Sunday, June 26, 2016

To My Daughter, On Her 16th Birthday

Dear Daughter,

Your birthday is probably my most favorite day of the year! The day that you were born, I quickly realized that my life was no longer my own. You became the reason for my sleepless nights, my desire of caffeine and my desperate need for Nickelodeon! But it was much more than that.

They say a parent is a person who brings up and cares for another.  For the past 16 years, I have been “Ma Ma”, “Mommee”, “Mommy”, “Mom”, and probably a few others that we just won’t say out loud. But you have also been my parent. It’s true. You have brought me up and you have cared for me and loved your little heart out, especially in my weakest moments. 

You have given me more love and loyalty than I ever expected or ever felt I deserved. “I did not give you the gift of life. Life gave me the gift of you.” You hear me in my silence, it’s one of the greatest gifts you have ever given me. 

As my little girl, you quickly became my motivation for moving forward, especially when it seemed easier to run and hide. I went back to school when you were barely four years old. There were times when I did not have a babysitter and I would  take you with me to class. You would sit in classes with me at the University of Houston and as I learned about literature, government and history, I also learned about sacrifice, patience, and endurance. We would get stares of “Oh My God Becky...” but we would also get stares of respect and quiet understanding.

You taught me when to stand up and fight and when to sit down in silent protest. When the school you were zoned to attend did not meet my expectations or your needs, I found another school. When Black History Month was skipped at your elementary school, I spoke up until it was changed. When there was no girl scout troop near us, I stepped up, and became a leader. And when you wanted to straighten your precious curly coils, I stood by silently accepting your individuality; and maybe shed a tear or two. When you thought an orange tutu was the perfect color to wear with your teal shirt and pink shoes, I nodded in agreement. And when you thought Barney was the greatest thing since sliced bread, well, I loved you and you loved me, and we were as happy as could be. 

We have always been a team. For a while there, it was you and I against the world and we took it on with music in our hearts. But then I met your Dad. And you loved him because I loved him and that made me love you even more. And then we toured the world! And you were the most famous puff ball pig tails little girl in all of Japan! We moved a lot. We settled down in a lot places that were not our home, But we quickly learned that home was wherever we could all be together. We faced deployments, we traveled, we defeated boredom, together. And when I was at my weakest, when I faced incredible losses, you were at your strongest. You reminded me of all of the great things in life I already had. You. 

Every year that you celebrate a birthday, I don’t want time to slow down as most parents typically do. Instead, I want to see as much as I can, while I’m able to enjoy it and able to share it with you. I think about how much you are growing and how lucky I am to witness such a beautiful soul’s existence. I am so incredibly proud of you. The words just do not exist to express to you how very proud I am of you. I am so honored to be your Mother. I am so humbled by the young lady that you have become, I am so honored that I had anything to do with the beautiful human being (inside and out) that you are.
As your parent, flaws and all, I love you. I love you because you taught me more than I could ever teach you. And hopefully one day, a long, long time from now (I’m talking decades here), you will have a little bundle of joy that teaches you, what I would not have learned without you. You are enough, you are loved, you are valued, appreciated and adored. You are one of the best things that has ever happened to me (and your dads). From the moment I heard your heart beating inside of me, I knew that I had found an endless love. 

Thank you for the past 16 years and all of the things that you have taught me like,

  1.  Encouragement
  2. Laughter
  3.  Motivation
  4. Acceptance
  5. Beauty
  6.  Happiness
  7.  Grace
  8. Love
  9. Courage
  10. Strength
  11. Hope
  12. Sacrifice
  13. Growth
  14. Fun
  15. Unselfishness
  16. Forgiveness

And in return, my 16 years’ worth of advice to you (some borrowed, some original) is:

  1.  It doesn’t have to be fixed today.
  2. You can do anything, but not everything.
  3. Everyone has a chapter that they do not read out loud.
  4. Don’t stay angry.
  5. Silence is an answer too.
  6. Whoever is trying to bring you down, is already beneath you.
  7. You are a survivor. You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it. 
  8. Be graceful, have dignity and hold your head up high.
  9. Love (Again).
  10.  Remember you have the blood of the strongest most courageous people, running through your veins.
  11. Dance out of rhythm, sing out of tune, and laugh at yourself, because it isn’t supposed to be that serious.
  12. Be a Gardner.
  13. Don't be ashamed of your story, it will inspire others.
  14. Quit Second Guessing.
  15. Family is your anchor.
  16. I will always be here with you, even when I’m not.
Thank you for the memories thus far. Thank you for tolerating me, for dancing with me, for singing off key with me at the top of our lungs! For letting me embarrass you, for all of your giggles, and your “Mom, please stop, don’t, no!” warnings when I was in danger of going just a tiny bit too far. Thank you for our date nights, our late nights, our moments of silent understandings. Thank you for your quirkiness, your awesome sarcasm, and your quick wit. Thank you most of all for loving me and teaching me how to love you.

Happy Sweet 16, you’ve already done so much, yet you’re just getting started.


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