together for me. Little tiny snippets on FB all came together here.

    I love the song. My daughter found love just this year and I think the world has officially changed for her. It was a bittersweet moment when it was announced. I've been sad ever since.

    Well written my friend!

  4. Fiona January 11, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    I voted too! I SO feel for what you're experiencing right now, and I have to tell you it gets harder before it gets easier. In my experience, and that of some of my friends whose daughters are also 20-ish, full humanity starts to show up again at around 17, and it seems to come back fulsomely at around 19. But not to worry, with the great relationship the two of you have, she'll never turn into someone you don't recognize, and she'll never completely exclude you.

  5. HY-Girl January 11, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    I voted for you! Love your writing always, and the song is great. I raised/am raising two boys ages 20 (going on 30) and 22 (going on 12), so it is interesting to hear about your experiences with a daughter.

  6. tim January 11, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    I've got two soon to be twelve year olds… I have noticed the drama ramping up a few notches. Drama tornados. I wish someone would write me a song I can hum throughout the year.

  7. ODG January 11, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    From my voting/devotion: "At times irreverent and at others down right spiritual, Leslie's ruminations find a way to open that doorway and walk right in – a blessing, that cusses – wonderful." There you go… and it'll probably turn out to be an American only thing, so my vote won't matter. Great post, btw…

  8. Kim Hosey January 11, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    I'd vote a few more times if I could.

    That is scary. Twelve. Whoa. But still, you know, sometimes I totally FREAK OUT because I panic and think I've blinked and missed out on all the best parts of motherhood. And then I think of you, and how you have an Older Kid, and it's still awesome. I think you have a bunch of that left, even if there's eye rolling and Hairy Potters in there too.

    We gave David Half-Blood Prince for Christmas. We had to watch it twice — once, while he and I picked apart everything that they left out from the book, and once to shut up and actually watch it.

  9. mobtownblues January 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm #

    I love this post. Its tenderness, wryness, pragmatism, and wit are harmonious and in perfect balance, like the ingredients of a particularly good cake. Oh, and I voted for you, too.

  10. Jennifer January 11, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    fabulous post! and serena's comment about hermone-y granger means she's picking up on your love of language…

  11. Belinda January 11, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    I agree with mobtownblues – perfectly said. As is your post.
    Somehow i already thought she was older…
    12 truly is dramatime for girls – I lived one summer in a cabinful of them as counselor at a summer camp..EVERYthing was a crisis!
    As the mother of an Only boy, I thought I'd escape some of that, they ARE a bit more low-key, but only in some ways. At 18, my son is still way jived and full of 'tude…

  12. Sarah January 12, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    These years with a daughter are a roller coaster of insanity and hormones indeed. Serena is so bright and soooo funny (Hormone-y Granger…brilliant)!

    But she's still gonna go nuts. As you know.

    My daughter and I plod along…alternating yelling, crying, and loving. It's such a hard age (from 12 until…jeez, 16? 20?) and I remember it being hard. Wanting to be an adult and sometimes wanting to stay a child, never sure which kid you're gonna get.

    Another brilliant post. I voted and sometimes it lets me vote again. 🙂

  13. leedav January 15, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    As a step-monster to a 12 yr old, I love this post!