To My Daughter, on Your 13th Birthday

These are all the words that wouldn’t fit inside that purple and white unicorn card. These are words that I’ve been writing to you in the back of my mind, since before you were born. My dear daughter, if at any point in your life you believed that you were unloved, know that you were wrong.

I wanted to be a mother from the moment that Waterbaby was handed to me at the tender age of six. I held this vision of myself just as fiercely at nineteen. Those years in-between were spent conjuring up this idyllic list of parenting do’s and don’ts. I took stock of how I wanted and needed to be parented, the values I wanted to instill, the physical things I wanted to provide and how “with it” I would be. I knew exactly how I wanted to approach various triumphs and trials that we would experience along the way. But the funny thing about parenting is, time changes everything.

My adolescence did not prepare me for your world; it prepared me for mine. You were born into a social media frenzy and a society at constant war with itself. Your generation is bombarded with an endless stream of information, most of which can be disparaging. You will face choices and consequences that weren’t mine to make. From this, will grow unimaginable strength.

Despite all our similarities, I did not in fact, give birth to my clone. At times your spirit has overwhelmed me. That speaks to my character, not yours. Do not shrink yourself. Do not cut yourself into easily digestible pieces. Let us choke.

I still find small moments to sneak into your room to catch you sleeping. You, cocooned in blankets, a face mask resting on your cheeks, still and silent. Like all mothers, I have begged for time to stop, to slow down, to let me go back and do it again. Let me do it better. Let me love you more, understand you better, play alongside you longer.

Time doesn’t care that I was unwell most of your childhood. Time doesn’t care that I wasn’t the one to hold your hand when you took your first lap around the roller rink. Time doesn’t care that a simple trip to the park or having other children around was more than I could bear most days. Time doesn’t care that I spent the majority of those first handful of years sleeping away the pain.

But, I was there. I was there for every scrapped knee and heartache so big that it left you in a puddle on the floor. I was there after every firestorm, ready to accept your apology or give you my own. I was your constant and you were mine. As a mother, in the end, I can only hope those things help balance the scales.

But alas, I will continue to let down that idyllic list of parenting do’s and don’ts for a more evolved and fluid one. I will continue to feel mediocre at best until I witness your endless compassion and fiery spirit. I will continue to wish to start over but remain your constant.

Happy thirteenth birthday, my greatest love, my earthly reward.

Photo from the author, 2021. Featured image, Kahla Wright 2016

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