Dear sweet baby girl,

I always get rather emotional on your birthday, but this year, this year that you officially, formally, instistantly become a teenager, I am even more of a loving, teary-eyed mess than usual. I can’t believe I get to be your mom. I can’t remember life before children, and I can’t remember why anyone would try. Being a mother isn’t my entire reason for being, but being the mom of you and your sister is by far the most important piece of me. It’s what I love the most. And that you were my first baby seems to be the rightest and truest thing that has ever happened to me.

You’re exactly what the universe decided I needed, my own special gift. A pain in the ass, sure, but a gift all the same. And I can’t even tease you too much about your teenagery, sarcastic, over-achieving, lazy, helpful, eager-to-please, confident, anxious, full-of-laughter, loyal, football-crazy self because, well, I sort of nudged you in that direction, didn’t I? You’re my mini-me, which helps (I hope) in helping me parent you. But I hope it doesn’t hurt too much. I am always trying to do my best by you because you exceed my every hope, sweetheart. You still seem to be so many steps ahead of me, funnier, smarter, braver, YOU-er than I could ever have hoped. It makes me want to smoosh those cheeks and embarrass you with how much I love you (truly, it makes me shriek with laughter every time you [mostly] jokingly “MOMMMEEEEEE!!!!!” whineyell at me, when I jokingly [mostly] go too far); and it makes me want to throttle you, too, at times, when all my knowledge (because: mini-me!) doesn’t give me any advantage at all. Because for all that you’re my mini-me, you are wonderfully, gloriously, wicked awesomely your very own person, Gracie-girl. And you’re stubborn, so you ain’t budging off being exactly who you are!

I’ve been stricken dumb, so often, during this past year, as I watch you grow and mature, and robbing me of my words isn’t easy to do. You continue to keep track of your own school work, study schedule, and homework. I might ask, as part of engaging you about your day, but I don’t double check. I don’t think you’ve required that since second grade! You have surprised us all with your progress in tennis (you joke as much as any of us at the idea of you and physical coordination belonging in the same sentence), but haven’t really entertained the idea of entering into any of the competitions – and given your proclivity to enter into and join everything else, I’m grateful for that! What hasn’t surprised me is your domination in band. You’re second chair in percussion and the feminist in you loves bragging that first chair is the only other girl in your section. You’re consistently asked to perform some of the trickier parts during performances, and the first thing you comment on afterwards, when I catch up with you, is the one part where you think you messed up: ever the perfectionist.

It’s funny, seeing which of those pieces (like the perfectionist at school) remain the same, and which parts of you are evolving. You were so quick to say yes when your crush asked you out, after for so long expounding on how you weren’t dating until high school. Ha! You’re quick to help out when I really need you to (putting away groceries without being asked, taking care of chores when I don’t feel well, offering to take care of Bee’s chores when she has a migraine); offering to pay for so many of your own expenses now that you have an allowance; coordinating all the details for transportation, etc., when you and your friends want to go somewhere and you need rides. In fact, watching your social life blossom and evolve has been one of the more intriguing and reassuring aspects of this past year. You are fiercely loyal, but you know what is Drama and what is Worth Working Through. There are a few exceptions, but you are still doing an excellent job of picking out good people to add to your village. I might make good on my threat of taking away your phone at night if I hear about any more 2 a.m. text-capades, but I get that you thought you were being there for a friend during a critical time. What makes me trust your judgement is that you don’t have any time for drama. You don’t like making scenes. You don’t like being subjected to gossip or getting shafted. You won’t stand for unfair behavior too many times. You’ll go to the end of the earth for your friends (and twice as far for The Boyfriend), and you’ll hand out chances, but only so many. I like that. It makes me feel like you’ve been listening. Like when you bop me on the arm (our accepted consequence) and lecture me when I call myself an idiot (for whatever reason). You know I won’t stand for you doing it, and you’re sorting out when to hold me to the same benchmarks. And I let you, because how else will you learn? And it does do my heart good to see that you’re taking it all in, baby girl.

There are other ways teenagerdom is settling in for you. You were never really one for keeping your room ship-shape, but GOOD LORD, GIRL. Cinderella’s woodland creatures who could tidy an entire house in the blink of an eye would keel over dead if they saw your room. It takes it a couple do-overs before I don’t keel over! And I’m not that fastidious! You’ve adapted well to my recent decision to ditch cable, but what you do miss is football…and awards shows. Like the Oscars, the Grammys, and that sort of thing. I remember getting all twirled up in it when I was in junior high, so there’s still hope for you, sweetheart! (And even if you continue to enjoy them, I promise to allow you to be your own person, no matter how ridiculous I think those shows are.)

And that’s what I find most encouraging about this past year: even as you grow up, even when we disagree and have those types of fights that everyone’s warned me comes with raising a teenager, we always find our way back to being okay. We both have Irish tempers that might need to cool off first, but you’re good at knowing who you are, Gracie. You’re good at putting your feelings into words, and expressing yourself and your perspective. You’re good at explaining why you were fighting, and apologize when it’s called for. And you’re not too proud to share that with those who matter. You know that family matters.

And I hope you know how much you matter to me.

I love you, Gracie-girl. More than any birthday letter can say. And I always will.

Love,
Mom

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One Response to “”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Happiest of birthdays Gracie. I hope you have a wonderful day.

    Well written Mama. 🙂

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