I’m not totally thrilled about either one.
They have some things in common, because Caroline and I are, as a friend once said about me and my mother, an amoeba that split in half. (Please do not get scientifically technical on me. I’m just repeating it because it’s descriptive.)
First of all, they’re both big numbers. Caroline’s becoming a teenager and I am, in a really good-case scenario, hitting midlife smack in the face. Second of all, there are hormones involved in both cases. Third of all, we both want a big party. I particularly want wine and chocolate because they’re what I gave up for Lent.
But there are so many differences. I’m pretty sure I’m smarter now than I was five years ago. And Caroline at 13 is not who I was at 13 (thank you, God, for miracles large and small) and she’s an awesome kid.
However, as she moves full-throttle into the teen years, there are a few bits of almost-45-year-old wisdom I’d like to shout at her fleeing back:
- Sometimes life sucks.
- Sometimes life is flat-out awesome.
- Handle both occasions with grace and humility and a sense of humor. When life sucks, your character grows in leaps and bounds. When life is easy and good, your character is relaxing in a lawn chair with a margarita.
- That character – how you act when no one’s looking and you’re not going to be held accountable – defines you more than your grades, first-place trophies, your clothes or your friends ever could. Take good care of it.
- It doesn’t matter what your body looks like. It matters what your body can do.
- If you love yourself, others will want to be around you. Including boys. (So I guess don’t love yourself too much.)
- If your friends talk unkindly behind someone’s back, they’re doing it to you. If they lie to other people, they lie to you. Trust me. This is always true.
- Big boobs are a pain in the ass. Again, trust me.
- Don’t start coloring your hair because your dark roots will eventually become like tiny little ninja bosses yelling at you every time you look in the mirror. (Okay, this one's more about me. But just don’t start. Embrace “dirty blonde” from day one.)
- Life, at the end of the day, is fun right now. Love it. Love your friends and your health and your family and your sports and your room and your books and your dog. Revel in it and soak it up. You’re about to get launched into teenagerhood (see numbers one and two) so enjoy the calm before the storm.
And all you have to do is remember that 13 years ago I fell in love with you, with more love than I even thought existed in the universe, and it’s only grown stronger. It gets stronger every day, and 97% of what I do and say comes from that love. The rest of it is just petty because you’re pushing my buttons.
Happy birthday, sweet girl. If we don’t talk for a couple of years, I’ll see you on the other side.