The End of the World as We Know it (and I feel fine)

Spring. It is always a time of fabulous joy and great stress at our house. We celebrate four birthdays in 11 days and by the end of April, I am spent.

In the coming weeks Cole will turn 15 and Eleanor 10. And this year the stress has ratcheted up to a new level. Because nearly every day Eleanor cries out:

“What if you DIE?”

To be clear: I am not sick. Or ill, or even have a hangnail.

It does not matter how I soothe her, or hold her or reassure her that I am fine. There is no stopping her fear. She is close to understanding, but just slightly too short to see what is coming.

It isn’t the death of me, it’s the death of us.

During girlhood, a mother is favorite confidant. Closest friend. Deepest love. During teenhood…not so much.

Tweenhood means she is still a little girl, but not for long. At some cellular level, she feels the coming change. There are intense hugs as she walks out the door to school, lingering looks across the dinner table, and bedtime, which used to end with a quick kiss, now is prolonged by her request for me to stay.

It reminds me of Leo Lionni’s Fredrick. The picture book story of the mouse who spent the autumn not gathering grains and nuts for the winter, but instead collected sunrays and colors and words for the long, cold, grey days. Eleanor and I are storing up our affection for one another, in hopes it will last us through the winter of adolescence.

It’s the end of the world as she knows it.

And for a few weeks I thought it was the end, too. All I could see was the girl I’d have to let go. The things we did that she’d no longer want to do. Or at least, no longer want to do with me.

And then things shifted. I’m not sure why. (more daylight? Fresh flowers? Warm weather? New cocktail?)

And I realized I had the power to stop this.

Not stop the biological tick of time—training bras are an inevitable part of my near future—but the way I saw it. Thought about it. Talked to Eleanor about it.

There is no choice about change. Change comes. (bumper sticker version: shit happens). The power, the choice comes in how we see it—as an end, or as an adventure. Yes, I can mourn what will be lost, but I can also embrace the experiences ahead.

We’ll talk about new things. We’ll go to new places. We’ll experience a whole new range of feelings for one another (you can hear the tone I’m using to type that, right?).

We’ve experienced change before. I no longer change diapers, rock her to sleep, or get puked on when she’s sick. Some changes are better than others. Each change brought what we knew to a close. Then opened beginnings we hadn’t imagined.

So this is where I am today. A little choked up, but ready. End or adventure? I pick adventure. Tweenage years, here we come.


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What change has been happening at your house? And how does it feel? Is there joy? Stress? Yes? How are you managing? Marking? Transitioning? Cherishing? We all have a story, I’d love to hear yours.


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