Voice: 12-year-old me

What did you love more than anything on earth when you were twelve?

Here are some things I loved when I was twelve: horses, Jesus, my friend Elizabeth’s older brother Dan, sitting on my window sill and reading L.M. Montgomery, pretending I was a baton twirler with a broomstick in the basement.

I loved my period. Somewhere, there’s a journal entry that waxed rhapsodic about how it was a wonderful gift from God. I keep looking for it in my papers, but I think I threw it away in my teenage years in a fit of eye rolling over my childhood earnestness.

I loved my phone, which I’d gotten by keeping my room spotlessly neat and clean for six weeks. My parents had read that doing something for six weeks made it a habit. Not so much. I got the phone and quickly went back to my extreme slobbish ways.

I loved my independence. By 12, I’d been riding the subway to and from school by myself for over two years. It was my job to take a first-grader along on that trip and I was starting to babysit in the neighborhood, so I had my own money. My mother hated clothes shopping with me, so she gave me a clothing budget of $12.50 a month and let me take charge of my own wardrobe. I’d been in charge of doing my own hair for a few years, which resulted in periodic rat’s nests in the back, but I made them (through neglect) so I fixed them. My friends and I roamed the city on our own, hanging out in the beautiful Mt. Pleasant cemetery, freaking ourselves out, or going from corner store to corner store buying candy and chips.

This independence wasn’t always great. I was only 9 or 10 the first time an adult approached me and made comments about my looks and asked whether I’d have sex with him. Sadly, this wasn’t an isolated incident. With all the hundreds of people out on the streets in Toronto, a lone, very blonde girl was an easy target for harassment.

That experience makes it difficult for me to give my daughter independence out on the street. I didn’t let her go to her best friend’s house on her own until the summer after she turned 10, and I’ll only let her go by bike, not on foot — my reasoning being that a kid on a bike is faster and more difficult to bother. And I took that privilege away quickly (but briefly), after she and said best friend wandered way farther than approved at a public event. I know I’m going to have to increase her independence, but it’s hard. I don’t trust people on the street.

What did you love when you were twelve?