I told her to put on her baggiest pants. I pulled out an old, camp t-shirt from two summers ago. It was the one that could fit two of her back then. Now, it fit just right. Her hair was pulled back in her usual ponytail. I placed a headband to match the shirt, and to also make her look a little smaller. To me, she looked no older than her age, but I knew, to some dude outside, she looked just right.
This was her summer of independence, and although I was supportive of her wanting to go to the library by herself, and to the store or park to meet friends, it was difficult to just let it be. These New York mean streets have a way of teaching lessons no classroom or lecture or story could replicate. Each experience was one of a kind, and I knew, as well as her and her dad, that she needed this. She needed that street sense, just as much as she needs the books, and the balance those experiences bring. But she also needed my protection, and my guidance, and most importantly, my support.
She reached for her small bag and tucked in her laptop and charger. She held on to her phone—first set of instructions were to call me as soon as she got to the library, before she left, and if she felt uncomfortable at any other point. This was just in case some random dude tried talking to her, smooth talk his way to a “Hello” or “What’s your name?” and break down her 12-year-old sphere. This city is full of those. I still remember 12. It was the first time a guy tried talking to me, while walking down Mount Eden in the Bronx, with my mother a few steps ahead of me.
I was wearing these white jeans that were a little too fitted. Yeah, 12 showed up with curves and a figure I was not mentally prepared to handle. Much like my daughter. It’s the reason I made sure her jeans said none of that.
“I’ll call you when I get there. Don’t worry—I’ll be fine!” She dashed off with that reassurance to meet those experiences that awaited, the checks and balances of it all, and to finally greet her summer of independence.