They are thirteen.

There is hair: so much hair, and hair care, and grooming, and maintenance, and styling, and products. There are rapidly multiplying piles of shoes, in various colors and styles, and sizes that are increasingly closer to adult. There is wariness about friendship, unsure about what real friendship looks like and how to tell whether what you think is actually true and how to get to know a girl better if you think she’d be the kind of friend you think you’d like to have. There are hurt feelings and then waves of giggles and then hurt feelings again. There are girls running far ahead of you while you call out instructions or reminders, and then there are girls tucking their arms into yours so they can confide or rejoice about their day. There are cupcakes and vanilla bean Frappucinos and glitter and lotion that smells like cupcakes and vanilla bean and nail polish that has glitter in it. There are lessons on how to use the oven and soon there will be lessons on laundry. There are adorable moments when she says “Cherry-oke” instead of “Cherokee” and you laugh and she doesn’t and then she does. There are many pairs of leggings and legs that are smoothly muscled and freshly shaved. There are curves and sharp angles and tender spots and scars. There are long walks and trips to eat chicken nuggets so that while they are relaxed, maybe you can ask them a few leading questions and they might even answer. There is homework–so much homework–projects and quizzes and tests and then more projects that require posterboard and trips to classmates’ houses and research about Winston Churchill and Spanish flashcards and questions about details from To Kill a Mockingbird which you haven’t read in twenty years but why can’t you remember the name of the mean neighbor? There is teasing about your own “loud” and “distinctive” laugh and there are so many jokes and quips and comebacks that you can’t help but laugh, over and over.

They are thirteen, and they are lovely and complex. They are thirteen, and the kaleidoscope of their selves is constantly shifting, from color to shadow to light. They are thirteen, and each petal of their mind is unfurling. They are thirteen, and the gears of their hearts turn and click smoothly, then shudder to a halt, then leap forward again. They are thirteen, and they turn to the sun with fear and bravery; they swim towards the future with strong strokes.

They are thirteen.

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