Today is my daughter’s birthday. It’s a day I have dreaded since the moment she took her first breath. You see, today, she turns 13. My sweet, lovely girl is officially a teenager. Cue the ominous music and eye rolls.
No, not really. In many ways, my kiddo isn’t quite as much fun as she was when she was younger. Like when she was five, for example. Five was a very big and entertaining year for all of us. Lots of giggles and good memories happened in Year Five. But in other ways, she is just as much fun; I might even go way out on a limb and say she is even more fun now than she was when she was a baby … when she was a toddler … when she was in elementary school. Yes, more fun even than when she was five.
If I am going to be honest, I would have to say my daughter amazes me. I realize this sounds horribly melodramatic and, maybe, even a bit lame. The word “amazing” gets tossed around so much these days that, in some respects, I feel it has lost its meaning. It’s difficult to feel the true impact of that word. And besides, I’m sure every parent feels this way about his or her children. Or, well, every parent should feel this way. If you don’t feel this way … If you don’t let yourself feel the true weight and beauty and joy and sheer amazingness of your children, I think you’re missing out on the best part of the whole parenting gig.
But, anyhow, I’m not here to ramble about parenting. No, this is about my daughter. Who is turning 13 today. And who is truly, incredibly amazing.
My daughter is full of laughter and smiles. And yet, she is also full of sarcasm and witty one-liners. She is quick to speak out against things that are unfair or unjust. She is brave in a way I never could have been at her age. She has pink hair. She loves Pokemon. Sometimes, she even lets me play Pokemon Go with her. She is patient with my mother, even when I can tell she doesn’t want to be. It’s hard to be patient when you are young. When you are young, you want everything to go quickly. She has a soft and kind heart, although I can see her trying very hard to hide that from the rest of the world, as if she wants to protect something precious — something that is part of what makes her “her”. She loves to watch football with her dad. It makes me smile to hear them cheering on their favorite college team. She loves music and plays the flute. She is learning French, which she quite likes, and Algebra, which she doesn’t. Singing in the Rain is her favorite movie. She loves country music. We got Alan Jackson tickets for her as one of her birthday gifts, and she was crazy-happy about it. Hufflepuff is her favorite Hogwarts house. She is a cat whisperer who is, sadly, stuck with a mom who is a dog person. We play Dragonvale together. She is loving and sweet and annoying and maddening and crazy and fun and giggly and grumpy and creative and clever and wise. In short, she is All The Things. And, really, isn’t that kind of the definition of “amazing”? Someone who is, somehow, All The Things … ?? If it isn’t, it should be.
The funny thing is that I can remember bringing her home from the hospital: this little lump that tended to cry a lot and wave her fists. I remember her as this complete and rather terrifying unknown in my life — this strange, sort of wrinkled little creature with whom I was immediately and completely enamored. I remember her as a second grader without her two front teeth. I remember her first day of preschool and her last day of elementary school. I remember her sitting in my room, watching Backyardigans on the TV, with our cat sitting right next to her. Back then, I tried to imagine what she would become as she got older. I tried to picture her growing into a teenager and, then, an adult. I wondered what kinds of things she would do, what kind of person she would be, and what kind of future she would have.
Now, I look at her: my beautiful, precious, kind, loving, sweet girl, and I see glimpses of the woman she will become. Part of me wants to slow all of it down, just so she will remain my little girl for a bit longer. All of it is going by much too quickly, so there is a bittersweetness to every birthday we celebrate with her. At the same time, I look at this person — this young woman, who now stands where, not that long ago, there was only a child — and I think, “No. Let the time pass. Let the birthdays come. Because I want to see what happens. Because I want to be amazed.”