Wasn’t it yesterday I was carrying you around? Rocking you to sleep? Tying your shoes? Reading to you? Leaving money under your pillow for lost teeth?

Wasn’t it yesterday…?

My daughter graduates middle school this week. She graduates with honors and awards and friendships so close they are like sisters and brothers. She graduates having grown not only in inches and sizes but with a deeper knowledge of how the world works around her  — for better and worse. She’s learned about math, history, science, literature, art, music. She’s learned about teamwork, commitment, responsibility, patience, loyalty, accountability, disappointments and victories. And, yes, she’s learned about gossip, betrayal, sex, drugs, bullies, violence and racism. Some taught in classes as part of their curriculum… some learned simply by seeing and hearing things on campus.

It happens. No matter how protective and “on top of it” you are — kids eventually learn it all. All the things you used to only spell out if you were talking to another adult in their presence. All the things you used to block from television and movies and internet.  All the things you desperately tried to protect them from until they were at least forty years old!

I remember my daughter’s first year at middle school and her coming home being shocked by all the four letter words and combinations of four letter words she was hearing from the seventh and eighth graders. I remember my daughter going into seventh grade and getting her first phone and me finding a text where she herself wrote “oh, fuck!” and I nearly passed out. I remember eighth grade and her watching “Friends” on Netflix and realizing she understood every sex joke. And when we went to a concert she no longer asked “what’s that awful skunk smell, mommy?”

And it hit me. My baby was a teenager and this is just how it goes and be thankful that at least she didn’t learn about these things when she was nine years old like me.

So, yeah, she knows things. She’s seen, heard and, yes, even smelled things. You can only hope that everything you’ve taught them, everything you’ve done to keep them safe, everthything you’ve established at home somehow sticks. Like an invisible cloak protecting them every time they leave the house.

I’m so relieved to say she has not fallen into the wrong group, the wrong place, the wrong hands. She may have knowledge of things but she has not explored or expermineted in things.

What’s that? Oh, sure, I hear you sighing. Whispering. Chuckling “Oh, poor Susan, she’s so naïve”.  Maybe. Or maybe I’ve learned that a child’s word matters…  but actions mean everything.  Actions and behavior speak volumes.

When I was a kid doing drugs, having sex, driving illegally, doing everything and anything — to my mom I would say, “No, not me, never, you gotta trust me” and on and on. But if she had looked at my actions, my behavior she would’ve known I was lying. My poor grades, my depression, my using any opportunity to skip school, my perfumed hair, my toothpaste tongue, my tears over boys, my eating then immediately going into the bathroom and locking the door, my dark cirles, isolating in my room, cuts on my legs…

Actions. Behavior. Words mean so little in comparison.

My daughter’s actions inspire me. She loves school — in fact, she hates to miss a day. She and her friends spend their weekends doing movie marathons at each others houses, cook, bake, do DIY projects. My daughter hangs out with me, she’s affectionate, doesn’t avoid eye contact, always asks me about MY day. She laughs more than she cries, she snuggles more than she wants space, she asks my opinion on how to handle situations that she’s unsure about, she’s in the other room right now drawing personal cards for each of her teachers to say goodbye, she’s excited to go to high school and plans to plant a vegetable garden in our yard over the summer.

Those are the actions of my kid. Who is turning into one incredible young woman. So what am I’m most thankful for that she learned in middle school? Staying true to herself no matter what. Because god knows “no matter what” happens.

Happy Graduation, my sweet girl… I’m so glad this world has a person like you in it. xo