A Letter to My Daughter on Her 17th Birthday

How can 17 years have passed so quickly?

When you were born, it seemed so far away…these teenage days, these wrapping-up years where adulthood is right around the corner. Oh, everyone says it as you hold your newborn close, press your cheek to that tiny downy head:

“Enjoy these days now, because before you know it she’ll be grown.”

EveryMother OfaTeen

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdayI heard it all the time back then, from mothers of children who seemed impossibly grown at the time. And I tried, I really did. I tried my best to wrap myself around those days and to savor each little moment, every kiss and nursery rhyme and even the seventh reading of Goodnight, Moon. In those days, it seemed impossible that you’d one day be as tall as I. That you would be planning out your life, this whole world open ahead of you, and those days of finger paint and dandelion wishes would be a part of the past.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdayAnd the mothers of your friends and I, we sit around the table with our hands cupped around the warmth of a mug of coffee and and we say, “Nobody warned me about how hard it would be to have them grow up.” Because despite all the “Enjoy it nows”  and the way we tried to slow down time we still feel the sting of how quickly it’s gone by, and nobody really came right out and said how truly hard it would be. How you’ve not understood what bittersweet means until you’ve been the mother of young adults.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdayOnly now I know there’s no way to really say it, when you’re actually there. Because all the words, they blend into this Big Feeling that washes over you and all the years flow so quickly and suddenly you realize, it’s all so true. Before you know it. And all you can manage to get past the lump in your throat as you hold that new baby and remember when it was you embarking fresh on the journey of motherhood is that silly little cliché, “before you know it.”

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdaySo all you can manage to say is, enjoy this. Enjoy these tiny hands, this silken cheek. Enjoy the toothless grin that breaks out like sunshine each and every time she sees you at the side of the crib. Enjoy the sticky fingers wrapped around yours, the belly laughs, the wisp of hair caught up in a tiny bow. These are blessings, these are pieces of the sacred, fragments of Love gifted to us daily behind the painted doors of an advent calendar, counting down the days.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdayEnjoy the nights spent rocking, the fevered blur of days spent with a sick toddler, the tantrum thrown and the vase broken. Enjoy the mess of books and stray socks and building blocks strewn halfway-to-heaven, the artwork in black pen on the kitchen cabinets, the spelling test failed and the birthday party invite that everyone but your child got. These are sacred, too.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthday

These are the places where a mother breaks apart from the tedium and exhaustion and never-endingness of it all. These are the places her own heart breaks when her child’s does, when she dries the last little tear and then closes the door to cry her own. The places that you heal together, they’re the places where you end up the strongest. {Click to Tweet} One day, you will laugh at this. One day you’ll see where God made the both of you better in the hard times, I promise.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthdayNobody tells you how much joy it is, either. When you say you’ve got three teenagers, people roll their eyes and tell you they’ll say a prayer for you and laugh. “Better you than me,” they say. The stereotype attached to these years runs strong and it’s a shame, it’s a crying shame that the expectations are so low. {Click to Tweet} Because child? I have loved these teen years too. I love the way you make me laugh, the way we laugh so hard at the witty things you say. I love our talks and how you are such good company, and nobody told me how much you’ll learn from your own nearly-grown kids. Yes, there have been hard days. But there always will be, the hard is just a part of love in a broken world. Where we go wrong is in expecting it to be easy.

a letter to my daughter on her 17th birthday

I love the way your heart for God comes first, they way that you stand strong in the face of what the world throws at you. I love the way that even when your heart breaks, you hold on to the fact that sometimes doing the right thing makes you feel left out and left behind but oh, my girl…how God in Heaven smiles with pride when He sees His daughter’s faith. How He loves the woman you’re becoming.

And oh, how I do too.

All my love,





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