A Thank You to My Daughter the Week She Turns 13

Dear Sweetpea, 

You’re a teenager now! We’re entering into some uncharted territory for both of us, but I have high hopes it’s going to be mostly wonderful. Everything up to this point, plus my eternal optimism, makes me believe this.  

Photo cred: Desiree Swanson. Cheek cred: 100% Cassidy.

Photo cred: Desiree Swanson. Cheek cred: 100% Cassidy.

Before we jump headfirst into this teen hood thing, though, I just want to thank you for being all the things you are that give me such joy. You may not realize how important your you-ness is to my confidence about your future, and how much I appreciate who you are. So here’s a shot at telling you.

Thank you for making me a mom. For coming into this world a very fashionable week late and impressing the doctors and nurses with your robust size and prompt entry, once you decided it was time to meet the world. At a solid 9 pounds 7 ounces of perfect, round sweetness, you laughed in the face of newborn clothes. And I suddenly felt what it was like to hold the entirety of my heart in my own two hands. And on my forearms. Like I said, you were a hefty chunk of baby.   

Thank you for being patient as we both figured out breast feeding. Those were hard days. You were adamant that the milk that was sustaining your monument to baby cheeks should simply flow into your mouth without any work on your part. Occasionally you bit me. I get it, you were hungry. You cried a lot. I cried more. Daddy ran out to get every possible chair/cushion/music/blanket/ancient talisman possible to make breastfeeding easier for us. He felt helpless and tried so hard. Luckily, we figured it out. And the whole time, you never dropped below the size of most babies at three months old.   

Thank you for being an excellent sleeper, an excellent eater, and endless source of drool. Until the age of three, you had the ability to soak through a waterproof bib, which you wore pretty much round-the-clock to protect your clothes from the geyser of spit inside your mouth. It was adorable.  

When you turned about 18 months old,  you started to cry.  A lot. When you were tired, hungry, frustrated, overwhelmed, surprised, scared, impatient, irritated, or any other emotion beyond pure happiness. Again, that taught me patience. And that I had a long way to go to becoming Mother of the Year when I said things like “I love you all the time, but I love you more when you’re not crying.” 

Thank you for your incredible imagination. Daisy, your imaginary friend who lived in a purple house/sometimes castle, was a constant source of stories and entertainment. She liked purple cake, she wore purple clothes, and had several pet yaks. I don’t believe they were purple. When you were seven, we saw an actual purple house driving in the city one day, and sadly, you rarely talked about the house again. The one in your imagination must have been so much better. Daisy hung around for about a year more, but disappeared too, when Carson was born.  

Thank you for loving horses as much as I always hoped you would. I tried not to push it when you were really little, for fear you’d reject the opportunity that was right in front of you and announce one day that you really just wanted to play basketball. But no, you toddled along to all my riding lessons, petted all the horses on the nose, went for rides with the stirrups taken all the way up to the top, and carried your faithful tiny stuffed horse, Little Sandwich, everywhere with you.  When you got your first pony, I saw that same giddiness, that same connection I’ve always felt with my horses, and I know you’ll have it for the rest of your life. Of all the things I’ve been able to give you, beside my love, that is probably my most precious gift. Because when your life is going crappy, or even when it’s going great, you know that a few, silent moments in the barn and some hot horse breath on your shoulder can make everything right with the world.    

Thank you for your sensitivity. From a very young age you were aware of other kids and their feelings, making sure others always felt included. Your empathy has always been on high alert, which has sometimes been exhausting for you. I’ll admit there was a little girl named Kathy at daycare who made you cry every day for about a month, and when I passed her mom on the sidewalk I really wanted to punch her in the face. So thank you also for giving me the opportunity to practice restraint. And forgiveness, because something was causing Kathy to be mean to you, and maybe her mom wasn’t nice to her, who knows. We’re all the result of something innocent that came before us.  

Thank you for being so loyal. I see the friendships you’ve formed and the kids in your circles who are lucky to know you. With your sweet best friends, the feeling is mutual. Your choice in companions reflects your own kindness and respect for others. I feel so lucky you’ve chosen to surround yourself with such kind, funny, well-intentioned kids.    

Thank you for your courage. I’ve watched you literally get back up on the horse. Specifically, a pony name Biscuit, the little shit, who bucked you off in the warm-up arena and then in the show arena, right in front of the judge. You got back on. You finished the class. You came out with a smile. Your Daddy cried a little, but we were all better for it. You are so brave – don’t ever forget that.  

Thank you for your sense of humor. For making me laugh unintentionally when you were really little, and now, on purpose. Thank you for drawing a face on a plastic lemon, naming it Skippy Dinglechalk and carrying it in your backpack for no other reason than it is ridiculous. You understand at such a young age that different is wonderful and you embrace that in yourself and your friends.

Thank you for your maturity. As much as you love to be silly, you have an innate sense for when to be strong. Or calm. Or a cheerleader. You are sometimes wise beyond your years. When you eat salad with your fingers is not one of those times, but I’ll let that slide.

Thank you for your sense of self. You have embraced being a tween, and now a teen, with the joyful abandon of a bunch of baby goats wearing pajamas, running through a barn. Which you know, of course, is about the best way to approach anything.   

You make me laugh. You make me think. You straighten me out occasionally. You are everything I didn’t know I’d hope you’d be, and every day you surprise me with something that makes me prouder to be your mom. I love spending time with you. I love hearing about how you’ve spent your time when we’re apart. I love who you are now and who you’re becoming.   

Thank you for being you.

Love, Mama