My daughter Cate is growing up.

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I know this is what happens. Lately though I find myself standing back and watching her with a mixture of amazement and wistfulness at how quickly she seems to be morphing into a young lady. Occasionally I think about how my own mother watched me change when I was Cate’s age. Though so many years ago it doesn’t always feel that way: I can remember how it was to be almost a teenager (and admittedly sometimes still feel like one). So, how is it that my Catie-Cate is now in the same place?

I am proud of the person Cate is. I see in her an incredible capacity for compassion and understanding. She is very honest. I love that she tries her best even when something doesn’t come naturally to her. Cate feels things deeply and while sometimes struggles to articulate what is going on internally, always tries to find the words. When done with a book or a toy, Cate considers who she might give it to. I believe I would say this even if I weren’t her mother: Cate is a joy. I really love AND like her.

Dion and I have never shielded Cate from hard things. She has seen poverty, illness and even death. Until recently most of this kind of experience has occurred because of Cate’s proximity to us, now though she is discovering difficult things for herself and in the lives of her peers. Seeing this happen is turning out to be one of the most painful parts of parenting so far. Cate is like a piece of my heart walking around on two legs. I desperately want to protect and shield her from the sadness that life brings and yet know I can’t. True too is that I want to teach her the beautiful complexity of the truth that blessed are those who mourn and are poor in spirit.

Last night Cate came home from her choir rehearsal happy and thrilled that she had done well on her sight-reading test. She set her alarm this morning so that she could work on some homework first thing (we’re working at learning to not procrastinate). Today’s plan is to give a teacher the encouragement card that she and a friend made upon hearing that one might be needed. She’s devouring books these days, having fun with friends and already planning what kind of cake we’ll have for her thirteenth birthday.

Cate is both a happy kid and an old-soul. She manages an awareness of the challenges of life while still wanting to climb trees and for this I am grateful. Cate makes me a happy mama.