Today is somewhat of a bittersweet day for me. It's a day I knew would come, of course. A day I have been excited about, yet a day I have hoped wouldn't arrive as quickly as it has. Today, you turn 16. As I write this, you're standing in line with your Big Daddy at the DMV, getting your license. I want to go pick you up right now and force you in the car and tell you how driving is overrated and momma will drive you everywhere you need to go for the rest of your life. But I can't do that. First of all, it's weird. Second, I don't want to drive you around everywhere forever. Third, you're a good driver and I know you're ready for your license. And fourth, this isn't about a driver's license at all. Not even close. I am a big ball of mixed up emotions. I am happy that we've raised an independent, responsible, smart, kind, Christian young woman. I'm happy that we can trust you to make good decisions, but I'm realistic that you're still a teenage girl and there needs to be room for mistakes. I'm happy that you're outgoing and funny and you aren't afraid to try new things. I'm happy that your life is progressing the way it's supposed to. So what is wrong with me? I'm excited, but a little part of me is sad. Really, really sad. Every mom can say, "Oh, it seems like just yesterday I was changing their diapers." There is so much truth in that statement. It really does seem like yesterday. Perhaps it seems like yesterday because my life has big one big "baby-fog" over the last 16 years. All of your "firsts" are so fresh in my mind. Your first sneeze (December 23, 1998...biggest sneeze I ever heard come out of a baby. You still sneeze super loud), your first poo-poo-all-the-way-up-your-back diaper (January, 1999...it scared me to death. Didn't know babies could do that), your first steps (Thanksgiving Day, 1999...you looked like a chubby little drunk, stumbling across the living room at Aunt Jessica's house), your first day of Kindergarten (August, 2004...you loved it, and I was relieved that I was able to save my tears for when I got home), your first day of high school (August, 2013...you wore parachute pants and tried to convince me they were back in style. Whatever. You wouldn't let me walk you into the school building that morning. I don't know why. I wouldn't have cried or anything. Maybe just given you a long, lingering hug. Just long enough to be uncomfortable for those around us. Then maybe, just maybe, I would've gently released you into the lion's den that is high school with my favorite motherly advice, "Make good choices today!!" It would be the most embarrassing moment of your life, ah yes, the moments I live for). I can still remember the way you smelled as a baby, the way your chubby little legs looked in ruffle-bottom bloomers, the way your eyes would cross when you were taking a bottle. Sometimes, if I concentrate really hard, I can still feel you lying on my chest, peacefully sleeping...the ONLY way you would sleep for the first several months :) I miss that. I miss the way your crazy, curly hair would look when you woke up after a nap, or if it was humid outside, or if a storm was coming. The bigger your hair was, the closer the rain would be :) I miss the way you couldn't pronounce the letter "R" until you were six years old. I miss the little songs and stories you would make up. I miss the way you would smile when I sang Frank Sinatra songs or the "All in the Family" theme song. I miss all of that. I have prayed a silly prayer over and over again for time to slow down. But God doesn't answer that prayer the way I want Him to. Time, if anything, is speeding up and I see what He is doing. He is leaving time as it is, which "forces" me enjoy the time with my babies all the more. He is allowing me to see the blessings that each of my daughters are and appreciate the little things, like sneezes and parachute pants. I don't think He intended for you to stay dependent on me forever. That's not good for either of us. I think what He intended to happen is exactly what is happening, you're growing up the way you're supposed to and I just have to accept it. So I will. Eventually. Slowly, but eventually. Be patient with me. I've never been on this side of it before, the mom side of it. It's weird and different and much harder over here. I just need you to promise me a few things. Promise me that you will keep making the right decisions, no matter how hard they are. Promise me that you will choose a college within 30 minutes of home (I'm kidding...sort of). Promise me that you will always remember that you are loved wholly, unconditionally, and in that crazy ,over protective, I-will-break-the-legs-of-anyone-who-tests-me kind of way and that will never let up. Finally, promise me that when you are a mother, you'll be better than I have been. Take what you think I've done well on, and improve upon it. Discard the things that you don't think I did well on. Just be better. Know that when you are going through these same things with your children, I'll be here to cry with you because all the things you will be feeling at that time will still be fresh in my mind. I'll be able to tell you that everything will be okay, just like my mom is telling me now. She's right, and I'll be right too.
I almost forgot...promise me one more thing. Take every opportunity to embarrass (not humiliate) your kids. You could, oh I don't know, dress up like Alice Cooper and show up at their school on the last day, or run the coat check room at their Homecoming dance and make weird, semi-threatening comments to all the boys and then let them know whose mother you are, leaving your sanity in question to those around you. I'm just throwing ideas out there. Your kids may pretend they don't like it at first, but they'll be funny stories to tell later. Happy Sweet 16 :)