A Birthday Girl

Today my girl turns 16.

We made a time capsule for her on her first birthday. Today we will open it at dinner and discover what is in there. I honestly can’t recall, but what I can tell you is what is in my heart today.

Parenting is a trip like none other. You can do all the “right stuff” according to books and experts and common sense and your gut, and still, none of that can account for some of the crazy things that happen.

I can’t rewrite the script.I can’t go back in time to undo every parenting fail. I can’t undo all the bedtime battles or the development of an illness that was just like watching a horrific car crash in slow motion. I can’t undo all my bad advice and emotional reactions. I can’t undo all the fun I did not allow myself to have for fear of not being the MOTHER.

And despite all of this, she rises. I am in awe of the person she is becoming. She has more grit in her little toe than I’ve ever known. She has found her way through determination and hard work. She enjoys living in her body and now moves with grace and confidence. She is mature beyond her years, cool when I am hot, thoughtful when I want to rage, and all I can do is remain her faithful student.

I don’t know why I got the girl I got. There are days when I don’t know how I have lived through the heartbreak and sorrow. And yet when I look at this girl, I see everything I need to know in her eyes. She came out wide-eyed and curious on May 24, 2001. She was craning her neck and looking around so attentively that a long-time nurse said, “I’ve not seen that before. She’s ready to go!”  And that was my first clue that the gift of her life with me was really quite temporary.

We are not best friends. We don’t have that kind of relationship. Things aren’t easy and breezy and she is not begging to take a selfie with me or hang out just because. She does not give up her thoughts easily as I taxi her to and fro. I settle just for being next to her.

But she does ask me about my day. She does come in every night to kiss me good-night and fistbump her dad. She says "thank you" for each meal and rarely does she ask for anything. She figures out most of her daily dilemmas without constantly texting me. And this: she notes my life as a writer. On the night of the reading, she attended. Later she complimented my writing by saying, “You’re good, mom”.

That is a jewel I will always carry.

I did get more than I bargained for and what a bargain it has been.

All I really know is that I have tried. She’s got a few more years with us, but I see one of her feet, clad in a tap shoe or a pointe shoe or a flip flop or a Chuck Taylor, and it is pointing out into the bigger world. Those feet are ready to run, dance, skip to the next place. She is ready and I see it. And it is my cue to get ready too.

Until then, I have just a few wishes for her.

Stay fierce.


Stay focused.

Laugh as much as possible.


And don't forget to pause once in awhile to look at how far you've come.

And always remember, I'm your mama.

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