The original letter I wrote to Juliette four years ago can be found here – “For Juliette: A Love Letter You’ll Hate (For Now)”. I write my daughters fairly often, but this one stands out and serves as a sort of unspoken grading tool for how I am doing as a mother. I give myself a “C” grade as a mother, but the important lesson here is that I don’t accept my own “C” grade. I trust the trustworthy people in my life instead.
Tomorrow is your 15th birthday. I still periodically insist that you will always be my baby. It annoys you far less than it did when you were 11. Of course, in the past several years, I have learned much about what to say to you in our private moments and what is kosher to say in front of your peers. (Sometimes, it isn’t really okay for me to even breathe in front of your peers, but I’m working on it.)
You will always be my baby but you are so much more than that. You always teach me. Not only about how to parent, but also about myself, my own strengths and weaknesses and when I am in my own way.
I can’t possibly list all of the things your presence in my life has taught me so far, but it is abundant, invaluable and really nothing I ever could have predicted. One of the most important things I’ve learned from being your Mom is that I have to grow with you. While my tendency is to head right to fear of what might happen, you have forced me to accept what simply DOES happen, even while I am afraid and frankly, sometimes, I am. I know you understand fear and we are so alike in this way. I think one of the most important reasons we were put together is so we could both work past this fear bullshit. It can keep us so stuck, can’t it? I am grateful we won’t let it.
I know how hard it is to be a teenager. Believe it or not, I was once a teenager. You are still learning the ropes on crushes, people pleasing, perfectionism, and self-love. Here’s what’s so great — You are not alone in any step. When you tell yourself you’re alone, remind yourself that it’s simply untrue. Validate your feelings of lonesomeness and act “as if.” I will be there to literally remind you that you’re not alone. This is a part of my gig as your mom and also a privilege I take very seriously.
You’re extraordinary. You just are. I don’t understand 88.5% of your homework, but I do understand life more than you do and don’t bother arguing with me about that.
I understand that I’m your Mom and not your friend. When you’re an adult, we can be friends. Right now, I must help guide you away from people, places and things that aren’t going to serve you well. All I can do is help guide you though. Most of all, I pray you learn (and practice) to treat yourself and others with love, tolerance and respect. It really is just practice. If you don’t believe it, act “as if.” Trust me. If you don’t trust what I’m telling you, do it anyway.
I love you Juliette and you know it. I’m grateful you know it because it is something in this world you can rely on. There have been times in my own life where Grandma’s love got me through the toughest of scrapes. That kind of love has more weight in this life than so many of our challenges. This has definitely been my experience.
I pray you become the strong, empowered woman I know you can become. In the meantime, keep singing. Keep writing. Keep your voice audible and authentic. It’s a voice people can benefit from hearing. I am lucky I get to hear it every single day.
Rock your life, sweet baby. Even if you’re scared shitless. Rock it anyway.
You were so worth the wait and through each belch, bump and triumph, you just become increasingly extraordinary.
I love you so very much, Juliette. Thank you for being all that you were, are and will be.