L'il Red, thirteen years ago you saved my life. Here are thirteen wishes I will be making for you tonight.
13. I wish for you to know I am never far away. Life has taken you where your daily life doesn't have me in its midst. When it first happened, I was terrified that we would fade from each other. Instead, we've changed in delightful ways, and every reunion now becomes its own joyful moment. There will come a day when you are no longer a child, and there will come a day when I am no longer on this planet. But there will never come a day I'm farther than a text, a FaceTime call, or a thought away. When I gave birth to you, you took part of me with you, and you have it with you always.
12. I wish for you to keep the beauty within. For some reason, when you're thirteen, it's too easy to look at the people around you and wonder if they're prettier, smarter, funnier, happier. It happens to all of us, and unfortunately never completely goes away. But I have seen you in beautiful moments, make genius statements, and break up a room around you in laughter. I have. There will be days you're down, but those moments are the ones that help me remember you will be back up again. Keep them close. The only one you can control outright is the last one: your happiness, and here's a secret I've learned the hard way and that you may still have to learn first-hand: happiness is not a thing that comes to you. It's something you think into existence.
11. I wish for you to make mistakes. Lots of them. They're the best teachers, and they teach you humility. But more importantly, they teach you that you're both human and powerful. Because once you make a mistake, something miraculous happens: you learn about what to do next time. So go on. Mess up and make a total fool of yourself. It's okay. Your mom said so.
10. I wish for you to own your achievements. Sometimes it's easy to be hard on yourself because you have so much left to accomplish. That list is gonna keep on growing for the rest of your life, but, girl, it should never make you doubt yourself. To hell with me and everyone else. You've been doing amazing things since I first pushed you out of -- yes, there -- and took your first miraculous breath to scream. You be proud of you.
9. I wish for you to plan for your dreams. Right now you want to be a vet. And you've told me you want to be a mother (dammit). And you want to be awesome. One of those is already a done deal. The other one is just up to you and life to figure out. And then the dream job thing, well... that's up to you, but do me a favor, will you? Don't just dream about it and hope it'll happen. Plan for it. Train yourself to behave like it will happen. Stack the odds in your favor. That's the secret to making dreams come true.
8. I wish for you to always ask questions. Sure, some of them will be stupid, or have stupid answers, or just feel stupid to ask. But questions are one of the most necessary tools in life. How else will you ever find out who really knows what they're talking about versus those who are just repeating what they've been told. And how else will you ever keep learning?
7. I wish for you to understand the importance of the stupid. Because of stupid, we know what amazing is. So sometimes you just have to let stupid happen without making it your personal battleground. Shake it off and go pay attention to more important things.
6. I wish for you to always have a dog. (Except for when you're in college, that is. 'Cause you really don't need one then.) Seriously. Dogs are awesome. Cats are cool too. They're great for those days your friends are pissing you off and you just need some company.
5. I wish for you to keep that sense of humor. When in doubt, fart jokes always work.
4. I wish for you to read the book even when you've seen the movie. Seriously. Okay, fine, roll your eyes, but this discussion is not over. No, no, come back here right now and keep reading!
3. I wish for you to be okay with being alone. I think, especially when you're thirteen, friends seem so, so important. But you are too, and sometimes it's a good thing to take a time out to decide what YOU think when no one else is around, just so you can remember it when you're back in the middle of it all again.
2. I wish for you to take lots of pictures. Girl, I really, really wish you would put down that damn phone. You gotta look up at the life happening around you once in a while before you completely miss it. But, as contradictory as it sounds, take some pictures. I wanna see what you're doing!
1. I wish for you to never grow up. I didn't realize this myself until relatively recently, so hopefully this will help you. No one out here in adultland knows everything, and no one is fully in control. There are stupid grownups, and there are smart grownups who make stupid choices, and there are grownups who end up incredibly fortunate. It's sort of like the lottery, I guess. But the happiest grownups, to me, seem to be the ones who always remember to play. So while you get told you're mature all the time (I take full credit, thank you), don't worry about being the mature kid. Make responsible choices, educational mistakes, and, through it all, have some fun.
I love you. Thank you for being my daughter and remembering to call me every once in awhile to yell at me to clean my room.