I'm spending the first part of today much like I did the day of her birth; waiting for her arrival so I can spend the rest of the day loving on her in celebration; only today she is off playing student assistant to the JV volleyball coach (her father) at a Saturday tournament, rather than stubbornly refusing to exit my the warmth and comfort of my womb. Dinner will be gone out for. A college volleyball game will be attended. A gift, a kind-of-a-big-deal-gift she is sure to freak out over will be opened. I'm gonna try to keep my shit together through it all and not shed the sentimental tears that are knocking at my eyes' door as I type this.
In early August, before the craziness of the new school year began, I sat down and typed the letter below to my beautiful first born. Preparing for her to enter 7th grade, even though it's her second year of middle school, felt like such a major step. It seems I turn to words at those times in our lives, and with so much I want to share with Lexi about this time in her life, my fears and joys for her, I once again turned to my old friends words. Words I had originally planned to share with only her, but as I hope this blog serves as the story of our lives, the record of thoughts and feelings and events that I hope our girls will be able to cherish well into their aged adult years, and knowing how easily a printed letter can be misplaced, I decided to share my words meant for Lexi here in my spot. It seems appropriate on this day as we celebrate the lovely, creative, caring, gentle soul that shines so much light and love on our lives.
Today and always, dear sweet girl, I love you!
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To my dearest daughter, Lexi,
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact you will soon be starting 7th grade, and celebrating your first birthday that has the word “teen” embedded in the age. So often I think I’ve not been a mother long enough to have a teenaged child. At the same time I can not even slightly remember what my life was like before I was your mom. Mom is the most favorite job I’ve ever had, even more than teaching yoga. :)
Some women talk about how nervous they were to bring home and care for their little newborn baby. Taking care of you during your baby days, and toddler years, and even into elementary school never worried me. Trusting my instincts as a mom when you were little was easy. I knew that I could provide for you, comfort you, care for you, and protect you. As you enter your teen years, become more independent, more capable of making decisions on your own, more involved in activities that do not require my presence, I worry that I’m no longer as able to comfort and protect you as adequately as my heart desires. That scares me. As your mother, I want nothing more than for you to always be happy and safe.
My goal in writing you this note today is twofold. First, I’d like to ask for your patience as we venture into your teen years. While I have been a teen myself, this is my first time being the parent of a teen. Everything that feels new, exciting, confusing, and scary to you, it all feels pretty new, exciting, confusing, and scary to me as well. I will be honest with you, I did not like my life experiences in middle school. High school was a little better, but still not the happiest time of my life. I’d be happy to talk to you about that time in my life if you’d like, but won’t bore you with the details here. I feel it’s fair to let you know that I struggled through middle school, because as much as I try not to base my parenting decisions for YOU as your parent on MY previous experiences, I know it can sometimes color how I handle things. I, like you, am learning through this time of your life. Learning when to hold you close and guide your decisions, and learning when to give you some freedom to make your own decisions, to experience your own successes and failures, which are both important for living a long, happy, fulfilling life in the years to come. Letting you go and giving you more freedom is the hardest part for me. I want to hold you close and keep you safe forever...but I know I can’t. I can only continue to guide and hope that the lessons we have taught you thus far will help steer you well in the years to come.
Secondly I want you to know you are not alone. The teen years, and even into your 20s and 30s honestly, can be pretty confusing years of life. I think the teen years feel the most intense because you AND all your friends are going through the confusion together, all at the same time. Remember that your dad and I, and other adults in your life, have all lived through those years too. We all had some struggles, but we all made it through. I’m confident you will too. Some struggles of teen life will never change.
- There will always be mean girls who say and do things that put others down because it’s how they best deal with their own feelings of insecurity about not knowing how to deal with all the physical and emotional changes they are experiencing. Forgive them. It helps.
- There will always be boys who make rude, off color comments about girls because they don’t know how to deal with their new feelings for girls, and, sadly, many boys have grown up watching the men in their lives treat women not as strong, capable individuals, but as sex symbols OR someone who they can control through the granting of their affections. Sometimes those type of boys never change. Thankfully there’s good ones too, like your dad. Fill your life with those type of boys. Just ignore the others. You can’t change them.
- There are always going to be TV ads, magazine ads, online articles, comments, etc that make you feel insecure about your body. I’ll be blunt...it’s a bunch of shit. Our society has a very unhealthy view on what makes someone beautiful and worthy of a happy life. I have tried very hard to be an example that a strong, beautiful, healthy body can come in a variety of sizes, but I too struggle with my body image and accepting my own body as beautiful. Sadly as hard as I try to protect you from the pressures put on girls when it comes to loving your body, I know I can’t keep you in a cave forever, so instead I just want you to know your body IS beautiful and my hope is that you will continue to make healthy choices to help you do all the great things you’ll do in life with that body. Sports. Music. Animal care. They all require a strong, well fuelled, healthy body. Frankly, being a girl, especially a strong girl with your own thoughts and opinions, can be hard. Our society doesn’t always value the female gender beyond the beauty expressed through our physical body. Thankfully there are lots of amazing women out there that are working hard to make this world a better place for girls and women who know we are SOOOO much more than just a pretty face.
- There are always going to be dark facts of life from which I WANT to protect you, but that I ultimately know I’ll just have to trust you have the strength to turn away from. Drugs. Alcohol. Smoking. Eating disorders. Unhealthy sexual habits. Oh how I worry about these things. Please, please, please, know you can ALWAYS come and talk to me about any of these things, or anything else you need to talk about. I am always here to listen. Always here to give guidance. Always here to get you help if you need. Always here to love you no matter what!
The life of a teen has also changed a lot since I was your age. I didn’t have to deal with all the technology options you have available to you, options that while providing extra ways for you to communicate with your friends and experience the world, they can also take your time and attention away from the wonderful world of experiences and relationships that happen outside of that 2x3 inch screen you carry around in your pocket. Life, and the amazing things it has to offer, is big. Why limit your experiencing of it to a tiny little device? I too struggle with trying to make sure I am balancing my time spent using technology and disconnected, so I know how hard it is to know how much is too much, especially when it seems others around us are so much more connected throughout the day. I don’t feel healthy, or happy, when I’m too plugged in, so I try to use that as a guide. I only ask that you are thoughtful about your time spent plugged in, and make sure your spending plenty of time plugged into the bigger world, the people, and the amazing life that’s always around you!
More than anything, I want you to know, that as you enter these confusing, exciting, scary days of being teenager, you are LOVED. Loved so strongly sometimes my heart wants to explode with affection for the amazing person you are growing up, a little too fast, to become in life. I will always be here for you. You can always come and talk to me. Share your joys with me. Share your worries with me. Cry. Smile. Laugh. Whatever you need, I’m here for you.
I love you Lexi. Never, ever, EVER forget that!
Love always, Mom