Friday, May 9, 2014

To My 16-year-old Daughter on Mother's Day

I've heard you say that you don't think you ever want to be a mother. And, I get that. Being a mother doesn't make a lot of logical sense. There's the pain part, of course, and the crazy amount of weight gain. My last month of pregnancy, everything was bloated and puffy - from my face to my feet. Delivery was no fun either.

Maybe you've heard too many stories about the day you were born. I didn't get the epidural as promised, and it was long and grueling, a blur of pitocin and pain. You arrived at the same moment they kicked off Monday night football - your dad remembers.

What seemed to go on for hours and hours ended in a crazy, climactic blur. I don't remember the moment you were born very clearly, but I do remember when they handed you to me, and I held you for the first time. You were messy and wrinkly - but also the most precious being I had ever seen.

I knew immediately you were my daughter.

You snuggled right up to me. You were so vulnerable and warm and beautiful. You took my breath away.

At that moment, it was completely worth it - all of it. And there's no way that you can understand it until it happens to you.

The birth moment is significant, of course. It's the moment where you get it - this is real. It is more than baby showers and decorating the nursery. I am responsible for another human being. How in the world will this little vulnerable person survive in my care! I can't even keep a house plant alive!

Yet you did. You survived and thrived.

You learned and grew and started to be your own person. You loved things intensely. You adored Elmo and kissed his nose, dancing with him in the living room. You feared Kermit the frog - his pointy face and beady eyes never seemed friendly to you.

Your birthday parties were always themed by your latest obsession: Mulan, Barney, Blue's Clues, Lilo and Stitch. You loved to read and craft and watch videos. You liked to dress up in the craziest outfits - Elmo nightgown, sweatpants, heart-shaped sunglasses and floppy floral hat, just to walk around the house.

Being a mom is such sweetness, even when it is exhausting.

People warned me that it was hard to raise a girl. But I have honestly loved it. We are friends, you and I, and nothing can be better than that. I followed your lead and read the entire Harry Potter series, carrying that huge book 7 with me on my Chicago commute. We have watched Gilmore Girls together, three times, in its entirety. We have a bit of Lorelai and Rory in us, I think. We have grown closer as we've read and talked about your school reading assignments (Rebecca, The Road, Death of a Salesman).

We have camped together, studied chemistry together, walked and cooked and crafted. We've dyed your hair bright red. We've gone to cosplay conventions. But beyond what we do together, you have a huge influence on me. You challenge my ideas and make me think. I am learning from you now, just as you've learned from me.

At 16, you are smart and compassionate and wise and confident. You inherited my shyness and my lack of athletic ability, but you also have my intelligence and my charm. You are more, so much more, than I ever expected. darling, please don't give up on the idea of being a mom. There is that painful part - true - but there is also a deep and lasting payoff.

Happy Mother's Day to the best thing I've ever done!

Love you bunches...


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