An Open Letter to my Daughter on her Sixteenth Birthday

louisa sweet 16

Dear Baby Girl, I am so excited to celebrate your sixteen years of life on this earth today. Day one was a scary day for me. I held this tiny 5 ½ pound premie baby in my arms, and wondered how in the world I was going to raise her to be a wonderful, caring, compassionate woman. I was hardly a woman yet myself at only 19 years old. Most 19 y…ear olds are in college, planning their future careers, meeting Mr. Right, and getting their adult lives started. I was staring at an itty bitty pink baby girl in my arms, alone in our hospital room late at night, praying for the Lord to give me strength to help me be a good mother. Unlike most new mommies, I was starting this adventure alone. Our adventure, yours and mine, started out untraditional. And that’s okay. Not everything in life has to be by-the-book.
The greatest, most important job I have in life is to be a good mother. It’s also the most difficult and challenging. What exactly IS a “good mom” anyway? Someone who devotes their entire life, every day, every minute, to their children? Most people would say no. I think a good mom is someone who raises her children to be positive, helpful, forward thinking, contributing members of society. Our job as mothers is not to make sure our children have an easy perfect life growing up with everything you want gift wrapped and handed to you on silver plates. Our job is to make sure you live through the rough times, and learn how to celebrate the good times. And more importantly, to help you see there are far more good times than bad.
Disappointments come and go, and I promise, for the next few years, that I will help you turn around disappointments as best I can. I also promise I will be there for you when you need me, and I will do my best to back off when you want to handle it on your own. But you need to do your best to see that not every disappointment is the end of the world. Because it’s not. We’ve all suffered many disappointments, let downs, upsets, and tragedies in life. The difference is how we handle them. Handle them with GRACE. Grace is when you recognize a difficult situation, but choose to make the most of it. You don’t dwell, or complain. You move on and find the other good stuff that is happening. For every one bad thing, there’s a hundred good things. People won’t remember you for flying off the handle every time something bad pops up, but they will remember how you acted with GRACE.
Another important value to have is INTEGRITY. Always mean what you say. Keep your promises. Don’t say words unless you mean them, and don’t lead people on. A two-faced liar is just about the worst thing you can be in life. Does that mean you should tell off every person who annoys you? No. That’s where Grace comes in. I don’t tell off people at work who I don’t agree with. I use Grace and get through it/over it. Eventually.
HUMILITY is just as important as grace. Remember where you came from and who helped you reach your heights. You have no limits in life. You will reach soaring heights someday. There’s no doubt about it. But stay HUMBLE. Be here on Earth, with two feet firmly planted on the ground, and know you are smaller than the universe. Your head, however, can stay in the clouds.
You are already a compassionate young lady. You see things in people that no one else sees. You try to include people and make them feel like they belong. However, you’re still a teenager and there’s that struggle of being cool around your friends, and caring and compassionate to everyone around you. I get it. I was a teenager just 16 short years ago, after all. I struggled, too. But in the end, compassion wins out, because we are who we are. I get compliments on your genuine kindness on a daily basis from people. Everywhere I go, the YMCA, school, your sports coaches and theater directors, your friend’s parents, people you babysit for, people all around the community tell me what a kind, caring, compassionate young lady you are. That many people can’t be wrong!
I absolutely love the way you love your little brothers. You are an incredible big sister, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. Again, I get so many compliments on what a great big sister you are. You have been forced to take over more of a mommy role on several occasions, and for that I apologize. I appreciate how you can pop back and forth between the two roles, and I appreciate everything you’ve done for the boys. They will look back and see how amazingly lucky they were to grow up with a sister like you. They will see how big a role you played in raising them. And they will definitely see how fun and caring and loving you were toward them. Promise you will never let anything come between you three. Adult life can be so hard on sibling relationships. Spouses, parents, children, political associations, there’s so many things that can separate siblings. Always forgive. You are lucky to have your brothers as many people don’t have any siblings. Some day they will be your only connection to me and dad and you will need to lean on them to remember us.
Dream big, chase your dreams, and don’t stop until you reach them. Don’t. Stop. That means, if God closes a door on you, find a window to crawl through. If you can’t try out for a musical right now because your life is too busy, find a window. Don’t dwell, have GRACE, and find that window to crawl through. I can’t emphasize this enough. Grace goes hand in hand with having doors shut on you. Don’t mope, don’t pout, don’t throw a fit, don’t dwell on the fact that you don’t get to do something. That door has been closed for a reason. It just wasn’t your time. Life is going to throw 5000 opportunities at you, many at the same time, many when you can’t accept them (like the vineyard for me), and many will come when you least expect them. You will figure out how to pick out what is the right opportunity for you at that moment. All the other options are not LOST, they just aren’t the door you should be walking through that day. Have GRACE, walk away, and be secure in knowing that you will survive. You are chasing your dreams, and no one ever said that was easy. Dreams are far away, and they take work, blood, sweat, and TEARS. You’ll get there. I have faith in you. I have faith because I’m your mother, and I have faith because I can see the passion in your eyes. You’re still so very young, and you have so many opportunities, and so much life ahead of you. Everything will come to you in its own time, and you need to realize that timing is everything. Don’t give up. Keep working and be proud of everything you’re accomplishing.
I love you with absolutely all of my heart. I can’t say for sure what I’d be doing if you didn’t pop into my world 16 years ago, but I know I wouldn’t be here in in this life admiring my beautiful teenage daughter. My house wouldn’t be filled with show tunes day and night, my eight-year-old wouldn’t be asking to dress up like the 10th Doctor for Halloween, my 12-year-old wouldn’t be dying to know what the next middle school musical is going to be, and daddy wouldn’t have a movie buddy to watch superhero movie marathons with. I wouldn’t have anyone to understand all of my random movie quotes, or gang up on dad with me. All that you and I have been through has made us stronger and smarter and happier. Thank you for sharing your sixteen years with me. I can’t wait to see where you’re going in life! I have so much hope for everything you’re going to accomplish. And not only me, but you’ve got hundreds of “fans” who’ve watched you grow up into the amazing girl you are who also can’t wait to see what you will accomplish!
Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!