Growing like a weed.

Ray's getting older. For better or worse, she's grown away from the sugar sweet innocence of babyhood. She isn't sour, but she's tarter - wittier - able to stand just the tiniest bit back from the events happening around her and see them from her own perspective, not just her parents' or friends'. It's still hard for her to keep that eye of distance on her friends, but that's as it is.

She's getting to the point where she wishes things were different (i.e., perfect). If only our yard were like everyone else's, full of grass and flowers and a swimming pool and...

Honestly, it's a little discouraging.

But I have to stand just a little bit back and see things from my own perspective, too. I spent two summers pulling gravel out of the back yard to get even this far. Today, I spent a couple of hours pulling weeds out of the yard - first, I watered and admired the strawberry patch - and under the big clumps of weeds are patches of tiny, silken grass shoots. My patch of dill and basil is starting to sprout, even after the heat we've had the last few days. My next project is to put bird netting over the strawberries - which may or may not do anything about the squirrel that runs across the top of the fence next to the patch. I put some old leaf mulch between the rows of strawberries today. I didn't plan it - I just ran across a pile of rotten leaves and was inspired. "Perfect," I said. "Nothing's growing in it."

I'm finally able to stand back from the sweltering gravel pit of imperfection that is my back yard and go, "Ah. That part's nice."

It's not a big part. But it's nice.

Part of me is an editor, a perfectionist, a rules lawyer, a perpetual teenager whining about how things aren't fair. And if I didn't have that part of me, I wouldn't have a job, and I certainly wouldn't have pulled weeds tonight for two hours. But that part of me can't appreciate anything I've accomplished. It tangles me up: don't bother starting if it isn't going to be perfect.

Part of me is a daydreamer, a living non sequiteur. If I didn't daydream, I wouldn't be worth being around. I wouldn't be able to understand other people, let alone give a crap about them - I wouldn't be able to put myself in their shoes. But that part of me will start a million projects and never finish anything. It always gives up.

But when they work together - when I just leave them alone to do what they do best - it's better. I don't give up - but I occasionally stand back and admire my work.

Maybe I can get a kiddie pool this year, if I put it where the worst of the weeds are instead of where the baby grass is growing. The pool will have to be rigid plastic, of course, or the gravel will tear it up.

A surprise for when Ray comes back from South Dakota, in July, from visiting her grandparents. Unless she reads it on the blog first - she does that sometimes.

On the one hand, you want your kid to be well-adjusted. Well-rounded. Happy. Perfect.

On the other hand, it's the little pieces of craziness that both give your kid individuality and talent. Who would I be if I hadn't obsessed about books and words my entire childhood? Or if I hadn't spent so many years tearing myself up about how things weren't fair? I wouldn't be me, had all my wrinkles been smoothed out too soon.

So here's to my daughter - growing like a weed - in a protected corner of our garden, where I won't trim her too much, until she can find the place where she isn't a weed anymore. Hopefully, she'll come back and visit after she uproots herself.