Today you became a teenager.
I would do my normal, "WOW, how did that happen? I JUST brought you home from the hospital!" routine but I'm kind of... well, stunned. Dude, I JUST brought you home from the hospital! You were the most perfect, beautiful, calm baby--I was just madly in love with you from the first instant I saw you.
I guess some things don't change, even in thirteen years. You are still such a perfect, beautiful and serene person. I am still madly in love with you. Some days, it doesn't seem like my heart can possibly contain the joy and pride and awe I feel when I look at you. I am truly honored to be your mother.
It's a really big birthday, thirteen. It's the start of a unique time in your life --you are poised on the cusp of infinite possibility. My own teenager years were not easy. I didn't have your deep sense of calm, your quiet self assurance, your assessing nature. I was more of a "rush headlong into traffic, cry hard when I got hit by a car" kind of girl. I was thinking about what I wish I had known when I turned thirteen, what I wish someone had told me, and it really boils down to three things:
1. The bad times won't last. No matter how bleak, or embarrassing, or awful today is, tomorrow will be better. It just will. Wait it out, you'll see. Nothing is so permanent that it can't be fixed or changed or gotten through. No matter how mean kids can be, no matter how alone you feel--it will pass. You will get through it, and go on to a life full of wonder and joy and happiness. Make the best choices you can and leave the rest to time. Five or ten or twenty years from now, I hope you'll look back on your teenage self and feel great compassion for her. Meanwhile, this is a time for trying your wings. I'll be here to catch you if you want me to because...
2. I'm on your side. I know that we disagree sometimes and that you think I can't understand the unique pressures in your life. It's true; I probably can't really understand all that you go through. But I think it's important that you hear this from me: my only goal is your happiness and well-being. I don't care what situation arises, whatever happens, I am here for you. I have your back. When you want to kill me for my stubborn obtuse adult-ness, please remember that everything I do is motivated by this huge love and awe I feel over getting to be your mother.
3. Who you are is enough. Everything in this world seems to conspire to tell you how to be better, stronger, richer, thinner, smarter, savvier, funnier, sexier, prettier ...don't you fall for that. Whole industries are built around making people, especially women, feel that they need to BUY STUFF to make themselves more...whatever. Prettier, thinner, fashionable, credible. It's a total racket. You are enough, exactly as you are. You will grow and learn and change because you are ever-evolving, but I hope nothing ever makes you feel like who you are isn't sufficient. It seems to me that the teenage years are the toughest in this regard --there's a battle that wages in our minds between establishing our individuality and fitting in. I hope you'll choose yourself, because who you are is really incredible and you are a gift to this world.
(The other thing I wish someone had told me doesn't seem as big and profound as the others so it doesn't get its own number. Here's the thing: teen boys are pretty stupid. Don't let them determine your self-worth or happiness or your agenda. Don't give away essential parts of yourself to please some boy. Think about what YOU want and go for it! But if a boy breaks your heart? I will be here for you. (See No. 2 above.))
I love you, Ana --more every day. I love watching you become the person inside you. I love watching you navigate the world with grace and good humor. I love your sense of style and whimsy. I love your kindness to all things and that your first response in any situation is one of compassion and empathy. I love how smart you are and how you retain little random facts--I love talking to you. I love that you are such a bulldog when it comes to things you want to achieve--you never, ever give up. But most of all, Ana, I love being your mother and getting to be with you every day.
Happy birthday, my sweetheart. I hope it's the best year yet.