An Open Letter to My 16 Year Old on Her Birthday

Dear Miss C,

Today you turn 16 years old. As much as I would love to sit here and offer you pearls of wisdom as you wade into womanhood, I think it’s finally time for a letter to my daughter on her 16thcomplete honesty.

I don’t know shit.

For 16 years, I’ve done my best to prove that I know best and I’m an expert in just about everything. Truthfully, it’s just an act, especially when it comes to being a mom. I’ve basically been winging it all this time and there are days I look at you and wonder how you’ve become this incredible person.

In fact, you’ve taught me more along the way than I could ever dream to teach you.

You’ve shown me what it means to love and accept yourself, to stand up for what’s right and to search for more creative ways to express myself. These are qualities that even at 42, I still struggle with and, yet, you embraced them years ago. How is that possible?

You’ve taught me that speaking quietly is more effective than shouting and that listening is the most important thing in my parenting bag of tricks. I know there are days I still lecture and ramble on (sorry, it’s hard-wired in moms), but I’m working on stopping and actually listening to your point of view–because it is not only relevant but also usually makes me stop in my tracks and go “Huh, I never thought about it that way.” You’ve taught me patience, even when the lessons were hard and tears were shed. The best lessons often hurt the most.

You’ve shown me there is more than one path to happiness and success. It doesn’t have to be traditional or what I know from my experience. You know, in your heart of hearts, what will make you happy. You’re not afraid to go after that happiness.

You’ve proven that someone can shine without being in a spotlight. In fact, you step away from its glare and cast your own light upon everything you do.

You’ve given me laughter and joy, frustration and confusion–emotions so raw I feel them in my bones.

And, because of all of these things and so much more, I’ve never felt more alive since the day you were born.

So, on your very special birthday, I need to thank you for giving me life. You’ve helped me become a better mom and, most of all, a better person.

I can’t wait to see what other gifts you give me as you grow up and go out on your own. I already see you pulling away and getting ready to explore life in ways I always imagined you could. And, when you see my tears, please understand it’s not only because I feel like I’m losing you, but I’m also so proud to share you with the world.

Happy Birthday, Sweet 16!

Love, Mom

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Marie Rossiter

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