And Then she was a Teenager

Months before it was impending, Hubs and I thought up the perfect surprise for Mimi's 13th birthday present. We figured, this was her first birthday with us, first birthday celebration she could remember ever, and the first and only time she will become a teenager and so it was worth pulling out some stops.

The funny thing was, we were going to tell her on her birthday what the surprise was, but a few weeks leading up to the big day, she became indignant. Grumpy. Sullen. She was convinced we would not be celebrating her birthday. She was setting herself up for disappointment and being vocal about it. I don't even want any presents. It's fine. I know I won't get anything for my birthday... Because we insisted we'd tell her soon enough, she truly thought we were lying and had no surprise. One could scoff at that kind of pouting until one realizes the hurt, disappointment and rejection that have led up to those feelings. Heck, she doesn't know what day her actual birthday is (we are awfully close within a few weeks) and that doesn't help either.

It occurred to me, her knowing her present and having something to look forward to could really help her feel good. The utter absence of understanding and knowledge that is an essential part of a surprise was not a pleasurable experience for her. One day, after one her "no body is going to give me anything for my birthday" declarations, I realized this is torturing her. As much as I wanted to hold out, I saw what it was doing to her. I decided to tell her the news:

For her birthday we'd drive, a solo Mom and Mimi trip, to New York to go visit her dear friends from Ethiopia, who were adopted a few months before she was to a family upstate. When I told her her reaction was fairly sedate, not earth shattering, but her smile and her confidence were back. Sometimes, a happy contended kid is more important than a WOW! moment.

We prepped by checking out a few books on CD with the hard back novels to hold and for her to follow along (Superfudge by Judy Blume and Trumpet of the Swan by EB White were our travel companions) and left late on a Friday afternoon. Five hours of girl time with just us was pure bliss.

We arrived late at night to their house, and Mimi was able to get a feel for what I had planned and wanted all along for her, by surprising her friends who had no idea she was coming. Fifteen minutes into our stay the three girls had jammies on and closed the door and giggled themselves to sleep.

girls 4
The above picture is actually from the 2nd night, when I took them to a hotel and they stayed up late watching movies. I really wish I had a picture of the three girls sharing a bed. They clearly were used to it, as they all rolled over into a ball of snuggles and fell asleep instantly. It was the cutest thing I've ever seen such big "kids" do.

When I woke in the morning, I found Mimi and her friend "A" had found matching twinsy clothes and were reminding each other that they were still best buds. I sneaked this while they weren't looking and wiped away my tears.

the girls
More than a year apart, finally back together. 

They spend the day together with games, girly time, called other friends from Ethiopia living all over the US,
girls 5

girls 3

Making up dances

It was a weekend of teenage bliss. I enjoyed no toddlers crying at me, reading quietly by myself, and acting as willing chauffeur. Mimi was thankful, gracious, kind, silly. I was so proud of her, and delighted to see her connect with her friends. They have a special bond, a shared (crappy) experience. I loved how they moved in and out of Amharic and English together, almost without noticing. I loved getting to know their awesome mom.  What a blessing, to have these dear ones so close. Who knows, maybe 14 needs to be a big-trip kind of birthday, too. Oh, and if this is the teens, I have nothing to fear from this one.

the girls2

Happy Birthday to the best helper, best attitude having, buddy a Mama could ever have. She blows us away with her spirit, her generosity, wisdom and patience every day. I am so so lucky.



S said...

Happy Birthday to your beautiful teenage daughter!

AnnaJ said...

Such a wonderful gift. Understanding that the "surprise" was no longer a part of the gift was special. You did a good thing. It looks like a magical girl weekend. Oh happy day/year!

Jamie said...

happy birthday sweet girl!! so glad you were able to share such a wonderful time together!!!

Julie said...

Sweetness! Love the pic of them on the swings!

AmyMak said...

My friend in New Hampshire (where I live) told me I had to check out your blog...so I did! Love your adoption stories; your family is beautiful and your writing is wonderful. Thanks for sharing your stories!

Deborah said...

What a wonderful birthday gift! And I think surprises are usually best for the person planning them. The people getting surprised are deprived of the joy of anticipation, and (as in your case) have to deal with genuinely thinking nothing's going to happen. I'm glad you decided to tell Mimi about the trip.

Shay said...

WOW! You are such a good mom! What a great birthday for the two of you. The picture of the two of you is priceless!