On Sunday, the day before your birthday, your new cousin was born: 7lb 6oz of tiny gorgeous perfect baby. Then on Monday you turned 14, and I sat at the hospital that morning holding the new little girl in our family who can basically fit in the palms of my hands and thinking of you, now nearly as tall as me and about to start high school and I could not begin to wrap my head around where the last fourteen years have gone.
I looked at your aunt holding her brand new girl, exhausted and in love, and with all those years of parenting stretching out in front of her and I can’t lie, even though I know how all-encompassing and demanding and soul-consuming it is to have a new baby, I was jealous — I want eighteen more years with you before you go off and begin your own adventure, not four. I want every minute of the last fourteen years back to do over again because I have loved being your mother for all of it. I look at you and I look at your beautiful new little cousin and I can exactly picture the moment you were born and I am just overwhelmed with how much has happened and how much changes and how fast it all seems to have gone by.
From the moment you have children, older parents tell you to enjoy every minute because it happens in a blink. When you’re up four times a night nursing an infant, when you’re chasing after a wobbly toddler just learning to walk, when you’re buckling car seats and cutting up every bit of food into tiny bite-sized pieces and cleaning up toys for the millionth time a day, it’s easy to take the time for granted. It’s easy to wish for the next stage, for the end of a long and tedious day. The days drag by, for sure; but it’s also true that the years fly.
If I’m being honest, I don’t really want to redo the baby years. I love where we are now and who you’ve become and how all my kids are old enough that we can do really, really cool fun things all together. But man, I want it to last forever, and I know it can’t.
Now you are about to start high school. HIGH SCHOOL! You’ve grown up into this amazingly bright and intelligent person, with opinions on everything that are generally well-thought out and perceptive. You’ve got a quick wit, a fantastic sense of humor (as long as you’re not the punchline of the joke), and a goofy side that makes me so happy when it appears. You’re fun and you’re funny. You’re organized and meticulous. You’re smart and analytical. You’re determined and brave.
You’re about to make yet another big transition to a new school, but I feel like the last move prepared you for this one; you know that even when you go in knowing no one, you’ll make friends and have amazing experiences. I am so excited to see how you grow and change and thrive in this new place, just like you did in England.
And as you’ve pointed out to me before, it’s easier here – we DO know people, we’re surrounded by family and friends and that makes it feel like home right away. I really want to make sure that you feel rooted here as quickly as possible so that when you do head off to college in four short years, you know where home is without a doubt.
My girl, as you get ready to start the next chapter, here’s what I want you to remember:
Every place, every experience is what you make of it. Go into it all with optimism and hope and make the best of everything even when things aren’t great. Speak your mind. Try new things. Be nice to your brothers even when you don’t want to be. Be kind, be kind, be kind and be mindful of how your actions affect other people. Remember how lucky we all are, in almost everything. Use your talents for good. Get enough sleep and exercise, even when it’s tempting to be a lazy teenager. Be nice to your parents; remember we’re people too, with feelings and lives and ideas and goals. Embrace what you love, regardless of what other people think.
And more than any other thing, know how very much you are loved, right down to the core of who you are, right from the moment when you were that tiny baby I could hold in the palms of my hands, and always know how very, very grateful your dad and I are to be your parents.
Happy birthday baby girl. I love you a bushel and a peck.