My Dear Daughter,
Twenty one. How is this possible? You know, I can hardly remember my life before you. Life has just been so much sweeter with you in it. Not easy, but so worth all the effort. Someone who doesn’t know us might read that last sentence and think that it sounds harsh. But, for those who understand our journey, it is exactly the truth. We have laughed until we had tears in our eyes over your antics. And then cried over your stubborn nature and, at times, difficult temperament. I remember when you were born, I looked at you and thought, “wow, I hope her head doesn’t stay shaped like that.” (I know, don’t be too hard on me, she was the biggest cone head ever!) I loved you from that minute on. Eight pounds and twelve ounces of juicy baby fat. I loved those adorable thighs, roll after roll of chub, so precious. As you grew a little older, you had the biggest, roundest brown eyes. Like the eyes of a fawn, they were so open it seemed like one could see straight into your soul. I remember like it was yesterday how much I loved dressing you in adorable matching outfits, always topped off with a big colorful bow. And, of course, you would immediately snatch the bow out of your hair. Of course, I had to put it back and the battle would go on and on. Put it in, snatch it out, put it in, snatch it out. It was the story of our life for a while. (I look back now and I don’t understand why it was so important to me that you had a bow in your hair. That is a battle I wouldn’t fight if I could do it again.) The term strong willed really doesn’t do justice to your personality. Strong with a little bit of spit fire is better description. I would hear other mom’s talk about their “sweet” girls and how they played dolls and loved to give hugs and kisses and I would just nod and smile. All the while thinking about how you would rather wrestle with your daddy. (You were pretty good too, if my memory serves me correctly.) Their girls loved to wear pink and sparkly things, not you, you wanted easy and comfortable. Something you could run around and play in the dirt in. You would drop a doll any day for a horse, a plastic one. Breyers to be exact. Who needed babies when there were baby horses? And who needed hugs and kisses when you could drag your little brother around by the arm or neck, whichever was convenient. He was the perfect toy. (No worries, he lived through her and has great stories to tell about it all.) I will never forget when the nursery worker at church called me out and told me how you purposely body slammed a little boy because he accidently shut your finger in the door, I was mortified. In your mind it seemed a perfectly logical punishment for his crime. (I wish I could describe to you the expression on the poor lady’s face as she was telling me about this. She was horrified. I’ll bet she still tells that story to her nursery worker buddies. You are probably a legacy there. I can hear the story now, in her older, probably crackly voice…”back when I was younger there was this little girl…”) Or the time before you were even two when you threw your shoe across the room because you couldn’t get it on. I remember watching the shoe fly past me thinking, “O, Lord, this child may be the death of me.” The best was yet to come. I can’t even remember how many times as a toddler you cried until you lost your voice, or how many times you sat in time out, or said emphatically “no!” (I know there has to be someone, anyone, out there who can relate to this, either you had a child like this or you were a child like this.) Then we started school. Surprisingly and thankfully, you were never a behavioral problem there. It broke my heart at your first grade teacher conference when she told us that some of the kids were picking on you. I wanted to go to school with you the next day and have a “word” with those kids, but, thanks to your level headed father, I didn’t. I prayed, and prayed. We talked about it and it wasn’t long until you found a friend. Of course it was a little girl who loved horses as much as you. (It’s amazing what one, really good, loyal friend can mean in your life.) It seems like time flew by and you were in the fourth grade. Daddy’s job was changing and we had to move. At first you were excited, but after our arrival in your new home, the reality of the situation set in. Again, it was tough making friends, it’s tough being the new kid. You joined the band, sang in the choir, and after a while you began to find your place. Life in a small town. It’s not for everyone. I hope you understand why we felt we needed to stay here, why it was so important to us to live near family. Middle school went by as fast as elementary school. You joined the cross country team, I think it was more about being with your friends than it was ever about running. Still singing and playing the flute, you made the big transition into high school. I remember so vividly dropping you off the first day feeling like I wanted to walk you in and make sure you knew where your classes were. And what about your locker, would you be able to find it? And your locker combination? How could you possibly be in high school?? Oh how I cried. Some parents celebrate the moving on up of their children from one milestone to the next, but I’ve cried at every one. I know, I need to get a grip, but I have loved being your mom and I have loved every single season of your life. Yes, some have been easier than others, but I wouldn’t change them. I have learned so much, you have taught me so much. I am a better person because of you. Oh goodness, where was I, I get so distracted. Oh yes, and then there were boys. I really think your daddy could’ve used an inhaler more than once during this time in your life. (I think he still could.) Like any other girl, you wanted to be noticed, and sometimes you were and sometimes you weren’t. I still remember how sad you were when that one boy you especially liked didn’t like you back. You have always been so quiet about your deepest feelings, and this time was no different, only I could see it in your big open soul brown eyes. Hurt, and disappointment. Again, I wanted to go and have a word with this “child,” you really should thank the Lord for your level headed father, his good sense won the day. Now, looking back, I am so glad that I stayed on the sidelines and let you figure it out. It was a great lesson for you and it eventually became a memory. Driving came along about the same time as boys, I’m not sure how I survived those days. I know I laid in bed praying, wide awake more than one night. I never really could sleep until you came in the house. I always hoped you would come in our room and share the happenings of your evening with us, and once in a while you would. I’m sure I slept with a smile on my face on those nights. One year rolled into another. Still singing, playing in the band, running, driving, dating and then senior year. Again, tears, I knew a season was ending, and I grieved the loss of it. That year I cherished every event, took way too many pictures, talked too much about it on Facebook, and stood at your door many a night just to watch you sleep. Oh how I prayed. Way to quickly high school graduation came and went, the whole family celebrated you like we do everything else. (We could compete with the family in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Seriously.) College began and you hung in there, even though school has never been your favorite. Earned your A.S. degree and then headed out of town, to finish up your Bachelor’s. I’ll never forget dropping you off at your apartment in your new town. After thinking of every single excuse in the book to stay a little longer we finally loaded up in the car to leave, minus one. The ride home was one of the longest, saddest rides of my life. I knew in my heart you would be fine, but, I wondered over and over if I would be. I think you were thrilled. Finally, the independence you had been waiting for. But, you hadn’t been there long and Grandma got even sicker than she had been and I needed you. I will always remember how many weekends you came home to sit with me while I sat with her. Those days are precious to me. You’ve never been a big talker, but your presence was such a comfort. This is where all those days of dealing with your stubbornness paid off. You refused to leave me by myself in my pain. You came almost every time I asked you to, and sometimes you just came home on your own. You listened to me vent, cry, question, fuss and you never judged me. You were just there, just there. And that was what I needed. And now, here we are, a lifetime of training, praying, talking, sometimes yelling, crying, listening have brought us to today. Twenty One today. There is so much more I could say, so many treasured memories that I keep hidden away in my heart, but I will spare you. I want to wrap up this overly wordy letter, (as I am sure you are thinking), by telling you how completely and totally proud I am of you. We don’t have the same opinions about some things, our convictions differ, but, I know that you are solid, strong, capable, and committed to the things that matter. No longer a strong willed child, or an unsure teenager but a beautiful young confident woman. I pray that your heart stays centered on Jesus and your mind set on things that are lovely and noble, things worth thinking about. I am so thankful God gave you to me. Like daddy always says, “If all the girls in the whole world were lined up and I had to choose just one, I would choose you every time.” Yes, every time. Just so you know, I will be standing on the sidelines cheering my heart out for you as life unfolds. (Maybe I’ll even lose my voice.) Happy Birthday, my one and only girl, praying for many more.
Your biggest fan,