I was reminded of this recently when my daughter and I went to see the movie "Inside Out", which details the emotional inner workings of an 11 year old girl after her family makes a major transition, moving from suburban Minnesota to San Francisco. Up until that point, while I realized that my daughter had been through quite a bit in her short 11 years, I had completely forgotten how her processing methods themselves might be changing, from that of a child to those of a young adult, while all of these things were going on.
Talking with both kids after watching the movie, I started to notice that all of us had major change going on in out lives at the age of eleven. Changes that eventually shaped our pursuits, as well as out overall outlook on life.
He became a big brother at the age of eleven. I remember him being woken up in the middle of the night, and told to throw on sweatpants, and pile into the car while I drove myself to the hospital. I recall him pushing my wheelchair into the waiting room, and waiting with me for whatever my next instructions were to be. I also remember the fascinated look on his face when he met his little sister for the first time, marveling out loud about how tiny she was.
He also resumed taking capoeira, a martial art he had started at the Lutheran school he had attended, and he also started cooking, as he was finally tall enough to see completely over the stove. With capoeira, he would form friendships and mentor relationships that he still has to this day, and he eventually became such a good cook, he is in the process of pursuing it as a vocation.
My daughter only turned 11 in January of this year, but she has already experienced having to pack and move quickly from a place we had lived since she was a toddler. She has experienced the death of a very young friend that she saw and played with daily. She has dealt with adults that had no issues with treating her like a stereotype rather than an individual. She has experienced peer racism, sexism, and class-ism, and had to figure out how to NOT respond to any of these things, as she has unfortunately found out that any response to provocation will likely get her into more trouble that those doing the provoking. Such is the life of the bullied.
She has also discovered a love of learning, especially math and science subjects, and has a great deal of fun with the engineering kits created by GoldieBlox. She has just completed her third trip to a week long camp conducted by the Lutheran church, and while she doesn't always enjoy her cabin mates, she absolutely LOVES the experience of going to camp: the hiking, swimming, sleeping outside, and simply getting out of the city, and around different people, for a little while. Soon, she will be part of two mixed generation choirs, and with one has performed as both a singer and a dancer for well over a year.
In the middle of all of this, I received my very first Bible from the husband of the cousin we were living with. This was in response to my complaints about the pew bibles at his church, and I treasured that small white bible with my name written on it in gold letters until it was lost in storage 9 years ago. One of the sons in this family introduced my sister and I to rock and roll, via local radio station KROQ, often by acting out the lyrics to some of the songs for our amusement. I've since taught the movements to at least two of those songs to my own children, which they find hilarious. It was also during this time that I made my first halting attempts at writing at the suggestion of this same cousin, who suggested that I try to write down my feelings about everything that I was going through at the time. After seeing a little poetry, and a few paragraphs, she then uttered the magic words: "You are actually pretty good at this. You should keep this up."
I sit here contemplating this as, eleven years after the birth of my daughter, my son prepares to leave the nest. My daughter is losing her longest, closest friend, and I feel like I am losing the longest, hardest job I've ever had. We are both happy for him, of course, and in our own little way, will miss him. But if eleven is our family's number for changes and transitions, then now is the time for him to start moving on. It will be interesting to see what the next eleven years will bring.