It's Friday night, the first "dress up" dance of the year, and Jasmine and I are sitting in the car in front of the middle school.
"You look great!" I tell her. "Why are you nervous?"
"Nobody else is wearing a green dress. They're all wearing pink or red." She's scanning the throng of kids that have assembled in front of the cafeteria door. It's not really true, I can see several girls in blue, black, purple, all sorts of colors. Jazz had her heart set on a pink dress but we just couldn't find one anywhere. We got a beautiful green flowery dress made from a nice gauzy fabric. It looks great on her.
"I'm not ready to go in yet." She says, still staring at the crowd that is growing thicker by the minute.
"Ok, we'll just wait here awhile." I try to lighten her mood by giving commentary on the girls that teeter by our car on their very high heels. "Ug, those shoes are going to give her blisters. Hey look- that girl's wearing leopard print!"
"I don't see any of my friends, why did I come?" Most of this anxiety has been caused by these so called friends. They told her they were all wearing pink and that she'd stand out in her green dress. One even went so far as to say she didn't like the dress at all. Middle school is all about conformity. Individualism is kin to ostracism.
"Jazz, you look good. You're going to have a great time once you get in there." I have to bite my tongue to keep from telling her to call me if she wants to come home early. She knows she can, but I don't want to give her the out. She can do this.
A few more minutes go by, and we talk about what the girls are wearing as they walk by our car ("What's with that dress? It's not a prom. Ooh- cute shoes! Am I the only one with a purse?").
Then she finally sees some one she knows.
"I know her! I'm going in now, bye!" In a wisp of organza she jumps from the car and runs after her friend. Nerves gone, or atleast at bay for the moment.
I drive home alone and think about when Jasmine came to live with us. She was three and had been left with strangers by her mother, who never came back for her. She had been living in a car and her nutrition was beyond poor. She needed to be taught everything- potty training, table manners, how to sleep in a bed. She was so little and helpless then. Now she's wearing heels, make up, and slow dancing at a semi formal. I swear to god it all happened in blink of an eye.
She's growing up, and there's no stopping it.