I’m the same as I was when I was 6 years old
And oh my God I feel so damn old
I don’t really feel anything
On a plane, I can see the tiny lights below
And oh my God, they look so alone
Do they really feel anything?
Oh my God, I’ve gotta gotta gotta gotta move on
Where do you move when what you’re moving from.. Is yourself?
The universe works on a math equation
that never even ever really ends in the end
Infinity spirals out creation
We’re on the tip of its tongue, and it is saying
We ain’t sure where you stand
You ain’t machines and you ain’t land
And the plants and the animals, they are linked
And the plants and the animals eat each other
Oh my God and oh my cat
I told my Dad what I need
Well I know what I have and want, But I don’t know what I need
Well, he said he said he said he said
“Where we’re going I’m dead.”
-Modest Mouse, “Never Ending Math Equation”
I watch you a lot. When I do, I try not to be weird about it. I try to catch you when you aren’t looking, which is more often than not. In those moments where you have ventured down from your upstairs teenage fortress like Rapunzel emerging from her tower. Except that for you, escaping is no adventure; just an inconvenient necessity required to obtain food, do the laundry, and occasionally talk to the parents. You emerge down with headphones on, often mouthing along to the lyrics or doing a dorky, outdated dance (like the macarena) before plunging into making yourself some cereal or a smoothie.
I watch you, lost in your own fourteen-almost-fifteen-year-old world, and I see you smile to yourself, or at something that you found on your phone. Nothing forced. Pure happiness. You are especially happy right now, because two characters that you created, drew, and wrote out elaborate backstories for have been accepted into online murder-mystery role playing games. And now, you are having a delightful time writing out paragraphs to describe the stream of consioussness that her characters speak, think, or act out in response to the other characters’ actions.
You show me the prose that you write to describe your character’s words and actions. And it’s really, really good. I try not to dissolve in a ball of mom cheese all over the floor, but can barely contain how proud I am of the young lady that you currently are, and of the smart, quirky, power woman that you are becoming. Right now, you love lots of things that we’ve introduced to you, like Sleater-Kinney, Modest Mouse, Car Seat Headrest, as well as Cavetown and a few other things I don’t pretend to understand that you found on your own. That day you asked to go on a walk with me to discuss Modest Mouse lyrics, I was practically over boiling with pride. You are sardonic, sarcastic, dry-witted, genuine, and sweet all at once.
Already an artist and writer before even hitting 15, you took it upon yourself to find a voice acting part in a for a global kids-by-kids musical, audition for it, and get accepted. I probably won’t be around to see the final product, but I am endlessly proud of how you seek out, find, and pursue the things that you are intrinsically motivated toward.
I do not get to see you later, so I look at you now. I see your long hair grown down to your butt, your affinity for large hoodies, your glasses. As tall as I am, but much thinner, you could pass for my “skinny me,” although we try not to have discussions about weight in our house with positive or negative connotations, a few Mom classics do slip through, like (mom voice), “we would really like to see you eat a little bit more because you are a growing every day and need the energy.” 🙂
Do you know what else you do when you are happy? You skip. You are as tall as I am, and you skip. Nothing makes me happier, quicker, than watching you let go of yourself and skip away.
All three of of you have a little bit of me, and a little bit of Daddy, and a whole lot of your own self. But you, I feel, are the one who is the most like your Mom. I see it in your distrust for authority, and in your sense of social justice. I see it in your character and your moral compass. It took me four decades to get to the sense of confidence in my ability and beliefs that you just naturally carry along with pride, every day. You embrace your awkwardness, use self deprecation wherever possible, and pursue your interests and talents with a confidence that I never, ever had growing up.
When you need to think, you escape into nature; into the forest in the park across the street to walk in the woods or just to sit and think. Just like your Mom did to escape at your age (and well, still do sometimes). Sometimes, when I see you, I wonder whether you aren’t what I would have been, if I had been raised from a place of default love. Well, not exactly, maybe. I still would only probably have only a fraction of your artistic talent. Every once in a while, you remind me of Mom, too, in little random ways. Like your almost completely nocturnal schedule, and the fact that you can’t sleep unless you are laying on your stomach. I guess, like the song says, “Infinity Spirals out Creation” after all.
You requested a rainbow pride flag for your room, so that you could put it proudly on display. You know who you are, and we. are. so. proud. of you.
All of my love for you has never been based on what you do, but on who you are. My biggest sense of achievement, having brought you into the world is to look at you and realize that I created such a good person. You are a person who stands up for what you feel is right, and your opinions don’t change based on your present company. Who you are is the same face that you show to every single person who is lucky enough to meet you. You are a loyal friend, who doesn’t bully, and you genuinely care for others. I would rather you be all of those things, than become a rich, famous, and shallow person.
Okay, NOW- and this part applies word for word to the middle and youngest child as well. I’ve thought about doing that dying parent thing, where I write you a separate letter for all of the major milestones of your life. I decided against it. To be blessed to know you at the ages you currently are at is not to presume that I will also be able to speak for and give advice to the fully-grown human beings that that you will become. You may or may not choose to get married, or have children, etc. So I will instead just leave some basics that I hope you will live by if you decide to pursue these milestones yourselves:
1) Don’t ever choose as a life partner ANYONE who doesn’t look at you like your Daddy looks at me. ANYTHING less than that is less than you deserve.
2) If you decide to become a parent, you will worry about messing things up. Remember to trust your kids like we trusted you, and to fill them with love, love, love, always. Always lean into hate and pain with love. The rest comes after that.
Alright, now back to Ms. “Noble Strength.” Being honest, no, I didn’t choose your name because this is what it means when you look it up. But I can tell you that since you were born, have always felt that it applied quite naturally. Always quiet, thinking before speaking, and then speaking quite boldly about the things that most matter.
If I have any advice for you, based on the specific version of “you” that I know and love today, it is this: Words matter, and words have many meanings. The word “anxiety” is technically a diagnosis, but what you do with that word is very very important. Be careful, as you go forward in life, to use this word as a tool, and not as a crutch. It’s a tool that is supposed to help you become more aware of your emotions, so that you can apply strategies to manage it and take care of yourself. You manage it. It does not control you. Please do not use it as an excuse to artificially limit what I see as endless potential.
In a nutshell, sweetie, never turn down something ambitious just because it scares you. Give everything at least a fair chance before you withdraw out of fear. The best case scenario I want for you is to find something to do with your life that is in alignment with your greater purpose and interests, but which can also provide you with the financial security you will need to face an unexpected health or financial crisis. There is something to say about financial well-being and security. But if you ever find yourself hating what you do so much that it is endangering your health? Walk away. And do it quickly.
Ugh. It is so freaking unfair to me that I can’t stick around to see more of your amazing story. To see you blossom through high school. To see you become the college “art kid” and writer (probably still wearing your trademark hoodies). To see you become the person you are meant to become. I wish all of the best things to happen to you; but know that you are strong enough to weather the hard times which will also inevitably lie ahead.
I worry about the potential for harder or darker times every time I read the daily news. But ultimately my only scope of control is with myself and with yours and your Daddy’s strength to make it through. With that in mind, I want you to know that it may sometimes be worthwhile to pick your battles and to save them for the ones that matter most.
I grieve for my future loss of you, but I am able to see the amazing you that you are today. Believe me when I tell you that it’s something I treasure. I can see you giving me your awkward smile right now, followed by an “okay Mommy” and some nail biting because you don’t know what to say back. You would be surprised at how often I have to suppress saying things like that in order to keep the “cheese alert” at bay for you 🙂
You and I will talk more, of course, just the two of us as I get sicker. But I wanted to get these fundamentals down. Here. Now. During this amazingly gifted summer psychological holiday. In the time before whatever comes next.
With every fiber of my being, I love you. It’s a love so strong that I can’t imagine any of it disappearing when I go away. I believe that it will stay with you, always. You were the one who taught me what it means to be a Mother. To feel a rush of serotonin from the simple act of sniffing a head. My first baby home from the hospital while Daddy and I stared at each other wondering what the heck to do next. My sleepy baby who wanted to slumber more than eat, and has somehow carried that into her teen years. My serious kid who became a hilariously sardonic teen. My self proclaimed “introvert” with friends from several different social groups. My young lady who is often the first to reach out and offer me comfort when she senses I am sad..
I love you forever and always, my beautiful, noble strength. Both on the inside and out.