Thursday, February 22, 2018

This Might Be the Hardest Birthday Letter Ever...

Dear Freckles,

You'll be 15 tomorrow. You've already asked me a few times if this is finished. I haven't written this because finding the words is hard for me right now. Too many feelings. As I tend to do, though, I waited until the last possible opportunity and am about to run into your birthday. So, my time is up. I have to do this now.


I have been sitting here staring at a blank screen for a good long while.

Where do I begin???

God, honey. This year. This fucking year.



First, before I say anything else, I want to start by saying that I love you more first.

Now that's out of the way....

When I wrote your letter last year, when you were turning 14 and finishing up middle school, life was a whirlwind, and it was all swirling around you, sweeping you up. You had so many projects and responsibilities and obligations, so many plans and hopes and dreams, so many fears about what the next year would hold.



And now, here we are, on the other side of this year. This fucking year.

This year hasn't been very fair to you. I hesitate to be the parent to you that my father was to me, but the reality is that life isn't usually fair. More things just happen to some of us. And, for reasons that don't exist and aren't worth trying to find, you've had more. I know that this truth sucks, and it doesn't help much to know that this is just the way life is sometimes. I know all this.


And yet, here we are.

Rather than pretend that there is some reason things work out this way, I've done the best I can to try and prepare you to cope. I've tried to give you the skills and the tools that will get you through these times.


And I've failed.

We still ended up here.



The good news about being here, though, is that we are still here.

We are still here. 

You and I.

We are both still here.


We're hanging in there. We're fighting to stay. We're forcing ourselves to talk about the things we don't want to talk about. We're doing the things that we have no interest in doing because they keep us both here.

We're a team. Sometimes this team is messy, sometimes we suck at everything, sometimes we're exhausted, sometimes we feel lost and unsure of how to move forward.

But we're here. Your hand in mine. With fingers, even. (inside joke)



We're all in this together. (also an inside joke and poorly veiled High School Musical reference)

I could write a long post about all the things you've done this year, about all the accomplishments, about starting high school and doing marching band and absolutely dominating your classes and about pushing yourself all the time, but I won't.


Because to me, none of those things matter.

What matters to me aren't the grades or the things you can list on a resume. What matters to me aren't the things that can be objectively measured. What matters to me aren't the things that most people seem to care about these days.


What matters to me is you.

Just you.

Your passion and your laughter and your moments of joy. Your eye for the beauty in life, your heart that loves so many and so much, your determination to get through everything you've had to wade through this year.


The way you and your Dad lock eyes in a way that requires no words when you catch the other one doing or saying the exact same thing. Your similarities have truly revealed themselves this year more than any other, and although I know it doesn't always feel like this is an asset, trust me when I tell you that it is. You have each other. You understand each other more than anyone else ever could or will. Always, always, always remember that.



The way your face lights up when you are playing video dancing games with your little brother, when he is asking you for help with his audition music, when he is doubting himself in some way and you are there, cheering him on. The moment you realized just how much like you he is this month, and when you recognized that as much as you worry about and love him, he worries about and loves you. You can get through this together. And you will.


The way that you and your little sister fight like feral cats, but will defend one another endlessly against the rest of the world. The way that you watch carefully as she navigates friends and boys and remind her to take care of herself in your always-sarcastic-but-loving way. The way you've shown her how to perfect her eyeliner wings. The way you push her to do all her own research, not because you can't just give her the answer (because you could), but because she needs to learn it herself.


The way you scoop up the littlest one and play hide and seek with him even when he is absolutely terrible at it. You are the person who always encourages him to build his imagination, to try new things, to work on his letters and shapes. Even when he drives you batty, you'll turn on Boo-bah and relive your own toddlerhood for his amusement.


The way you worry about your older brother, wonder what life is going to be like for him when he goes off to school and what it all means for you. Always concerned with his parking skills and his heart, you and he have a special connection. Maybe it is that whole oldest kid thing, but you two seem to feel a different level of responsibility for one another, even if you'll never ever admit it out loud. He loves you so much. He worries about you. Just like you do about him.


The way you still can curl up in my lap when you need to. My lap will never be too small and you will never be too big. The way you lean over and grab my hand. The way you have learned when you need time and space to be alone with your thoughts and when you absolutely need to be around people, even if you might hate every single second of it. The way that you have forced yourself to do things that are awful because they keep you here.

The way you write me letters and quietly leave them for me to find when you need help, but can't find the words to ask in person.

Thank you for trusting me to take care of you.

Thank you for believing in me.

Thank you.


You're fighting for yourself. You're fighting for yourself as much as you are fighting for your siblings and your friends and the rest of the world.

I see how brave you are.

I see how strong you are.


I see how you can dig deep to overcome all that you struggle with, I see it.

There is this misconception in our society about bravery. It isn't about not being afraid.

It is about being afraid and doing it anyway.

Every damn day, you're doing it anyway.

And I am so proud of you.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.

I love you.

Let's go kick 15's ass, okay?

Mom

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