Dearest L – You are twelve. You are TWELVE.

Unlike my letters to you on your eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh birthdays, I choose to start this one with an apology.

It came to me over the weekend as I tidied up the mounds of stuffed animals you hauled out for your girlfriends in advance of your slumber party (just in case they forgot theirs). I had an immediate pang that maybe next year, you wouldn’t be quite so concerned about such things as stuffies.

And I did a quick mental scan of all the places that pang was so familiar. Worrying about what next year might bring as you move into middle school. Worrying about what the summer might bring if you choose (or DON’T choose) overnight camp. Worrying about all the worrying.

And of course, in doing so, I have been trying to hang on to your youth. An exercise in futility, to be sure, on every level.

I’m sorry for that, Darling One.

I’ve been trying to bottle perfection, you see. It seems that every birthday that comes around, I am struck by just how ideal you are. Right here. Right now. How can anything be better? And yet, every single year, you manage to top yourself.

You deepen into your humour, your brilliance, your wisdom, your generosity, your bravery, your power and your creativity. You expand your capacity for love and acceptance and independence and kindness. And you challenge the ideals of perfectionism that I seem to be so hell-bent on capturing.

On this last point. Every day in my work, I see the effects on people who have spent their lives in the painful and elusive pursuit of perfectionism.

I am glad you are questioning the world around you. I am glad you are questioning me. I am glad you are finally seeing me for the flawed human being I am. That Daddy is. That (gasp!) your friends are. And, even, that YOU are.

This will serve you well.

You can be entirely wondrous and imperfect.

It’s a beautiful thing.

My Mama told me when I was around your age that I would set the world on fire. It was intended as a blessing, to be sure. How could she have known I’d spend a good part of the next two decades trying to live into a concept I didn’t fully understand?

So I will do my best to not assign you any ideals to live into. Just be you, okay? Perfectly flawed. Perfectly you.

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I know I say to challenge “always” and “never” as the lazy all-or-nothings of our belief stories, but forgive me once again as I use them to underline the absolute truth as I know it in the very nuclei of my cells:

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.

Twelve years ago today, the moment I saw your fingers, your face, your eyes, I was wrecked with love that, still to this day, I can't put into words. I try. But I fail. And that’s just fine.

I am celebrating you today, and every day, Sweetheart.

Because…you.

xx/Mama

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