Dear Teenage Daughter,
I thought you were a boy when you were in my belly. I was convinced of it as a matter of fact. We would call you Max and you would play soccer and have almost black hair like my brother. Imagine my surprise when the tech said, “it’s a girl”. I bought pink suckers, tucked them into my Perkins apron and handed them out to everyone I knew.
When you were born I loved you. I still do. You cried though, a lot and I had no idea what I was doing and I worried that you hated me or that you were broken but one day you just stopped. And you looked like this tiny, happy angel and I loved you. I still do.
As a child you were happy. Very happy. You, always by my side, made me laugh. And you have always been kind and sweet and smart. When your first brother came, you squealed in delight and made the best big sister. When the next came, you fell into place as mommy’s little helper. By the time Dexter joined our family you were 12 and you welcomed him into the world with us learning both how beautiful and how brutal birth is but I will never, ever forget your face holding him the first time. Your instant love of him is still very apparent today. Now, we’ve added a fourth brother. The last and you will forever be our one and only princess. God knew we only needed one.
You’re now 16. Learning to drive and learning about the heartbreaks of mean boys and mean girls and mean self. I monitor a lot of what you do without you realizing it and I can see the pain you feel with each passive Tweet and I know that you worry you’re not pretty or smart or good. I see you struggle with friendship and with family and with your relationship with your dad and I try, with all my might to give you good advice and I often cry on your behalf when you are not looking and behind closed doors.
It was hard to let you turn 16. Not that I had a choice in the matter. But I wanted to put you in my pocket and keep you away from all that is high school. I wanted you to never feel the hurt of not fitting in or the worry of not being smart enough. I, in short, did not want you to be me at 16. Who wasn’t smart enough to finish and who, will regret for the rest of her life, never going to prom. And who will always regret never wearing a cap and gown or doing what normal high school kids do. I may push you too hard, I worry. To do good in school. To go to dances and to make friends. Because as an “old woman”, I have regrets I never don’t want you to have too.
I want for you to do all the things.
All of them.
Go to school and work hard but don’t forget you’ll only be 16 for one year. Break some rules and make mistakes but not too big, not big enough that they will affect you for the rest of your life. Go to the dance. Wear the most beautiful dress you can find. Pick it because you love it and not all your friends approveA. Feel beautiful in it and rock the beautiful outside that is so gorgeous but not nearly as beautiful as your inside.
Go to every single try out and sports thing and club you want to and if they say no or you fail, at least you can say that you tried. YOU TRIED. Good for you. There is nothing harder than trying scary things. It’s harder to just try then it will be to hear no. Trust me. I know. So play. Play hard and try. Try hard. You’ll never regret it. I promise.
Be boy crazy but not crazy for boys. Because it’s fun to have crushes and to date. It’s fun. But boys? They’re don’t make you who you are. No boy will make you beautiful or smart or kind or successful. Only you can do that and waiting for a boy to love you so that you can love yourself. It’s not good. Just love yourself. Because if you don’t start now? Loving yourself in your 30s is much, much harder. So, date them. Cheer for them. Be friends with them. But that’s it. Chances are you won’t meet your future spouse now and if you do? There is a real good chance he loves you enough now to wait for you.
You cried in my car this week because you’re afraid to grow up. Listen my little love. You don’t have to go anywhere until you’re ready. So while I don’t want you home at 30, you’re welcome there through college and as long as you need. Going to live at college isn’t for everyone. You can be too scared right now anyway. Because you’re 16 and you still have time. You are still a girl and there is still time to decide. You can stay home and you can go and I will do whatever you need to feel okay. Even if that means moving you in or out mid-semester. You can be home with us. We want you. And when you turn 30 and you have your own family and you feel like you need away. Come home. Because I want you. I want you to know, when you’re 30, I am still and always will be the mother who held you with every broken everything… from skin to hearts.
You are loved. From the day I “discovered” you to the day I am gone and forever. I don’t want you to be afraid but I know it comes with growing up. So I hear, to stroke your hair and listen and to stalk you twitter and questions when I am worried that you are down. I want you to feel safe and loved and when you are scared I want for you to always come to me. Always. Don’t be afraid to grow up. Growing up is great. Aside from the bills of course. I know that maybe it’s hard to see your family, who struggles and your mother who battles the sad and worry that’s your future too. But you should know, even with the struggle, I wouldn’t change a thing because I might not have you. And I might be sad but, you are never my sad. Ever. You and your brothers are what keep me afloat.
So my dear teenage daughter. Do all the things. Do them all with love. Remember you can come home and remember, please, through it all, I am always your mother. Make your life what you want it to be. Don’t wait for approval and don’t wait. Just do it. Do all the things. I cannot say that enough…