Lucky thirteen. So my tiny baby is thirteen years old. I am having some feelings. Please enjoy a sappy picture walk through baby and toddler pictures along with my thoughts.
I am simultaneously mourning the tiny kid who put on performances in her bedroom instead of napping; and LOVING watching you become the lady you were created to be. I mean, this is a miracle I get to watch. Hashtag blessed and so on and so forth. You used to be an actual baby and in what seemed like a lifetime and also about 11 seconds you are on the verge of adulthood. Your brain is brilliant but disorganized and that is awesome. I love that you are always thinking; always. You are goofy and brilliant and we think you are awesome.
I love that you talk about what you want to do while you are still a kid, and also what you want to do when you grow up. You are so smart; you really are capable of becoming anything you want. I love hearing you talk about your dream of becoming an actress. When you tap dance through the grocery store I am reminded of when I did the same; and I feel a comradery with your grandmother even though we don’t see or hear from her much. I love that you want to be a stage actress and I love hearing you wistfully talk about dreams. I love that your dreams have nothing to do with money or power, or impressing others with those things. Dreamers and creatives, in my opinion are really the best kind of people. Your dad and I love that we get to raise dreamers. I feel so lucky to have kids that dream big dreams. I’m thankful I am blessed with the opportunity to watch you and your siblings go after those dreams.
I love listening to you talk about the kind of friend, sister, and kiddo you want to be. I love listening to you talk about the kind of adult you want to be. Predictable shade is thrown when you tell me “Well, when I have kids I am going to….” fill in the blank with something that contradicts what I am doing right now. But I also feel overwhelming relief when you say “I’ll probably do this when I have kids too.”. You saying you want to adopt is awesome. Hearing you debate between adopting one kid to ‘spoil’ or several kids and teaching them to share kinda makes my heart sing. Listening to you tell me the kind of grandma you want me to be, and what kind of grandma you will be makes me kinda excited about getting old. I mean, what 13 year old thinks about what kind of grandma she will be? You are a fun one, kid. At 13, you know that “Love” is a verb; it is not a feeling or something that can be bought. You know that love is sacrifice and looks out for others first at only thirteen years old. I think that is pretty extraordinary. Knowing that you recognize how important healthy relationships are and that your goal above all else is to make others know they are loved make me feel that maybe I am not failing at everything. I love that family is so important to you.
I love that you are kind of a bad-ass. I love that you are always down to march for a better tomorrow. I love that you have zero concerns about keeping the peace if you think someone is hurting, in danger, or just not being treated fairly. I love that you know that you are made in God’s image and also that every single other person on this planet was too. I love that you are the precious combination of strong will, open-mindedness, and compassion. I love that you know your voice and actions mean something and make a difference. I regret my part in the crappy world you are inheriting. I regret my limited interest in politics and policies before you came along. I do look forward from now on to marching beside you for as long as I can. I love that you want better for others and for your future; get it girl. I support your message.
I love that you are weird. I love that you know you are weird. I love that you have weird friends. I love that you are not one of the ‘cool kids’ and that you don’t even care. I love that you take pride in your school work. I love that you read mermaid books and still want to dress up your American Girl dolls. I love that your innocence is counter balanced by a sophisticated business sense. I love that it was important to you to open a bank account, that you want to save for your future. I love that you weave and macrame. I love that you chose comfort over cutting edge style. I love that you are confident in your weirdness and it isn’t something you try to hide. Don’t ever try to be someone you aren’t; your dad and I were pressured to ‘act normal’ a lot. That might work out for some, but nothing was better for us than meeting someone who encouraged us to be exactly who we are on our insides.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t care so much that you are beautiful. I used to, but I don’t anymore. Your dad and I never won any beauty pageants, which will be a surprise to nobody. Oh, how good I felt that you would grow up beautiful; this would save you lots of pain I had endured. There was a time when I had accepted the message loud and clear that beauty and small waist was far more important than anything inside me. I spent the first half of my life wishing I was beautiful and also resenting that it mattered at all; the boys rarely cared what they looked like. You are beautiful, you will find no trouble finding people to confirm that; but I just hope it is never that important to you. I’m glad that your mind isn’t consumed with looks. Your brain and voice and talent are what have been teaching everyone (including us) since before your first birthday; and it is what will continue to be what gets you a seat at the table. Oh the irony of the lesson I learned from having a beautiful daughter. I longed for you to be beautiful only to find out it is what I consider the least important thing about you.
If I am being honest; I am also a little scared. Despite being decades away from it and a reasonable amount of therapy, I can’t think of being thirteen without crying. You could not pay me to be thirteen to nineteen again; even if I got to go into it with all I know now. Just, nope. It wasn’t just one thing or one person that broke my heart, and I think that is why I am anxious seeing you hit that age. It is just a lot. I know many circumstances are different, but I also know that in many ways my teen experiences were nothing out of the ordinary. The journey that is growing up is just hard. I know you are a kid with big feelings and who gets overwhelmed easily. I know you are a little proud and also a little self conscience; an emotionally challenging combination by my recollection. I promise you, your dad and I will always be here for you. We will do our best to find solutions, we won’t minimize or avoid; we are here for you forever. No matter what, we will never abandon you; emotionally or physically. We are in your corner forever. I have been told this is what counts.
And now, maybe it is time to talk about mean people. Mean people come in all ages and sizes, but ratchets get turned up in the teen years. “Hurt People Hurt People” – remember this when some mean girl (or boy, or whoever) says something biting. Hateful people are gonna say ish, that is just how it is. While I want you to be assertive and hold to your boundaries and values; I also am begging you not to stoop to the level of those that have hurt you. I remember hearing second hand what others had said behind my back. I remember; with regret, stooping to the same level. Have the integrity to talk to people directly. I hope that you will communicate that you are open to hear them out, pray that they will offer you the same dignity. I know you already know that not everyone will offer you that dignity. You own your story and you don’t have to submissively stay quiet to protect the reputation of a bully; but always try to talk with people directly first. Here is a sweet quote I recently read in “This I Know For Sure” – “Gossip means we haven’t emboldened ourselves to talk directly to the people we take issue with, so we belittle them—playwright Jules Feiffer calls it “committing little murders.” In short, gossip is an assassination attempt by a coward.” My prayer is that you will learn to come up with ‘win win’ solutions. Don’t take mean people to heart and most of all; don’t become like them. Your dad and I can both testify to how hard it is to rise above less than stellar behaviors that you develop when you are young. Remember always that your value is not at all dependent on someone else’s inability to see your worth. When someone is mean or dismissive, I hope it helps to know that God loves you and we love you. Many times when people are a-holes to you it is a byproduct of something much bigger inside of them that they sometimes don’t even understand themselves. I pray that when needed, you will feel comfortable giving well rounded apologies freely; apologizing is brave and strong and shows integrity. I pray you can accept apologies from others; but also set clear boundaries when a back-handed apology comes your way. Be generous with your patience with people who are honestly trying to better; but don’t allow toxicity that refuses to change. Don’t shame people and don’t allow yourself to be shamed. There is more we could say, but I think that sums it up.
I promise to never forget to see big picture goals. I promise to remember you are at an age when you have no control over a lot of what is happening to you and that is challenging. I will remember that your brain is developing at one of the fastest rates ever in your life and also that this is just biologically when you will be most volatile. I promise to remember that teenagers need a lot of sleep. I promise to always consider you a whole person with valid feelings and to say sorry when I screw up. Your dad and I promise that no matter what you do we will not tell you that you are doomed because of it. We promise we won’t use your bad behavior as an excuse for ours. I just don’t want you to ever think we dislike you. We love you and we like you. We are thankful for you. We want your best, but we do not expect perfection. We know growing up is hard. These next couple years might suck and you might be a pain in the butt, but we see things big picture. We are in this for the long haul and we want a relationship with you forever and ever. Our commitment to you is to do our very best to love you hard even if a day comes when you give us your worst. I am here for this challenge, kiddo.
Also, your dad and I are works in progress. You may not realize it, but I go to bed many nights upset about how I could have done better with you guys. I am pretty sure we will always be strict, but we are always hoping to improve how we communicate that we love you. I promise to always say “I love you” when you leave the house or get out of the car. I won’t withhold this statement because I am in a bad mood; even if you have contributed to that bad mood. We sometimes lose our footing, but we never lose sight for long that we are so very thankful that out of billions of people, we were chosen to parent you. You are my child and you deserve my love all the time; it is not conditional. If you and your siblings only learn one lesson from us, it is your dad and My’s desire for you to always know that we do not hold conditions for our love. You don’t have to earn it, it is yours. Forever and ever until I die and then again when I see you on the other side of heaven; you have my heart.
So to the not so tiny girl, who I looked at for the first time 13 years ago today; Happy 13th birthday. I hope your teenage years are amazing, I am honored to be here to celebrate them with you. On the days that they are not so amazing, I will be here for you too. You are my most favorite oldest daughter. We love you to pieces. – Mom & Dad