A Love Letter to My Daughter
Oh, my girl. I looked at you this morning and in an instant, I saw your life flash before my eyes. You are suddenly so tall and your face is losing its little girl contours. You just celebrated your twelfth birthday and you are firmly in between. You are still technically a child but your body and your soul are stretching, reaching out for something that feels just out of your grasp. You are in turns so excited about how tall you have grown and then suddenly frustrated at yourself for how far yet you have to go. Your feet, darn those feet, won’t seem to fit into the shoes that match your evolving sense of style. Forget about clothes fitting well because right now your body is built like a baby fawn, all spindly limbs. Your mind is a jumble of yearning and striving and waiting and pushing forward. You want to belong so badly but only if it feels right, which sometimes means a lonely moment or two. I watch you, my girl, trying to figure yourself out and sometimes throwing up your hands in frustration, and I remember. Oh, how I remember.
You are in the beautiful mess that is adolescence, dear one. Yes, your body is changing every day (I swear you wake up taller every morning), but the changes on the inside of you are even more astounding. You are figuring out who you want to be and what you will stand for. You are learning more and more about the world around you as your father and I slowly and carefully lift the protective veil we have created around you. You see things that confound you, that hurt you, and it is the pain and confusion in your eyes that convinces me that we will all be okay—your generation has got us in good hands.
You are our “noticer” and you see everything. Your eyes are wide open, taking everything in, and have been since the very moment your lungs filled with air for the very first time. When you were born, you looked at each of us in turn and seemed to say, “Are you ready for me? I am here to break ground.” Your father and I exchanged a glance because we knew in that moment that you were waiting to take this world by storm. You were not, as we had imagined, just our baby here to cuddle and fill our lives with sweetness. You have done those things, without question. It’s just that we have realized that you were born to be your own complete human, with a whole life of your own to lead. There is grave responsibility in raising you because a person like you can be an enormous healer to this wild world. We have tried our best to nurture you in the right directions but quite honestly, you were born with a moral compass and an iron-clad will that needs very little guidance. One day, when you truly believe in yourself and allow yourself to let loose, you will flourish and your joy will be something to behold.
There are things about this world that I know. I wonder how to tell you these things. How to prepare you, warn you, guide you. I want you to know truth and to use it not just to stay safe but to be a force that moves us forward. I implore you to keep your head on straight. I hope that you will continue to bring your mind and your heart to the table first, not your beauty. I pray that evil stays away from your beautiful light, that no one ever touches you in anger, that no one ever harms you or takes something from you that is precious. I ask that you see your privilege in this unfair world and use it to lift others around you who have not been given the same ride—not as their savior but as their sister in arms. I hope that you truly understand the definition of the word “friend” and that you choose a partner one day who elevates you but does not complete you or need you. I hope you stretch yourself and learn to say “Why not?” to the things that scare you a little bit. I hope you pour yourself into something worthy that fills your days with passion. I hope you walk away from anyone or anything that extorts or diminishes you. I hope you know that you are not your accomplishments or your plaques or your trophies or your resume—you are fire and light and energy, something other-world, just like everyone around you.
When your father and I found out that the tiny ball of cells growing in my womb would be a girl, I immediately thought of the women in my life. I was proud to add to their ranks. You are part of a legacy, my dear. When you falter or fear, I want you to look over your shoulder and see me standing there, with your grandmothers and their mothers and their mothers and on and on and on. An endless and unstoppable sea of women who have fought individual battles, large and small, for the life you get to lead. But know without question that being a woman in this world is not easy. You must balance impossible expectations while the world is happy to apply labels to you like an old-fashioned suitcase—denounce their labels, my dear. You are just you—complicated and many-layered and unique, just like every one of us.
So, my girl, may you realize with time that this “in between” stage of adolescence is gorgeous with all its open paths and trials and wins and falls. You are magnificent. You are complete in your journey, right where you are supposed to be, going just as fast as you are meant to go. I have gone before you but now I stand behind you, nudging you forward, believing in you, cheering you on.