happy birthday to you, sweet girl.

I’m not the only gal in our family celebrating a big birthday this year. My daughter also just turned 13. Gah. I remember turning 13 like it was yesterday. I remember feeling like the world had suddenly opened the top of my head, tossed in painful seeds of self-doubt and buried them deeply in hormone-infused soil. Then the slow and mind-boggling experience of junior high fed the concoction with a continual, powerfully toxic trickle of ‘not good enough’.

Okay, retrospect makes this all sound a bit dramatic, but there’s no doubt that ’13’ presented me with very fertile ground for a skewed sense of self-worth to take hold. I clung wildly to every negative belief (lie) about myself that sprung from that period of my life for years. For years. So as my daughter enters this phase of her life, I want to fill her with the antidote to the cultures that can take hold in the Petri dish of adolescence and junior high. When the top of her head is opened by her world, I want to be the first to toss in seeds of esteem and cover it with rich soil that grows beauty and blocks self-doubt. Then I want to feed it with a continual stream of ‘so much more than good enough’.

So while she was sleeping away the last few hours of being a 12-year old, I wrote her this letter:

My sweet girl,

13 years ago – at precisely 3:54 in the a.m., you shot into this world, bringing with you rainbows of love and GOODness that have transformed my life. From the moment you were placed in my arms, I knew you were special. I remember so clearly staring into your eyes with wonder. You looked back at me with a heart-flipping depth of truth, knowing and love that seemed to say, ‘Here I am. I know you’ve been waiting for me. I am here to heal your heart.’

And heal my heart you have. It’s not your job to heal my wounds but you do. The soft kisses you plant on my head, cheek or lips, the love-infused tone you use when you say ‘mama’, the way you check in with me when you know things aren’t quite right. Your giant love makes me feel seen. It tethers me to this world when things are hard and it makes all of the goodness of my life shine brighter. You are a miracle. 

Your entrance into the world 13 years ago gave me a deep certainty of who I am and who I wanted to become. You also added a beautiful symmetry to our family as well as a permanent smile to your daddy and brother’s face. You infused an already happy life with a whole new level of laughter, joy and wonder. You also set a place at the table of my heart for your sister’s eventual arrival. 

You set things in motion. You set them in motion with your love. You continue to do this every day in every arena of your life. You are a powerful force, my darling girl. You are a force for good.

I think the true miracle of you is that you don’t know this about yourself. And you don’t even have to try – your gentle energy just makes people feel better. You cast a spell of goodness that makes people feel lighter when they’re around you. I know that I feel this every time I’m with you. I’ve seen it happen with your dad, your grandma, your brother and sisters. Your cousins, your friends, my friends, your aunts and your uncles. People are drawn to your loving presence. You are a gentle, undeniable force of goodness.

So happy birthday to you. Happy 13th birthday. My wish for you is that the year ahead brings you all that you bring to me every day: 

  • a knowing that you are loved and loveable
  • a belief in your deep worthiness
  • belly laughter and joy
  • connection with what and who matters
  • moment after moment of ridiculously wonderful fun 

I love you with all of my heart. Mama.

I share these words with you because feeding my sweet girl – all of my children – with this kind of certainty is at the deepest heart of what I’m for. Sometimes I fail at showing or expressing it. Sometimes I don’t offer it up in moments when it’s most needed. This is my journey as a mother, filled with lots of sweetness and just as many ‘let’s have a redo, shall we?‘ moments. I want the scales of my children’s self-belief to tip heavily toward the ‘I’m good enough’ side. It’s what I’m for. Every single day, this is most what I’m for.

9 thoughts on “happy birthday to you, sweet girl.

  1. Pingback: happy birthday to you, sweet girl. | what i'm for

  2. I didn’t think I wanted to start my day with tears but I’m so grateful for them having been given the opportunity to read this. I don’t know your 13 year old well but am now sure she mirrors your beautiful soul. “gentle , undeniable force of goodness” – the reason I’m so deeply happy my daughter gets to share you on Wednesdays.

  3. Amazing letter, Kathy . . . I wish I would have received something similar coming in to those all-to-painful years. Blessed to know you am I 🙂

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