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/ November 28, 2023

A letter to my teenage daughter

I’m sitting here, on the plane, with you asleep next to me.  Eyes closed with your long limbs curled up in a ball. For a flash of a moment, you seem so young, and yet not.  Already showing the world glimmers of who you are to become.  

Last night at your birthday dinner, after we all went in a circle and shared what we love about you, you added what you love most about yourself.  Your height.  Your compassion.  Your awareness to sense how others are feeling. Your ability to read a room.  Your sensitivity.

I love all those things too.

As I’m sitting here now on this plane beside you, on your thirteenth birthday, thinking about you, your birth, and why God sent you here,

I see how in just these short few years, you’ve made me a better person.  

You’ve taught me so much as a mother and as a woman.

When you were young and still so little, I was so intimidated by your strength and your determination.  Your independence.  You persistence to not “do as your told”, but rather do as you feel.  Your little body always telling you what you needed (more jumping, more squeezing, more touching everything in sight).  

I didn’t understand it.

Or how to parent you.

I felt out of control.  And in some subconscious way, even inadequate as your mother.  

I wanted to control you.  To have order. 

Placing all of my own ideals, images, and thoughts onto who I thought you should be.  How you should act.  Who you should become.

I was so naive.  I didn’t know.

I didn’t realize then, what I know now.  That all along you never needed me.  That your internal compass was never off.  That you came into this world a whole, complete, perfect person.  Not looking for someone to give you direction, but rather someone to bear witness to your fullest expression.  

I see that now.  Thank you for being patient with me. 

As I watch you grow now into this extraordinarily independent, brave, curious, and outspoken young woman, I couldn’t be prouder of who you are.  I see those qualities of you as a little girl and how they are serving you now and am already imagining how they will serve you in the future.

People often make comments to me about you, our relationship, or just teen girls in general. Phrases like…”just wait”.   “good luck when she’s a teen”.  Or comments about how teen girls can be moody or catty.

And I hate that for you.  I hate that that’s how the world sees teen girls.

I know that there will be times when you feel out of control with your feelings.  When you’ll be sad or upset.  Angry.  

You’ll have days you feel like you hate me.  Or your dad. Or your brothers.

And I want you to know that it’s ok.  In fact it’s more than ok.

I know, trust and feel safe enough in my love for you that I’ll hold the ground for us both on those days when you feel unsteady.

I’m not going anywhere.

Your big feelings are welcome.  

The days with your bedroom door once open, now shut, are coming.  The days you will slam it after school, days of not wanting to talk, of wanting me gone (but also right by your side) are coming.

And however it goes, however, you feel, you never need to apologize. 

It’s not your fault.  

It’s part of growing up. Becoming, or unbecoming, who you are meant to be.  Without me as your mirror. 

You only have one person you truly need to answer to, you

You are going to go through a wild experience discovering who you are.  One that I can’t go on with you.  

And it will feel awful and lonely and exhilarating and amazing all at once.  You will have your heart broken over the next few years, by friends, boys, teachers, even me.  

I can’t protect you from that.  

But you don’t need protecting.

You are ready for all that is to come your way.  

And while you are in this next chapter, riding these waves of the teen years, I am here.  Just outside that closed (or slightly cracked) door waiting.

We don’t have to talk about it.  You don’t need to explain.

I know one day, in the not-so-distant future, you are going to go off and not need me the way you do now.  To sit on your bed and cuddle you to sleep.  To take a bath and do face masks together, or drive you to school.

And I already miss it.

People say time with your kids goes by too fast.  And I don’t know.  Maybe it does.

But I tend to think it goes by just as it should if you do it right.  If you’re really all in.  Paying attention.  Noticing.  Staying in the moment, even when it’s hard. 

And I’ve had that with you.

It may have taken me a while as a mother to get there.  But I’m here now.  Listening.  Witnessing.  Just being by your side.

And time is going by as perfectly and as beautifully as it’s meant.

Slow enough for me to savor, but fast enough to understand the precious sacredness of it all.

I don’t have any big grandiose words of advice for you as you turn 13.  You don’t need it.  You seem to be doing just fine trusting your own inner compass.

Just know that I couldn’t be prouder of you.  Not for what you’ve accomplished, or the things you do (which are extraordinary), but simply for being you.  

I told you this the other day when you tucked me in (which ps, please never stop tucking me in), that I don‘t care if you ever get another A.  I don’t care what you get in debate competitions or in school – none of it matters.  It feels like it matters now, but I promise you, it doesn’t.  None of this does.

It’s all just a moment. And it’s fleeting.

My love for you isn’t based on what you do.  How you behave.  What grades you get or how clean your room is.  

My love for you just simply is.  Unwavering.  Constant. Like the rising and the setting of the sun.  It just is.

Even after all this time, the Sun never says to the Earth, “you owe me.”

Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky” – Hafiz



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