To My Daughter on her Thirteenth Birthday

You changed my life on a snowy February night in Cleveland, Ohio.

After a precipitous labor and emergency delivery, I spent the first five minutes of your life praying. I begged God to let you live as the neonatal team resuscitated you. When you stabilized, a kind nurse wrapped you up and brought you to my bedside so that I could see you before they whisked you away for surveillance. With china-doll features and eyelashes that touched your cheeks, you were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.

I flew by the seat of my pants in those early months, following my instincts (and always second guessing myself) and always in haze of sleep deprivation. The toddler and preschool years were a different challenge as you grew into a headstrong and defiant child. While you were a sweet and kind-hearted soul, you were also fiercely independent. You taught me to pick my battles, balancing between helicoptering and giving you the space you needed to learn and grow.

When you started school, you blossomed academically and socially. You are smart and have always excelled with high grades. That makes me proud. Kind, gentle and accepting, you were always a child that teachers would pair with a child who needed a friend. That makes me even prouder. You have even navigated the perils of middle school with grace. So far. I worry, of course. I am waiting for the first broken heart or the first betrayal by a friend – seemingly inevitable pitfalls of the early teen years.

So here you are… an official teenager. You may be a bit too fond of your phone and your tablet but you are a pretty amazing kid. You are polite and respectful. You love animals and they are drawn to you. You are good with children. You have a servant’s heart. You love the service projects that we do in scouts and you joyfully give your time and talents to others. You are a gifted musician, though I wish I could convince you to put your heart into it. While you have many interests, you have yet to find something that lights a fire in your soul. I pity anyone who tries to stand in your way once you do find that something.

You are not perfect. You need to be kinder to your sister. I know she’s a bit younger than you and sometimes you find her annoying. But she’s your sister. She will always be your sister and I hope that someday she will be your best friend. She balances you and I wish that you would appreciate what she brings to the table. You can also be hard on yourself. I understand that. Believe me, you come by that honestly. My advice is to loosen the reigns and learn to let some things go –  the things you can’t control. Spinning your wheels with stress and anxiety only hurts you. It has taken me a long time to learn that and I expect that it will be the same for you.

My dear daughter, happy 13th birthday. I love you more than you will ever know. You have brought immeasurable joy into my life. I am proud of the young lady that you have become and I am excited to see what the future holds for you. You are my heart. Always.

 

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