The posts here are few and far between, but our adventures accelerate all the time. Here are the girls, grinning and goofy together the night we all went to Roberta’s pizza in Bushwick. The place is a ramshackle miracle, old shipping containers nailed together to make a series of connected rooms. They serve fancier dishes, but most people just order the salty-licious pizza with clever names like Purple Nurple, grilled in the hot oven. In the background, behind Grace’s head, you can see a local FM radio station where two men spent most of the night broadcasting some hipster something- or-other under the watchful eye of a taxidermied warthog.
But the biggest treasure, and pleasure, was spending the evening with the girls. We sat in the outside bar to wait for our table, the sun shining full on our faces. We ordered, and ate, and shared slices like we always do, but I had the unmistakable feeling that we were moving into new territory — a new stage of our family life. Their jokes were funnier, and more on-point. Abigail referenced Of Mice and Men in a way that made us all split a gut. There we were together — four book nerds giggling about “rolling up a stake.” Grace told stories about school, complete with spot-on impressions. There was precisely no childish whining, nor was there any preteen attitude or faux-sophistication. No kids’ menu, no little plastic cup of crayons. Nobody spilled ketchup or water — not even DH.
It felt less like taking kids out to a restaurant, and more like going out for a fun evening at a cool spot with our friends.
Yes, that’s it. They are starting to feel like our friends. We still own the remote controls, the clocks, and the schedules. We still enforce all the rules, and know better than to act like anything but adults when they need us to play that role. But that night, just for a few flickering moments, I could see that beyond childhood is something other than policing homework and late nights at home worrying about their curfews. If we can keep our cool through this business of raising teenagers, we will — if we are wise and lucky — enjoy our friendships with these fascinating young women.
Each time we’ve lurched into a new developmental stage as a family, I’ve had a moment like this. Back when Abigail was three, we visited Mystic Seaport for a weekend, and realized with a happy jolt that she was no longer crying and screetching one hundred percent of the time. Suddenly, she had joined the land of humanity, and we were a family with two children, rather than one kid and one rabid raccoon.
Then there was a moment when our girls were playing peacefully together on the lawn of the Hotel Bien Être, just after we arrived in the small town in France where we lived that year. Grace had not yet left childhood, but Abigail was past the little-girl stages. They were no longer in thrall to the tooth fairy, but could create their own games when they wished. They were friends, at least some of the time. During an entire year of being forced on one another, they became little partners in crime who eventually learned to call each other BFF. And mean it.
And now, here we go into what is next. In theory, I should mess things up less in this stage, having been a fairly decent teenage whisperer for an awfully long time. While I should know better than to assume things like this, but I’ve also learned to realize that my errors are hardly the most important aspect of their growing up. They grow, no matter what I do. And nothing will prevent them from becoming more and more who they are every day.
Our pizza dinner at Roberta’s was a glimpse into their new world, and ours. I liked what I saw.