Dear Brigid, I know it annoys you to hear this (again), but I am going to say it all the same--because a mom can't say it enough to her teenage daughter:
I am amazed by you, by your life, by the woman you've become.
You say that I am only saying that because I'm your mom, and I am supposed to say that. It's my job, you say. Don't get sentimental, you say. Keep it together, Mom. And, can you close the door on your way out? Thanks, you say as you bury your head back into your books.
But, today on your birthday I can't help but think how blessed I am to be your mom. And to think how close I was to not being able to call myself your mother shreds me. Every single time I close my eyes and think about those early days--those lonely, tough days--when I had just found out I was pregnant, didn't think I could do it, and came so close to messing everything up for us, I shudder.
Because, I can't imagine what my life would have been without you in it. But, how could I have known how amazing you'd be? How could I have known you would have stolen my heart? That you would change me and make me a better person? That you would give me a chance, as Sara Bareilles, sings (in the song we can't stop listening to on repeat), "to start over and rewrite an ending or two."
You gave me that second chance. The second you came into the world you started changing it--not just my world, mind you, but the worlds of so many people who love you, too. None of us knew how much you would teach us about what it means to love, to forgive, to be strong, kind, hard-working, funny, kind, and humble.
But, how could I have known...how could any of us?
When I hadn't yet held you or felt your fingers wrapped around mine? I hadn't yet heard you say, "Mama," or "I love you" or watched you toddle into my arms for the first time. I hadn't yet heard you sing "My Honey Bun" dressed up as a character in South Pacific, or watched you hep-dance across a stage years later in Wonderful Town. I hadn't yet seen you pack your bags like an expert traveler and head off to Paris and Barcelona alone. I hadn't held you in my arms as you cried after finding a dying bird in a nest and handing it to me expecting me "to save its life." I hadn't yet seen you find an abandoned cat and make a home for it. I hadn't yet seen you snuggle up to your brother and read to him and make him laugh with your "funny voice." I hadn't yet watched you hug your dad on the day he adopted you and give him a kiss and call him, "Daddy." I hadn't yet known what it was like to lie beside you at bedtime and hear you recount the details of your day--the difficult classes, your favorite teachers' quirks, the boys you think are cute, the friends who you can't stop worrying about, the world you can't stop caring about, your cat, (for the love of God, yes, I know how adorable your cat is), the injustices you're trying to right, and the fights you're willing to fight to make the world a better place. I hadn't yet heard you tell me about all the countries you want to see, the books you want to read, the plays you want to star in, the movies you want to make, the careers you think you'll be suited for, the life you imagine, and that no doubt awaits you.
I know it's not easy for you to accept compliments. Actually, it's one of the worst things about you. (We've talked about this a lot too. Just say Thank you and move on.)
Stop! Don't! I don't want to hear it, Mom!
You think I am crazy. You think I don't get it.
I get it.
This is YOUR job. As a teenager, it's your job to disagree with me. It's your job not to believe me, to question everything. It's your job to want more. It's your job to not settle. It's your job to figure out what YOU'RE proud of, what YOU love about you, what you want to do. I get that. I get that so much, you have no idea. I was sixteen once, too. (Not so long ago, ahem, ahem...yes, I'm still 29 inside, thank you very much.) I know how embarrassing it all is (especially how embarrassing mothers can be.) I remember how every moment as a teenager is rife with stress, angst, and the overwhelming sensation to just be left alone. It's bad enough to walk through the high school halls every day, but now you have to exist in a virtual reality too (and everyone always seems to be looking, watching, waiting for what you'll do next). Or, at least it feels that way. And, I assure you, as I have many times in the past, no one is paying attention to you. They're all too busy thinking that everyone is looking at them to give a damn about anyone else.
But, I get it. I know why it's hard to hear this. I know why I drive you crazy. Because, I've been there. (And, frankly my dear, you're no peach--especially when you're hungry, tired, sick, need to fold laundry, have three tests tomorrow, or I interrupt your Criminal Minds binge.) We all have our moments. (Like that time...with me, in the car, when the cake dropped, and the F-bombs that flew. I'm still sorry.)
So I know the last thing you want to hear is that you're amazing and the last person on the planet you want to hear it from is your mom. (Sorry, Channing Tatum was all booked. But, I'm sure if he met you, he'd think you were amazing too.) So I won't "say it." But, you can't make me stop writing it. You can't stop me from feeling intensely grateful today, on all the days that I get to share with you, that I have had the immense pleasure and blessing to get to spend with you since the moment I held you.
I know you don't think this day is special. And in true Brigid-fashion, you didn't want the day to be about you--you wanted to surprise your friends with something special. You painstakingly planned every detail, because nothing gives you more pleasure than giving others something to smile about. But, you don't have to try too hard. You've been making me smile since the moment I met you, the moment I knew you were mine.
There isn't a gift I can give you (that you would even accept) that would say it better. There aren't enough words (that you would even permit me to say) that can sum up what all these sixteen years have added up to. There is not a scrapbook I've made you that could capture it all.
You infuriate me, but you inspire me.
You challenge me, but you make me better.
You are a gift that I don't deserve.
You amaze me. I have no idea how you came to be, how we managed to muddle through, but I am so glad we did. Here's to you, kiddo. I love you. Whether you like it or not, I'll always love you, unconditionally, every day, no matter where you are, no matter what you do--for no other reason, but because you're you. I love you to Pluto and back and back and back and back, forever and ever.
(P.S. I meant to write a post advising you of all the things you'll need to know to get you through the next 16 years, and it turns out, while writing this post, I learned that you've got it all figured out. In fact you're the one who taught me how to be a grown up. Go figure.)