My Darling L –

You are fourteen. FOURTEEN. An age I remember like yesterday. The time of shoulder pads and slouchy boots and chunky jewelry and Aqua Net and hair scrunchies. It was all “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Walk Like an Egyptian” and Whitney and “Top Gun” and “Fame."

Gah. Like... YESTERDAY.

On your eighth birthday, I made some wishes. They continue to hold strong and true.

On your ninth, I shared some wisdom from truth-sayers intended to light your way.

On your tenth, I called in some reinforcements to reflect back the wonder that you are.

On your eleventh, I invited you to trust your body, your knowing.

On your twelfth, I made an apology and some promises I’ll never break. Namely, this: “I will never withdraw my love. I will always be your soft place to land. You will never go wrong if you are always yourself.”

On your thirteenth, I shared a story that I will never forget.

Today, on your fourteenth, I’m attempting to do the near impossible:

I’m trying to reflect back what I see in you. Yes, near impossible - like bottling dancing glints of diamond sunlight on the breeze-kissed lake, but I’ll try.

Because, as you reminded me when you were but six: "We have now."

Do you remember that? We were reading Charlotte’s Web and I started tearing up when Fern headed off to the fair, and you took my face in your hands and looked into my eyes as you said it. My Buddha Babe.

Yes. We have now.

And here’s what I know about now.

It’s been a tough year. Plenty of changes and transitions. You have navigated them with questions and grace and finesse.

Making decisions about high school, going away to summer camp, saying farewell to beloved neighbours who felt like family, THEN saying a final goodbye to Pops. Did you know, Sweet One, that the last moment of real connection that we had with him as he lay dying was when I told him you were reading Catcher in the Rye? (It was among the books he hand-delivered to you on your thirteenth birthday along with roses well before you woke up that morning). His whole body relaxed as he smiled and nodded. That was the last time he responded to any of us.

That’s YOU. That’s YOUR power.

Someone asked me to share what I say to you when you need a boost in confidence. I would love to hear YOUR answer to that, but I know I always come back to what I understand to be Unshakeable Confidence: Presence (knowing yourself, having love and reverence for the sacred being you are, and feeling your own power), Integrity (being true to your word, being true to yourself, and being obedient to what you say you want) and Action (being resilient, being willing to fail, and being tenacious).

You are all of this and more. So, so much more. (Though I suspect when you need a pep talk you hear your Pops say in his own inimitably gruff way: Illegitimi non carborundum... "Don't let the bastards grind you down.")

Watching you explore your own musical terrain is thrilling. Yes, your love of Father John Misty and Said the Whale and Ben Folds and Aimee Mann comes straight from your Dad. Your appreciation of P!nk and Bruce Springsteen and The Killers and Beyoncé comes from me. And your fondness of bluegrass and Vivaldi and Fleetwood Mac comes from a blend of your grandparents.

But you’ve brought Dear Evan Hansen and Mika into our lives, so we’re even.

We are perpetually finding balled up socks and stray earrings and old valentines in the oddest places. We find glittery pipe cleaners and silly band bracelets attached - the THINGS from when you were under seven that are the landscape of our lives - we simply cannot/will not untangle them.

Your loyalty to your friends is exquisite. The way your (final?) Hallowe’en costume honoured every.single.classmate with some symbol of them on your person.

My heart soars at the way you ask big and deep and vast questions and really sit in the exploration of the answers. And then, in the next breath, you’ll present a riddle that reminds me that you are, indeed, perfectly fourteen. “What’s the difference between a dirty bus depot and a lobster with breast implants?” (One's a crusty bus station and one's a busty crustacean.)

Your delight in calling out your father when he unconsciously mansplains something... especially feminism. (Bless his cotton socks.)

Your activism in your school, in particular your involvement in the Rainbow Club and commitment to diversity and inclusion. Your political aspirations.

You listen patiently as I lecture you while chopping the vegetables at the kitchen island, and though there may be a day when this no longer happens, you invite my opinions AND manage my expectations about what you will do with my counsel. That’s #nextlevel, Babe.

You are the sun the moon and the stars. You take our breath away.

I want to remind you again, once again, always again:

You will be right sometimes, and you will be wrong; either way, your words matter. As does your listening.

Things do have a way of working out, but mostly when you show up to do the work.

Standing up for others isn’t a “nice” things to do, it’s the only thing to do.

Things do have a way of working out, but mostly when you show up to do the work.

Your job is not to be good. Nor perfect. It is to be you. More of you. You can’t take up too much space.

And if they can’t handle your shine, Daughter? Hand them some shades.

Yes. You’re right. We have now.

Thank you for the gift you are, NOW.