A Letter to My Daughter on her 12th Birthday
You deserve better.
You deserve glitter bombs and unicorns and giant sticks of Burt’s Beeswax and all the mint chocolate ice cream you-can-eat. You deserve hugs from your grandparents, high-fives from your aunts and uncles, and sleepovers with your best friends. You deserve to go to the movies with mom and I, stuff your face with popcorn, and then scarf down a plain hamburger, french fries, and a Sprite at Red Robin for dinner.
You deserve the birthday you’ve been planning.
However, the world has other plans right now. In fact, as you will learn, the world will always have other plans.
Your birthday wedged itself into a global pandemic. You’re old enough to realize the world is a miss-matched sock drawer of uncertainty.
I know in quarantine time seems to stand still. But that’s just an illusion, my dear. Time moves faster than we can understand. In fact, years from now when you’re a mom and I’m old and talking to doorknobs you’ll look at your own children and wonder where the time went.
In case you forget, this time last year, mom and I were talking to you about transferring schools. The initial conversations did not go well. You cried. A lot. You were afraid of being the new kid. You were afraid of the attention. You were afraid eating lunch alone.
But something clicked in your heart and despite your uncertainty, you transferred schools.
And just like a passing summer day, the uncertainty that once petrified you was gone. In the first few months at a new school you made the soccer and basketball teams, you were a backup dancer and singer in the school play, you became an anchor on the school news show, and you ditched me at the father-daughter dance to hangout with your friends. All because you choose to be courageous in the presence of uncertainty.
For health reasons, social distancing is a vital practice today.
However, 12 year olds have been practicing social distancing long before Dr. Fauci strongly encourage it. As you become further entrenched in your teen years, you will social distance yourself from mom and I. This is natural. Soon you will begin your own great quest to answer the most difficult of human questions, “Who am I?”
As you attempt to answer this question–you will struggle. You will get hurt and give hurt. It will be difficult. You will become frustrated and lost. You will cry. You will make mistakes and have regrets. But in your great quest, friends will make you laugh until your stomach hurts. You will feel love, fall in love, and learn how to give love. You will learn skills. You will discover passions. And as you traverse along your great quest, you’ll feel the sun on your face and your heart will warm and soften and something will click again and you will be a small step close to knowing who you are.
Now, I will never claim to be the best parent. I don’t always listen. I often get too self-absorbed in my own work. However, I do know a cardinal sin of parenting is letting your children think they’re entitled to deserve better without working for better. You deserve great things. And I need you to know great things, like new a new pair of sneakers or the iPhone you desperately wanted, come with a cost.
It has been my greatest joy to watch you grow into a funny, kindhearted, quietly courageous 12 year old who loves ice cream with all her heart. When you started planning your birthday months ago you did not know we would be celebrating in quarantine. How could you? You deserve a happy birthday. But the world as other plans right now. It always does.
And so the only thing we can do, in the face of such uncertainty, is to be courageous and live our best day.
PS– I hope you’re doing well. This has been a mentally tough week for me. The scope of the situation is widening. We learned our children are not returning to school this school year. They’re taking this pretty hard. Especially Haley. They have a lot of questions… what about summer? Will we be able to go to summer camp? On vacation? If we can’t do anything, can we get a dog?
I just try, as best as I can, to reassure them things will be okay. Soon, life will return to normal. And no, we can’t get a dog.
In these uncertain times all we can do is keep our spirit and carry the fire– because someone out there needs us to.