To My Beautiful, Newly Minted 12-Year-Old Daughter

Dear Baby Girl,

Today is an important day. Twelve years ago you were brought into a world that already looks a lot different than it did then. The evening I met you face to face we were watching the news, and I thought about the scary world you were going to face. I doubted my ability to keep you safe in a world where people hurt each other on purpose. Of course, I meant strangers, but this year your own parents did what you had labeled unthinkable. They got a divorce, and they hurt you more than any stranger ever has. We didn’t start out to hurt you, or for that matter, each other.

I always liked October because that was when all the leaves fell off the trees after achieving brilliant colors like gold, red, and orange. It never seemed sad when the leaves fell because it is understood that in order for there to be a spring, there must first be a fall. So, that’s how I hope you can grow to see this period in our lives together. Our family achieved brilliant things, just like those trees’ colors, but just because we don’t all live together in one house doesn’t mean life is over. We have a ton of life left in us.

So, I sat down to think about what I would give you if I could give you anything on this very important birthday. I would pick courage, but you already have more than your share of that. I see it everyday. I’d choose to encourage you to be who you really are, but again, you do that without blinking, despite your peers. Beauty would also be pointless because your heart is already shining out of your sparkling brown eyes and showing the world how caring and wonderful you are. Then it came to me, and I knew it was a perfect gift.

If I could give you anything, I’d give you mistakes to make. I’d also gift you not being afraid to make those mistakes. I know you’ll give me a deep frown when you read this and grumpily say, “Mom!” Please understand that this gift keeps on giving. Making mistakes is priceless. I’ve made more than my share, and I have even hurt people with my mistakes. I’ve made mistakes I’m incredibly sorry for, and I’ve made a few I don’t consider actual mistakes unless you look at other people’s definition of mistake. No matter what kind of mistake you make, you come away with something valuable. You’ll have more knowledge, strength, and hope that things can get better. Some of my “mistakes” are the best things I ever did.

Please know the world is still a scary place. It’s probably more scary now than when you were born, but don’t let that change YOU. Take all that courage, beauty, and being yourself and make some mistakes. You only get a few years anyway. Just yesterday I was holding a tiny bundle of pink and purple, and today I have a giant, leggy, beautiful 12-year-old. You are perfect, and don’t let anyone ever tell you any different, not even when you make mistakes.

I love you more than you could ever know,

Mom

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