Lessons from, for firstborn

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Reaching around her thin body, I am struck by the difference in our heights.

At a smidge over five feet, I’ve never been considered tall – or that thin, as a matter of fact. She, on the other hand, stands inches over me. It wasn’t that long ago that she was just a baby, bundled in a pink blanket, just perfect.

Over the years, she’s grown from a precocious toddler who would only eat fried eggs for breakfast to an amazingly talented, exceptionally intelligent, wonderful girl.

When she was about 2, she wouldn’t have anything but carrots for lunch for two months solid. That lasted until she turned orange, and I freaked out and called the pediatrician. I honestly didn’t know that would happen. Now, she’s days away from being 14 – two years away from being a licensed driver and four years from being a high school graduate, and I don’t know what to do.

The fact that your child can actually turn orange if you feed them too many carrots was only one of many things I didn’t know would happen when I became a mother.

I learned that you can actually survive on less than three hours of sleep a day. You don’t function very well, but you can survive. I remember, one night, being so tired, bouncing on the side of the bed, begging God for her to sleep through the night.

Now, I ask God to keep her safe, healthy and happy, and I hope that I give her the tools she needs to be successful in life.

If I had to send her out today with instructions for tomorrow, I would say:

Be generous – with your time, your money and your heart. If, on my best day, there was a single lesson I could hope to impart to you, this would be it.

You are the wellspring of your own hope. No one (besides me, ha ha) will be more invested in your emotional well-being than you are in your own. Joy is not something gifted to you by other people. Realize this. Joy is an outlook on the world that you have to cultivate independently of friends and lovers. I would say this to you a million times over, but the truth is that you are singularly responsible for your own happiness.

Don’t think you have to be with someone to be happy. You shouldn’t go from being someone’s daughter to someone’s wife to someone’s mother without first being someone yourself. Living alone will allow you to discover who you are when no one is watching, what you need to get through a day, and ultimately that you are a capable, independent woman.

Be where you are. I know this one sounds strange, but think of it this way – try not to think about where you need to go next or wherever you just came from. This is more difficult than it sounds, but work at it. It’s important for your head to be present in the place where your body is. It’s easy to be focused on the future so intently that you don’t live in the present. Trust me, you’ll miss out.

Then, realize the decisions you make now impact you forever. And with that, ensure that the “bad” things you do are the result of your own choices. You’re going to do it – do something unhealthy, unwise or otherwise questionable behavior somewhere along the line. We all do it, but do this also – learn from it.

And lastly – and most importantly – remember, I love you no matter way, forever and always.

Happy birthday, baby girl.