By Anne Maxwell
Dear 14-year-old daughter --
You have arrived and I believe it’s important to take a moment. I wish I had fully recognized this place in time with your two older sisters. The mom in me feels slightly embarrassed it took a third daughter to recognize this threshold you now stand at. Having learned from these past oversights, I don’t want it to slip by yet again.
You see, my daughter, you’re in the midst of a gray area in the stage of maturity. It’s not clearly defined, but yet, is incredibly plain to see. It’s the twilight hour of your girlhood. You catch a passing glance at your “grown up” life coming into focus while the details are still a bit blurry.
Dappling with drama.
Too often, the hidden beauty of this moment gets overlooked. It becomes lost in tales of tirades with teenage daughters and all the eye rolls, stubbornness and sass that can define that stage. For the record, a substantial portion of that reputation is warranted and does exist. But in the varying shades of this bewildering transition are the beautiful, bold tones of the undeniable spark, sweetness and celebration of self that characterized you as a little girl.
There’s a lot we’re letting go of -- you and me -- as you make this transition.
You don’t ask me to do your hair anymore, and you aren’t seeking out much advice. You’re going your own way. It’s not only understandable -- it’s necessary. You’ve got to seize your independence while you can and figure out who you are. You’ll have to find these answers on your own. You know what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s going to be up to you to act on these moral compaseses.
The knowledge you gain from these lessons will be hard earned. But you will learn them. Through trial and error. Success and setbacks. Accomplishments and heartbreak.
We can’t see everything that lies ahead down your path. So, for now, there are some things I want to make clear before this journey’s too far gone.
I see you when you look in the mirror, not giving a full smile because of the mouthful of metal that’s reconstructing your grin. You try on clothes, settling on what you designate as “the perfect outfit” and then, not even five minutes later, suddenly change because something “didn’t look right.” You’ve gotten so much taller in the last year and struggle at times those lengthening legs of yours.
I know you say you feel clumsy and awkward -- but let me let you in on a little secret.
When you do feel awkward -- whether it’s literally, as so often happens when you trip up the stairs, or figuratively -- when you socially feel out of step, take a deep breath. Realize when it seems as though you don’t quite fit -- you are becoming something even truer.
Your authentic self. And when that’s who you are, it’s always ok to be a little out of step. Don’t water yourself down to make things fit. Dare to dance to your own cadence. Embrace your own rhythm. We’re all a little awkward. Those quirks are a beautiful part that paints the complete portrait of who we are. Quirks are often what we love most in others. So love them in yourself.
Back to that mirror. I know you long to see a reflection of the young lady you want to be looking back at you. I’m on the other side of that struggle -- wishing I’d glimpse the chubby, dimpled toddler face only to be seen in photos.
No matter the reflection, don’t look to find your self worth in a mirror. It will devastate and disillusion you every single time. Seek it where it truly exists. In the way you make others laugh and bring joy. In the pride your your dad and I have for you. In your drive, your tenacity, your kindness.
Sure, you’re growing up. I’m proud of your independence, but to be honest, I miss that ornery little girl and I want to make sure you take a part of her with you.
I stumbled across this quote when you were in preschool:
“Little girls are the nicest things that can happen to people. They are born with a bit of angel-shine about them, and though it wears thin sometimes, there is always enough left to lasso your heart.” -- Alan Beck
It fit you perfectly because you were known to push the envelope on your allotment of angelshine. Truth be told, you still do.
And there’s times I welcome that. Because I can see that spirited little girl is still inside. The one who pulled on rain boots to splash in puddles, sang off-key at full volume along with “The Wiggles”, and stepped into plastic, high-heeled playshoes and a mismatched outfit so she could head to the grocery store in high fashion on a random Tuesday afternoon.
Dear, 14-year-old, daughter: I love who you were. I adore who you are. I can’t wait to meet the young woman you will become.
No matter who you are, there will always be enough angelshine for you.
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