Your Thirteenth Birthday

[My daughter turns 13 today. Every year, I write her a letter. This one has been slightly modified for the public eye. She gets the original.]

My darling girl,

You’re thirteen. Thirteen! How did that happen, when you were – just a second ago – blowing bubbles and finding fairies in the garden? I feel like life has rushed by us, and I’m still catching up.

But you, you have gone on ahead. You have gone on in courage, and fearless. You have gone on and grown into yourself, as the sweet, caring, thinker of a human being. You care far more than your heart can hold, and it shows in the ways you act, behave, and ask questions. I see your curious mind opening to the world and its possibilities, and my only hope is that I have done enough to give you everything you need for this next giant leap of living.

I know that life has made you tumble in the past, but it’s how we roll with that tumble that truly counts. Tumbles and falls will happen – they’re how we learn – but your approach to them is what will give you the momentum to move forward. You have to keep moving forward, you see, even when you feel like you want to stop. When faced with the desire to quit, learn to rest, not stop. Taking time to rest your mind, and your heart, is imperative for surviving this sometimes-strange world, and if there’s one thing you should never feel bad for, it’s taking a rest for yourself.

It’s during those rest times that you’ll learn more about your own self, how to steel yourself for the hard stuff, and how to soften yourself for the wonders of life. Remember to soften yourself for the wonders of life, but guard against the things that may consume you entirely.

You’ve always known that you have a voice within you, that speaks between your heart and your mind. As you get older, that voice will become louder, stronger, and easier to hear. Listen to it, every single time. Don’t be concerned about what others may think when you do. Walk away from what does not make you joyful and run towards the things that fill you with glee. Whenever you feel the need to question that voice within you, know that it comes from the place of every person in your family who has gone before you. Common parenting wisdom (they teach this in mommy school) states that our inner voice is learnt from the mothers of our family. So, if I learnt mine from my mother, she learnt hers from her mother, and she in turn, learnt her inner voice from her mom. Similarly, Granny’s inner voice came from her mom, and so on. Whenever you hear that inner voice, know that it is not only you who is speaking – it is the army of women who have come before you. You are the next in line in a treasure trove of women who have committed themselves to the things they love. They have protected, nurtured, loved, and supported. They have battled, bruised, fought, and won.

Don’t be afraid of what comes next; but do know that I want to know everything. I have no filter here, and it’s my job to answer questions. Like when Lorelai and Rory have that awkward conversation, I’m here for the awkward conversation. These experiences are yours to own, and yours to remember. But if they do not serve you, they are also yours to leave aside.

Friendships are going to shape you, but don’t be scared to let them go when you do not feel they suit you anymore. You’ve hopped around enough in life to know that you will always find your people, somehow. Some of the people you know now, you will know for the rest of your life. Some people you will meet in this next great leap of life will help you to learn the way towards yourself. Some of the people you will know in this next great leap of life will help you to learn everything you don’t want to know, but that’s okay – let them go quickly, and protect yourself.

The experiences you have in this next great leap are going to shape you for adulthood, but don’t be frightened by that idea. You get to choose which ones to keep for yourself, and which ones to discard. Those are your choices entirely, but if you need help making them, just call 0800-mom.

In this next great leap of life, our relationship is going to change. That’s not a bad thing, at all, but as you untangle the knots of childhood, you’re going to grow more and more away from me, and more and more towards yourself. That’s entirely normal, and natural, and boy is it equal parts interesting and annoying. Remember, however, that as you reach up to the sun with your branches of life and grow up, I am the trunk of the tree you come from. I am there, and immovable. It doesn’t matter what it is, what it feels like, and how it seems – I am the trunk and you can come home to me any time, and every time. I am, I won’t lie, excited for this part. We are lucky in our relationship, because we are a team. I am so excited for it to grow up a little and shape itself around your life as you create and build it. I am grateful for every experience that led us here – including mad Katy Perry dancing in the lounge, every time we must have a chat *lol*, and every single time we have discovered something new. I am excited to learn more about who you are, and who you want to be. You’ll shape, and change your mind, a thousand times over, and that’s okay. Experiment safely, and I’ll teach you how to apply eyeliner without poking your eye out. Okay, it happens a few times, but you’ll learn quickly and get used to it. I haven’t poked my eye with an eyeliner pencil in about 20 years now…and that’s probably some sort of miracle, if you consider my awful coordination.

Consider this part your reminder that, no matter how awful the thing you’re facing is, I will walk into it for you. I am beyond fear when it comes to you, and I will come and get you from anything you need me to. It is my job, and my divine animal right to stand in front of you in the face of danger, and I will do it a million times if I must. If you need me, call/text/send a signal. I said this to you when you turned eleven, and I’ll say it again now:

Whatever it is you need to be, however you need to take on the world and see, as you swim towards the light of life or reach up and unfurl your leaves towards the sun, know that you can always return to me. No backsies-swapsies-or-deals required. I promise to keep every secret, love you past every pain, and forge ahead into life committed to understanding first, and questioning second.

You’re thirteen. Get excited. One of your greatest adventures is about to begin.

This is almost the exact moment where we first meet the Gilmore Girls, in Season 1, Episode 1. Rory, you’re ready. Let’s start the first episode.

I am, forever and a day, and I’m so grateful you chose me to be your mama.

I love you,


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