It seems as though we have these same conversations every day, every week, every year.
Same sentence. Difference reason.
“I’m not a little girl anymore,” she said and looked me in the eye, daring me, I think, to tell her again to remember to wear her seat belt and not drive fast as she walked out the door. I closed my eyes and took a slow, deep breath, a breath of realization that she was right. She wasn’t a little girl anymore.
And I was sad.
Two weeks ago our son turned 20. As if that wasn’t eye-opening enough, now our daughter is turning 17. My sweet baby girl is 17.
You smelled so good, like baby lotion and clean linen. You were barely a day old and they brought you to me early in the morning. Your daddy wasn’t there yet, gone home to check on your big brother, all of three years old. It was just you and me. My new baby girl.
The nurse brought you in, settling your little bed next to mine. You were asleep, and for what seemed like a long time I just watched you breathe. Your little fingers balled up in a tiny fist next to your nose, a soft fuzz of honey colored hair covering your perfect little head. Tiny ears.
Tiny nose. Tiny fingers and toes. Ten of each … I counted.
And I was afraid. I will admit it. I was afraid for a brief moment, not knowing if I could be a girl mama. I’d never done it before. Until now, the favorite picture book at our house had been “I Can Name 100 Trucks” — dump trucks, fire trucks, garbage trucks …
“If she is a girl, then she will like ballerinas and she will like pink,” your brother said and patted my bulging belly not long before you were born. We didn’t know what you were, but I suspected.
And three weeks later, there you were. I remember thinking about so many things I would try my best to teach you. To be good to yourself and to other people. To set goals and not be afraid of the hard work it takes to meet them. To surround yourself with good, honest people and to not let the ones who aren’t make a difference in your life. To be a good friend.
To stay positive even when it’s hard. To treat other people like you’d want to be treated.
To be fair and respectful. To stick to your beliefs and stay true to your heart. To not be afraid to go against the crowd. To respect yourself.
To laugh and have fun and smile every day, even if it means sometimes smiling through heartache. To know that heartache will come, but it will fade. To be cautious, to be loyal, to be brave. To know you are smart and you strong and you are beautiful.
To love God and to share his love for you. To love your family and know that you can always come home. To know that no matter what you do or say, you will be cherished and loved.
Now you are 17. You are all that your father and I had hoped you would be, and so much more. And on top of all of it, you’re a senior in high school. Please forgive me if I cry. Because I will.
You’re not a little girl anymore, but your brother was right. You are a ballerina and you do like pink. Imagine that.
Happy birthday, baby girl.
Email columnist Mandy Flynn at email@example.com.