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The Write or Die Chick: Happy Birthday to My Very Teenaged Daughter

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Janelle Daughter

Beautiful Sky,You’ve listened to the recitation of this tale every year for the past 15 birthdays. I guess that’s yet another hazard of being born to a storyteller by nature and a writer by trade. So indulge your mama just one more time.

I knew when I woke up with contractions precisely at midnight on the day after you were supposed to show up that you were going to be an exciting little person. Actually, I expected it even before then from all of the percolating and kick-flipping you were doing when you were still renting space in my nether regions. I was sure you were going to be fun. I was sure you were energetic. I was sure you would keep me on my toes. I was right.

A due date meant nothing to you and true to your devil-may-care nature, you did things in your own good sweet time. It was all quite dramatic, from 16 hours of viciously intense contractions to the Dukes of Hazzard car ride your grandmother took me on to get to the hospital before you crowned. Eighteen minutes, four pushes, no medication and ta-da, you were here. Not one of the other newborns could out-holler you in the nursery. Not many folks can out-talk you now.

Being your mother has been my greatest honor and joy. My biggest challenge, too. Parents claim their kids as miniature versions of themselves like it’s a badge of honor and in some ways, it is absolutely adorable to see our us-ness reflected in our children without y’all even realizing the inherited parts of your personhood. You walk on your tiptoes like your dad. You break out in impulsive song and dance like your mom. You are a reflection of us: the great, the not-so-fantastic, the utterly weird.

But one of the things I admire about you, my dear, is that you are distinctly and authoritatively yourself. I don’t think I was as self-assured or confident as you are now until I was well into my 20s. Maybe not even then. You have an amazing ability to apply wisdom and insight to the way you process everything, from current events to school gossip. I hear you on the phone with your friends sometimes—hey, stop talking so doggone loud and the other person in the house won’t be able to hear your conversations—and I’m regularly wowed by the conclusions you draw.

Every mother thinks their kid is special. I know you are. Sometimes I spend so much time trying to parent you into perfection, derail you from mistakes I’ve made or prevent you from falling into some kind of slippery pit of bad decision-making that I don’t celebrate who you actually are. I have a vision of the kind of person I want you to be and sometimes I stress myself out about the things I haven’t taught you yet or might forget to teach you at all about life. Forgive me for that.

Remember the time I bust into the bathroom while you were in the shower to tell you, out of the clear blue sky, to never let a guy convince you to “just put it in” because you can still get pregnant or contract a disease from just a few seconds of penetration? I’m sure you just added that to your ever-growing list of “Reasons I Think My Mother Is Stone-Cold Psycho,” but I want you to know it all. But there’s no way I can teach you everything.

I want you to know that I trust you. I respect you. I support you. I adore you. I think you’re stylish and beautiful on the outside and a slow explosion of greatness on the inside. That I think you’re brilliant and capable of doing everything you’ve ever told me you wanted to do, even if you changed your mind the very next hour about wanting to do it (and you pull that move a lot). You, madame, are fabulous.

I know, even in your 15 short years that you say seem so long, life has been peppered with serious disappointments. You’ve had to learn early, too early for my liking, that you can’t depend on people you should be able to depend on and that your mind can be its own worst enemy. But you have what you need to be a success in everything you want to do and everything you’ve been called to do. Trust your gut feelings, that intuition you developed way back, and most importantly, trust God and believe that he has his hand on your life, even when you can’t feel it there.

And know that no matter what decisions you make—even the ones that are scariest to a woman raising a 15-year-old girl by herself—that your mother is in awe of the young lady you’re becoming and the amazing person you already are.

Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor, and the owner of The Write or Die Chick , a boutique editorial services agency. She’s also a single mother, a proud Washington, DC girl and a longsuffering Kanye West fan. Chat her up on Facebook or Twitter.

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