My beautiful daughter turns eleven today. It was just a blink ago that she was born, in the middle of the night, on a crisp Saturday morning in Boston.
Eleven years of motherhood has changed me, and you’ve become a person I’d wish to be friends with if I were your age. As I write, you are enjoying a sleepover party here at the house, with a handful of close friends. You’ve chosen well: your friends are kind and caring, and they share your sense of fun. Listening to you all giggle and talk about school and friends brings me right back to my own Barrington Middle School sleepover days.
We’ve laughed (a lot), cried (some), and built a zillion memories that I hope have given you a solid foundation to feel my love and support with you always.
It dawned on me recently that as a mother, I focus so often on what I need to teach my kids. Say please and thank you, help others, do your homework, try your best. I don’t spend enough time reflecting on all that you teach me.
Eleven things you’ve taught me…in no specific order:
*MUSIC ADDS DIMENSION TO LIFE. Whether you are singing or playing d.j., you have filled our home with music. It’s hard not to smile when the music is blaring and you are dancing to the beat or singing along at the top of your lungs. Watching you acting on stage has been a bright light as well. Lately we are loving “Brave”, a song with a wonderful and inspiring message.
*BELIEVE IT OR NOT, KIDS EVENTUALLY BECOME HELPFUL. For over ten years, I’ve felt like Amelia Bedelia. Slowly, ever so slowly, there is a dim light at the end of the tunnel. You’re starting to care about helping, and to recognize that running a house is a tremendous amount of work. You proactively ask me now what you can do to be helpful.
*READ A DIVERSE SELECTION OF BOOKS. Your enthusiasm for a wide variety of books inspires me. From Harry Potter to The 31 Clues Series, your love of fantasy is something I never enjoyed as a child and have avoided as an adult. You make me want to expand my palette and try again.
*I CAN COUNT ON YOU FOR HONESTY. Recently, it was a granny panties kind of day. I didn’t really think it through when I paired them with my low-riding skinny jeans. One time bending over in the kitchen was enough to send me back upstairs to change. “Um, mom, your underwear is totally hanging out of those pants and I don’t think it looks appropriate.” Thank you for your honesty, and hopefully helping me stay off the back cover of GLAMOUR magazine’s “FASHION DON’T” section.
*WELCOME SOMEONE NEW. You took a new classmate under your wing this year in school. You taught me about how kind you can be, as I watched you show her around and be a good friend to her.
*A SENSE OF STYLE AT ANY AGE IS GREAT. I love how you’ve slowly created your own look: cute scarves, elastics around your t-shirts, and lots of color. Long gone are the days of smocked dresses and matching outfits. For a few years, I wished I could still lay out perfectly coordinated clothing for you, but now I love the fun surprise each new outfit brings.
*DAUGHTERS GIVE GREAT FASHION ADVICE. When I went back to work, you spent two hours shopping with me this summer. You tirelessly pulled outfits off of racks, and lugged them into the dressing room. You candidly provided feedback about what looked good, and I was so grateful to have you there. You’re even developing a sense of what a deal is, and you commented, “Mom, you should get this green shirt. It’s a really good buy.”
*MATH CAN BE FUN. I always hated math in school. You actually don’t know that, because every parenting book I’ve ever read recommends against blatantly discussing your academic weaknesses with your kids. You adore math, so much so that you won an award last year. We’ve enjoyed countless hours of Brainquest, fractions, and solving tough word problems together (even though it’s usually YOU who ultimately solves them!).
*BEING THE OLDEST IS TOUGH. I was the oldest, and I always thought it was hard. You’ve taught me that it is hard. How often I lean on you to help me, to look out for the others, to be the pillar. I know it’s not always easy, and I sometimes find myself realizing that I’ve asked too much of you.
*SKIING IS GREAT FOR BONDING. Every winter, we ski as a family, all season. Together. I’ve learned that we can have some of our best conversations on the chairlift. It’s amazing what fresh air can do for our relationship.
*A MESSY ROOM DOES NOT MAKE A PERSON. Under the clutter and growing piles of knickknacks, lives a lovely girl who will always welcome you in with a smile, assuming you’re willing to look past the mess. Once I’m in there for a couple of minutes, I so enjoy our time together that I often forget that I feel like I’m sitting in the middle of a pig pen.
Eleven years ago, when I became a mother, I almost had only one shot at this. Your birth led to some serious postpartum issues, which I thankfully was able to recover from.
Dear eleven, thank you for teaching me some fabulous lessons. Every day I look forward to what else I can learn from you. I love you beyond words.