I’m not quite sure why this letter seems harder to write than others. It isn’t as though you are turning 18 and prepping for your first year of college.
You aren’t leaving me an empty nester for goodness sake. (I may have choked a little as I typed that.)
I mean….I can still picture you the minute you were born, as well as the fear I experienced for both of us.
I can picture you as a toddler.
Those curls and that smile? Stamped right here on my brain and heart.
I have it all memorized… the upturn of your nose, the curve of your ears, the sweetness of your smile.
It could be that I’ve noticed you look older. Your freckles are still the same (thank goodness!), but your eyes are changing. Your Delaney-smile and aptitude for funny faces and eye-crossing is uniquely yours, but I can see the teenager simmering beneath the surface. Your goofy often gives way to a young girl.
You still hold my hand, beg for time with just me, ask to watch Gilmore Girls, snuggle in and tell me that you love me without prompt…but I’m trying to nail down that little ‘something’ whispering that the minutes are slipping by, that your heart and curiosity about the world around you continue to flourish as the calendar flips to another birthday.
In the past year, my ‘shy girl’ has morphed in to one with a far more superior sense of self than I would have dreamed. You are both confident and stubborn, intelligent and witty, bold and beautiful, kind and curious…and yet still aware that there is so much more to learn.
I’d love to believe that I can place a permanent hold on you just as you are….the easy giggles, the minor tantrums, the hormones just beginning to surface, but I know you are meant to keep growing, journeying in to the young girl and then eventually the young woman you will become. Each baby step you are taking along the way is helping you build the character that will captain you in to adulthood and beyond. I’m lucky to witness it, to learn from you and to have a hand in guiding you along the way.
Sweet Girl, as you turn eleven today, I have a few hopes and wishes for you.
Keep smiling – your heart and your laughter will set your path. You will comfort friends who are having a tough time, you will remind yourself that you are in charge of picking up and starting over and you have the ability to make a stranger’s day.
Remember that L-O-S-E is not a four letter word. When you lose….in a game, on a test, in a friendship, you are given the opportunity to learn and grow.
Stay in your lane. This goes back to my favorite ‘Worry about yourself’ video, right? There are only so many things in life we can control. The older you get, the more you realize how important it is for you to compare yourself only to YOU. If you want to improve, be better than you were yesterday, not better than your neighbor, your friend or your teammate.
Keep that sense of humor. You are just like your Daddy and that is GOLD. Both of you have a gift for making others laugh, for seeing the bright side in any situation, for having a quick wit and seeking out the ‘funny’. (Don’t tell your Daddy, but you just might be the funniest person I know.)
Continue to love that little brother of yours. I know it isn’t always easy….he IS the little brother and sometimes he is good at it. But Sister, you are pretty darn good at your role too. Try to remember, as you work your way through this next year (and beyond) that being his champion is a good thing. You two make a good team and nothing makes me happier than seeing the two of you being good to each other.
You will never regret being kind. A good friend gave me this quote recently and it has stuck with me. As you know, kindness has always been a priority in our home, but I hope you will carry it with you, not only this year, but for a lifetime. You have a beautiful heart, continue to share it.
Keep playing like a girl. Keep believing in your soul that ‘playing like a girl’ is as magical as you and your friends make it every time you hit the court, the diamond, the field and the pool.
Last one: Be Grateful. I trust this doesn’t need an explanation.
In many ways, it feels like we vacillate between ‘friends’ and ‘mom/daughter’ right now…and I admit that I love it… but we are heading in to tricky territory in the next few years as my job isn’t to be your friend, to make the decisions you like, to be the ‘most popular mom in the neighborhood’, but rather, to keep you safe, to make the decisions that I know in my heart are the best for you…and Sweet Girl, those won’t always be the ‘popular’ ones and they won’t always be what ‘everyone else is doing’.
Let me tell you something very important: It is hard to be loved.
And I am going to keep loving you very, very hard. No matter what.
You will always have me. I love you, Mini.
Happy, happy birthday.