To My Daughter on Her 12th birthday
It seems like yesterday that I was holding you as a newborn, warm and soft with a head full of dark hair. You were so tiny, so dependent on me for everything. We rocked together in your room at night as I sang you to sleep, holding you in my arms.
Now you stand proudly in front of a crowd to sing with your choir or in a musical production, you walk bravely alone into a huge middle school as a 6th grader, when I try to baby you, you say, “Mom, I’m not four years old anymore!” But when I look at your face, I still see that tiny baby who I held in my arms ten years ago. And yet, I also see that young woman who you are becoming.
I remember when you were 10, and as I drove you and your friends to the movie, the car reverberated with your voices singing, “I’ve got the eye of the tiger, fighter, dancing through the fire, I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!” My eyes filled with tears and my heart filled with joy as I grasped the fact that the years we’ve lived together are not lost in who you are now. In fact, those moments of rocking together, of helping you learn to ride a bike, or working on your soccer or math or piano, they have all lead up to the strong, beautiful girl that you are today. They have all built the foundation for you being able to say with confidence, “You’re gonna hear me roar!” It was my very first glimpse of the person you are becoming, independent of me, but formed too, through our relationship.
And I hope that the world does hear you roar. As you grow into a young woman, I hope that your father and I continue to provide you with a firm foundation on which to stand and grow. On your 12th birthday, here is what I want you to know.
- You are beautifully, uniquely you. As an early adolescent, I can already see you comparing yourself to others, to the way they look or what they can do, and weighing your worth against them. I tell you all the time, “Be the best you that you can be.” It is my fervent hope that as you grow, you will cling to the truth of the beauty of your individuality. Nobody else on the earth has the gifts, the talents and the passions that you do. Embrace your uniqueness.
- I know that you are smack dab in the middle of the stage when you care about your outer self. You are seeing changes in how you look, from your body growing and maturing to getting braces to getting pimples. You’ve watched your two older sisters go through it, so you know that your body will change, and that it will be awkward as you try to figure out what on earth to do with all this new stuff going on. It’s so easy during these years to focus on your outer self, but remember that the who you really are is on the inside. Your loving spirit, your caring heart, your sense of humor, those are the most important things about you.
- Make the world a better place. It’s so easy to focus on ourselves, but I’ve already seen in you a desire to make this world a better place. Follow your passion and use your talents to help others in ways both big and small. From sharing a smile with a friend who is hurting to raising money to help an endangered species, you are not too young to make this world a better place. Believe in your power to make a difference.
- Know that I am here for you and that I love you with all my heart. Having two big sisters, you know the ups and downs of adolescence well. You know that sometimes your dad and I have to make rules or hand out consequences that are not welcomed. As you are now in this stage yourself, I want you to know that all the rules and consequences are for one thing: To help you become the best person that you can be. At the heart of it all lies a deep and abiding love for you that is unshakable, unchangeable. Whatever you are feeling, when you are at your happiest or your saddest, your most jubilant or your most lonely, know that I am here for you. Always, you are my baby.
- Let yourself roar. The world will love you and the world will hurt you. You will be celebrated and ignored, lifted up and let down. Through all of the ups and downs that you will experience in the next few years, I hope that you will always let yourself roar. I hope that you will find your own authentic voice, speak up for what is right, and stand up with those who need a champion on their side. You are fierce, my dear, full of passion and love that burns so bright and hot that it can bring light into dark places. Believe in that power, and use it to be a world changer in your little corner of the world.
Twelve years. It hardly seems possible, and yet my heart is so full of beautiful memories that we have shared together, that it must be true. And, even though there’s a part of me that misses my tiny baby, the bigger part of me is so excited for the young woman that you are becoming. Already you challenge me with your passion for helping animals in need, whether it’s saving wild tigers by donating money to their conservation or rescuing every lost dog that crosses our path. Your heart for the hurting and the helpless makes me want to do more to help as well. My precious daughter, here is to many more years together. Here is to making this world a better place, together. Let’s roar!
* On my youngest daughter’s birthday, we went back and read some of the notes I’ve written her over the years. One that stood out to me was the one I wrote on her 10th birthday, which I’ve shared on this blog as well. Though much has changed, much of what I want her to know remains the same! So, I’ve rewritten the post a bit for her today, but with a lot of my hopes and wishes for her remaining the same. In fact, I guess they always will!