My Hermione

Hermione turned 13 yesterday.

Obviously, Hermione is not her real name, but she is so much like the beloved Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame that we just fell into calling her this as a nickname. This is a child who carries “emergency literature” everywhere she goes. She always has a book (and/or her Kindle these days) with her. One day we noticed a calculator hanging out of her back pocket. We now ask her if she has her emergency calculator with her as well.

One never knows when one might have a math emergency.

Hermione is wired for academia. We tease her, but I think we’re all secretly a bit in awe. I was also academically inclined when I was growing up, but Hermione is even more so. The advantage that Hermione has over me is that she doesn’t seem to stress about a grade that isn’t what she expected. She strives for As, but the occasional B doesn’t drive her to depths of despair as it always did me. She takes it in stride, finds out what she missed or didn’t understand, and moves on to get an A next time. Right now, as a 7th grader, she’s taking Algebra I, normally reserved for high school freshmen. When she got her first report card of the year, she said, “well, I’m only getting 92% in math, but since it’s high school math and I’m only a 7th grader, I feel pretty good about that.”

As well she should.

Hermione has always been, in many ways, the easiest of my four children for me to understand. I have been accused of playing favorites with her, but it’s not an issue of favorites–it’s more that I see how she thinks. I “get” her. Like me, she is bookish, academic, reserved, introverted. She feels deeply, but she hates for people to see it. She’s rabidly independent and stubborn. She’s self-motivated and intensely demanding on herself. She likes rules and strives to keep them. If I don’t scold her as often as I scold other kids, it’s largely because she rarely does anything that requires scolding. And because I think I have an inkling of the pressure she puts on herself, I hesitate to add to that pressure.

But as I’ve told the kids who accuse me of playing favorites, they have no idea the worries I have for Hermione. There are so many things I wish I could help her understand–things that I wish I had understood so much earlier in life.

I want her to understand that she should have some friends–some close friends, people she can count on day and night, girls who will cry and laugh and be ridiculous with her.

I want her to know that there is danger in self-isolation, that sometimes being an introvert isn’t so much a mark of honor as a curse.

I want her to see that it’s good to have people in her life, even though it’s still something I struggle with.

I want her to make decisions, to learn decisiveness, and to say what she wants unapologetically. Yes, such wants may need to be tempered, put off, or refused, but I want her to be unafraid to express them.

I want her to be willing to stretch herself in areas where she feels like a pig on roller skates. I want her to take risks, to see that challenges bring growth, even if it’s painful at times.

I want her to realize that sometimes, the greatest risks are the ones that leave body and soul intact, but expose the heart to devastating pain.

And I want her to realize that those risks are sometimes the ones most worth taking.

I want her to wear make-up and pretty clothes–not because I think she needs them, but because there’s nothing wrong with being feminine and looking your best. I want her to see that jeans and t-shirts are great, but that it’s equally great to be fashionable and stylish in a healthy, modest way.

But even though Hermione is so much like me–even though her struggles are in so many ways mirrors of my own–I also want her to know how much of her isn’t her mom. There’s a lot of her dad in her, too, but mostly, there’s a lot of Hermione.

She is brave. She has a spine of steel–not just stubbornness, but conviction. She has a deep, solid faith in Christ that I wish I had when I was 13. She has a strong sense of right and wrong and justice (I’m sure she gets that from her dad). She is deeply, profoundly compassionate in a way that I don’t think I can really understand, and in this, she is different from both of her parents, I think. Not that we aren’t compassionate (I think we both are, if in slightly different ways), but she seems to have taken the best of both of us and combined it into something even better.

Hermione wants to be a nurse–or a doctor, but she seems more interested in nursing–and in this, she is very different from both of us. But I think this is where her personality will likely shine the brightest, because she is wired for the kind of productive compassion that helps without hindering, that heals without hurting. And where I would be unable to keep the emotional aspects of any kind of medical profession from traumatizing me permanently, I think this will not be a struggle for Hermione. She will have that unique ability to do that kind of job with full compassion while keeping the heartaches and pains of such things from poisoning her own spirit.

I took Hermione and some of her friends to the local mall on Friday night. The original idea was to let her friends help her shop for some clothes with her birthday money, but then they saw the prom dresses. There were squeals and giggles and much silliness as they took over the fitting rooms and covered themselves in chiffon and satin and sparkly things. For a moment, I thought, “dear heavens, they’re not old enough for this! They’re pushing themselves, trying to grow up so fast . . . ”

And then, as quickly as it began, it was over. They moved on to Barnes & Noble, Claire’s, Bath & Body Works, Jamba Juice, Auntie Anne’s. Prom dresses were lost in the flurry of books, puppets and stuffed turtles, cheap accessories, smelly soaps, and high-carb snacks. They shielded their eyes and groaned when we walked past Victoria’s Secret, and I thought, “thank you, Jesus. They’re still just thirteen.”

And that’s what I want for them right now–for Hermione and all of them. Just be 13. There’s time for all the rest. For now, just be 13.

Happy birthday, Hermione. You are an amazing girl, and you will do amazing things.

But for now, 13 is just right.