Today is my youngest's birthday. Her "lucky" birthday, so she tells me, because this year she turns twelve on the twelfth. I love this age. She's a magical creature right now, teetering on the brink: one minute a little girl, the next a young woman. Still more on the girl end of things, thank goodness, she is a cheerful, friendly, open-hearted young miss who knows her own mind. I remember her birth. Woken shortly before 3 in the morning, I nodded off or rested between contractions for another three hours before I started pacing. Up and down our street, pausing at intervals to breathe, breathe, breathe, my eldest daughter recording the time and duration on a piece of paper I still have. Off to the hospital's birthing centre about 8, with husband and her two older siblings. A friend joined us there, to help with the older children, bringing with her her nursing baby. (Getting too granola for you all yet?) Labour was going gangbusters by then, and at 11:46 a.m., Emma joined our family. We dined on spaghetti, brought by my friend, and prepared in the kitchen that was part of the birthing suite. For dessert, we had cake, with five candles, one for each member of the family. We sang Happy Birthday to Emma for the first time that day, as we will sing it to her for the 13th time this evening at dinner. Five hours later we were on our way home. She was an early teether. First tooth showed up the week she turned four months old. (I nursed her for another nine months.) She crawled and then walked, right on schedule. She had a great 18-month vocabulary, with some curious entries, the most notable being "gookums". Any guesses? Nah, you never will... it meant "socks". Who knows why. She was a terrible sleeper. A year old before I could rely on a solid night's sleep. She has always been the most strongly social of my children. Self-confident, and ready to make friends with people of all ages. She chooses friends for who they are and how they treat her; she scorns the "popular" kids who seem to get there by denigrating others and trying to be older than they are. She's the one and only truly bilingual person in our household, having had the advantage of the "middle French immersion" program at school. (Where the children are, from day 1, taught entirely in French. Doesn't take too long for them to catch on! Middle immersion starts in 4th grade, also her first year in school. Prior to that she stayed home with mum, aka "homeschooled.") She is at that delightful stage where, although she enjoys her friends, she also enjoys her family. Such a nice balance she maintains. I get wistful when I consider that she'll almost certainly lose it in adolescence. And that's what makes this birthday particularly poignant for me: the spectre of adolescence. I know that in the next year or two, we will almost certainly lose the closeness we now share. Family will become far less significant to her than friends; parents will become intrusions rather than welcome resources and supports. We may regain our closeness when she emerges as a fully-fledged adult. I hope we do. I could hope that we will stay close during her adolescence; I know some mothers and daughters do. I can't risk that hope, though: heartbreak lays there. Instead I savour these last months of precious time, and prepare to step back when the time comes. Happy Birthday, my love!