My dear Anna Cecelia,
In a few short days you will be thirteen years old. Thirteen! Whole! Years! An honest to goodness teenager. I’m not at all certain how that happened, my baby, my sweet last child, my cuddly Anna Banana Belly Bean Snickerdoodle Boo, but it’s true; you are every bit of thirteen and so much more, and it makes my heart ache with joy and anticipation to watch you grow up, and to see the amazing young woman you are becoming.
There is no getting around it: Twelve has not been kind to you, and it would be a gross understatement to say that this has been a rough year. Middle school can be the worst of years and, most especially for you, seventh grade, so far, has been terrible. You were bullied, and not only that, but you were bullied by someone you thought was a good friend. I can’t imagine how confusing that must feel to you, it’s difficult enough for me, as an adult, to try and comprehend, and it angers me that you have had to endure all you have had to endure and how much you have lost along the way. BUT, through it all, every single step of the way, you have handled yourself with such unwavering courage, such incredible grace, such astounding determination, poise, and maturity that to watch you has been a daily lesson for your father and me. Through the pain and frustration, it has also been an absolute privilege to watch you, and to witness you teaching even the adults in the situation how to better behave. We are so proud of you.
I want to be sure you understand though, my sweet girl, that these months, these experiences, don’t define you, don’t even come close to explaining who you are, and, I promise you, someday this time will be nothing more than a blip on the radar screen of your youth. That day is not today, I realize, and not tomorrow either, but it will come, and when it does, I hope you are able to see it as the growing time it was, because you have grown so much this year. Leaps and bounds you have grown, and you are so much more, so very much more than this time and this experience.
You are so smart, and I’m not talking about your consistently perfect grades, which, don’t get me wrong, are great, but you have this unteachable intelligence, some people call it common sense, but I don’t think it’s all that common. I think it’s rather rare actually, and the fact that you possess it so flawlessly astounds me, and continually reminds me just how remarkable you truly are.
You are kind, also not in a common manner, you are kind above and beyond, you think of others and their feelings, you think things through-almost to a fault, almost too thoroughly-sometimes you overthink, and this overwhelms you. But, it comes from such a genuine place that it is difficult for me to try to curve it because it is so much a part of you.
You have the best sense of humor. Holy cats, you are funny, and only sometimes do you seem to understand just how hysterical you are. As easily as you get the joke, it seems just as hard for you to see your own talent for humor, and you look at us while we are laughing at something you have said, some action you have made, like we have full-out lost our minds. This usually makes us laugh even harder.
You are generous; with your humor, your time, your talent, and your desire to make things right, to balance the world. You know right from wrong so clearly that you cannot see gray–only black and white–things are either right or they are wrong, and, if they are wrong, you will work to make them right again. You struggle with this because not everyone sees the difference so clearly as you, and it frustrates you. You are big on accountability for everyone, including yourself, and I love this about you. More often than not, almost always, you do the right thing, and you expect those around you to do the same; you raise the maturity level in the room; I can always count on you to work it out.
We hope you always know your dad and I are here for you; we will always have your back, we will always fight for you when needed, sometimes even when you are not certain you want us to; but you, my sweet girl, are your own best advocate, and you own it. I am so very proud of the way you stand up for yourself, the way you are able to explain your thoughts, your feelings, your needs, to those in authority. You are calm, cool, thoughtful, and articulate.
Now, there have been, and I’m certain there will continue to be, occasions when we are reminded by your sass that you are truly a teenager. But, as much as those times make us cringe in the moment, they also never fail to make me smile, secretly, because a little sass, a little spunk mixed with a slice of rebellion? Those are okay in my book. They tell me you are confident, that you are going to be a strong woman. This is not to say it’s okay to be disrespectful, not by any means, it’s simply to recognize how self-aware you are, and how much I love that about you.
And, I love so much about you.
- I love that you can laugh at yourself.
- I love that you know every word to every song you have ever heard, and that you are able to sing those songs at the top of your lungs, even hitting the highest of notes, no matter who is around to hear you. And, I love, that you choose your own favorite music, searching out songs you enjoy, ignoring the charts or your friends.
- I love that you sing in the shower. You are a musical genius, I think, but, then again, I am your mother.
- I love that your grades in school are important to you, and that, when given the choice, you decided to earn your points rather than an easy pass.
- I love that you are still willing to cuddle with me, that you even initiate the cuddling. That you “check in” with me, and that we can talk about stuff, any stuff, all stuff.
- I love that you are beginning to be so fashion forward, that you are starting to love and “borrow” so many of your sister’s clothes.
- I love that you are so in love with your personal history, that you love to hear stories, sometimes over and over again, about your childhood.
- I love that you are adventurous, that you are so willing to try new things, that you will attempt things you may fail at, but that you really want to experience.
- I love that you fiercely love your sister, and your father and me, and your cousins, and your entire family. But, mostly, I love how much of a Daddy’s Girl you are; your relationship with your dad is so special.
- I love that you love water, the ocean, and most especially Maine.
- I love that you play sports, and play them with intensity. You are a joy to watch play.
- I love your sense of design; how you can look at a room and know where things belong or see a wall hanging or a knick knack in a store and understand it’s purpose in a certain room.
- I love how great you are with animals, that you think there is not such thing as too many pets.
- I love that you love to cook and bake (although it would be great if you could learn to love to clean up after these endeavors).
- I love that you haven’t outgrown kissing my goodbye every day when I drop you off at school.
- I love your smile, the way it squishes up your face, and how you throw your head back when you laugh.
Anna, you are, quite simply, the love of my life, and until the day you were born I had no idea how incomplete I had been. I love being your mom, and I am amazed every single day by what you accomplish, and who you become. I hope thirteen is good to you, that every bit of your future is good to you. I know this a foolish hope on my part; I know there will be more ups and downs to come, but I also know that you are so prepared for them, that you will tackle each and every one with courage and grace because that is who you are.
Happy Birthday, my girl. I love you to the moon and back-past all the stars and galaxies. You are my heart.