To My Birthday Girl,
You are turning 18 during a global pandemic. You missed your junior prom. You never got to be Mother Superior in Sister Act and you likely won’t perform again to a live audience during your high school career.
You have been planning this year and your dream shows since the first day of freshman year and it will not look anything like you hoped. You started senior year in a mask, close, but still so far away from the friends you have missed seeing for months.
Why am I starting your birthday letter by pointing out all that you’ve lost? Why such a downer, mom? I’ll tell you why. It is your response to all of this disappointment and loss that most confirms my feelings of awe at the woman you’ve become.
Being vulnerable is the ultimate strength.
We discuss with you sometimes the thought that maybe you can never be a standup comic because you aren’t tragic enough. You worry that your optimism and indomitable spirit make you “soft”. I would argue just the opposite is true. I have watched you for 18 years and, child, you are as tough as they come.
You may gush your admiration openly in late night group texts to your friends. Sometimes you melt into an emotional puddle around cute little kids. You love people with your whole being, wearing your heart on your sleeve almost from the moment you meet.
There is nothing soft about any of that. Knowing who you are and proudly presenting her is strength of spirit. Standing up for people as an advocate and ally, even when it makes you completely uncomfortable, is strength of character. The vulnerability required to be authentically you? Well, that’s a strength that many of us can’t even claim to have.
Time and again I have watched you wrestle with tough decisions. I have seen you choose the right path, even when it’s hard or lonely there. I get to see you choose to use your voice for good, even if it scares you to your core.
I know how thoughtful you are with your words, your intentions and where you spend your energy. You may get down. You may feel deeply, but you never let anything stop you for long. You somehow manage to choose to work on the bright side no matter how dark the world may be.
Perhaps best of all, for 18 years I have had the privilege of watching you cheer for others with all your heart while never once losing sight of your own worth in the process.
I have no worries about your future. In fact, you allow me to be more hopeful for mine. Because, with you in the world I am certain we have better days ahead. Times may be tough, but not tougher than you.
Te Amo Mucho.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.