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Mama Said: The 'not a girl, not yet a woman' phase

Emily Martin’s Girl seems so grown up, until she does something completely ridiculous and then it’s a reminder that she’s still only nine...

'Not a girl, not yet a woman' is the best phase yet, writes Emily Martin (63453052)
'Not a girl, not yet a woman' is the best phase yet, writes Emily Martin (63453052)

Girl is so mature. Scarily so. You can have a real, proper adult conversation with her. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a professional mother and daughter relationship where I’m in charge, or at least I think I am. But I admit, I do often flop down onto her bed and whine at the end of the day, like Eddie in Ab Fab. “Sweetie, darling, help mummy, tell me what to do?” And she’ll roll her eyes and say, “What is it now?”

Living with her, now she’s nine, is a bit like living in the movie Bugsy Malone. She might as well be wearing a silken evening gown, a fur stole and carrying a splurge gun round the house. And actually while I added that line as a little extra bit to develop the analogy, it’s pretty much how she likes to dress. As Britney Spears, the greatest poet of the early 2000s said, my daughter is in the phase described as: “Not a girl, not yet a woman.” And it’s my favourite phase so far.

One of the best things about this period, where she’s half grown up and half tiny kid, is when her maturity vanishes really suddenly in the middle of a grown-up scenario. We can go from a conversation where we’re on the same level just chatting away like two great pals, to her suddenly breaking down in tears because her brother won’t let her use his pens or something. I’ll say, “Girl, look at yourself! Why are you crying??” and then we’ll both laugh. The ridiculousness is apparent to her as well but she just can’t help it.

This week, I was cooking (well, I was heating up some chips) and she was writing at the table and had all her stationery stuff spread out - pens, some new rainbow-pattern rubbers, things like that. We were chatting away about the radio and she was asking questions. So I was explaining a bit about how the radio works and what sorts of radio stations there are, and suddenly she cut me off and went, “WOAH, MUM. I’ve just balanced SIX of these rubbers,” looking up at me with a face of awe and disbelief as a small tower of rubbers sat teetering in front of her. I turned and said, “Oh my God no WAY!” And we laughed.

Last week, Girl and Boy were playing a game of “Pig”. She had him tied up, round the waist by a “leash” made from a million rubber bands. And he was scampering fast around the house obediently performing various tasks for her. (Actually that reminds me I must check in with them on what they think “a pig” is.) Anyway, “I just want to be a NORMAL PIG,” I heard Boy exclaim in a frustrated tone. “This leash is STOPPING me”. She sighed. “Wait” she answered crossly, adjusting the rubber bands round his waist. “Just sit like a good pig first and then I’ll let you take it off. OK? Right SIT”. I had to intervene and remind her it was OK if he didn’t want to wear his leash anymore and couldn’t they find a way in the game for him just to be what he wanted? Couldn’t she let him just be a normal pig? We all laughed.

And food is a very big area where the inner ridiculous child struggles with the emerging more rational self. We joke that without me as the kitchen gatekeeper there to prevent her from constantly eating, she’d just eat as much sugar as she possibly could. I put on a silly voice and pretend to be her saying, “Maybe tomorrow when Mummy isn’t here, I can sneak into the kitchen and pour sugar straight from the bag and into my mouth!” She finds ways round me such as instead of asking for chocolate, she’ll come downstairs after I’ve put her to bed: “Can I just have an orange?” or “Can I just have an Actimel yoghurt? Please? It supports my IMMUNE system”.

Once after a birthday party, she told me proudly that she’d had 28 cocktail sausages. “You’ve what!?” I said. “I know” she replied, turning her head proudly and staring out of the car window at the fields whizzing by. She was, of course, massively sick later that night. I think, amongst all of the things I’m supposed to teach her in this complicated job, teaching her to laugh at her own ridiculousness is my favourite so far.


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