My precious daughter,
You were born strong. Pink, squalling, hungry, determined, and given a perfect score of 10 for newborn health, you seemed to know exactly who were were and what you wanted from life the second air brushed against your lungs. Holding you tight against my chest, I realized a new kind of brave burned inside my bones, the kind that would allow me to take on a mountain lion with my bare hands if you were in danger.
My repertoire in loving expands each day I mother you.
We’ve sorted through tantrums, danced in princess gowns and steadied ourselves against attacks from bullies. I watched you grow from a little girl who explored with Dora; prepared plastic meals from her toy kitchen; and memorized every song from all of the Barbie movies to an almost-woman who sings Adele’s Hello like she wrote it herself; loves making breakfast for the family on Saturday mornings; and blushes at the mention of Thor.
This year, you turned 12. That’s big. And we celebrated big with an ice skating party. I even ordered fancy–and delicious–cookies from a delightful little husband-and-wife-owned business in New York City. The owners, Gabe and Holly Valentino are a true team as they both manage separate careers while working together to run their shop Baked to Measure.
We both love cookies and found these too perfect to resist, but I bought them for more reasons than they’d make extra-cute party favors. For starters, Holly reminds me of a grown up version of you. I don’t know her personally, but from her Instagram feed alone, you can tell she’s filled with spunk, creativity, compassion and courage. She’s the type of woman who isn’t afraid to grapple with risks to move toward her dreams and I see the same in you.
The other driving reason for the skate-shaped confections? I wanted to remind you that whimsy is for girls of all ages. That even though you’re getting older, you’re allowed to get excited about your birthday and plan a party for the little girl within.
As you squished your eyes tight to blow out your candles and make your birthday wish, several wishes of my own swirled inside my brain. In honor of your 12th birthday, here are my 12 wishes for you as your head to middle school and grow into a woman.
I Wish …
1. That you find beauty every time you glance in the mirror and every time you search inside your heart.
2. That you always rise above labels and never attach words like fat, ugly, dumb, skinny, or popular to your identity.
3. That you own your mistakes and learn from them, but never, ever allow them to define you.
4. That you refuse to numb your feelings. Your bitter ones. Your confused ones. Your jealous ones. Your sad ones. Your spitting-mad ones. Your happy ones that you might feel you don’t deserve. Instead, explore the emotions that toss you to your knees and the ones that raise your eyes toward the sun. When you own what you feel, you’ll be less likely to let your feelings own you.
5. That you always feel proud to be your daddy’s girl, even when you don’t find his jokes all that funny.
6. That you cling tight to a sense of wonder and never take the beauty of this world for granted.
7. That you keep singing.
8. That you slam the door on shame each time it knocks.
9. That you always know that you are loved and wanted just as you are. No matter what you choose or who you become, your father and I will forever love you.
10. That you keep your spunk and stand up for yourself and others.
11. That you forgive. Those who slight you. Those you betray you. Those who disappoint you. Those who slice your core with ugly words. Forgive them all, yourself included.