To My Daughter on her 18th Birthday

Marley turns 18 today. My last born child. My daughter. My baby. My love.

Marley Graduation Party Invite.1

I’ve been thinking about this piece for a while. How do I express my overwhelming and undying love for this amazing, strong, independent, brilliant, beautiful, free-spirited, unique girl? No. Woman.

I wonder of course how it got here so quickly. How the long early days of motherhood I never thought would end could so suddenly turn into years that were over in the blink of an eye. And even more importantly I wonder, “Did I do enough? Was I the best mother I could be for her?” I tried (I really did), but I’m not sure the answer is yes.

The story I tell most often about her is about a time I was putting her to bed after an especially difficult day when she was three-and-a-half. “We had a really hard day today. What happened?” I asked her.

“Well,” she said to me, “that’s because you wanted me to do what you wanted me to do. And what Dad wanted me to do. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do what I wanted to do.”

And that is when I knew it was over for me. How could I possibly be a good enough mother to this strong-willed contrarian, who is by far the smartest person in the house at the age of three-and-a-half? I mean, sure. A lot of three-and-a-half year olds probably feel this way, but how many can actually express it at that age?

Yes, she is my challenge. But oh how I love her for this – her spirit. Her strength. Her I’m-right-you’re-wrong-take-no-prisoners attitude (okay, maybe I don’t always love that). Many of the things about her that make her hard to parent are the very things about her that will make her an awesome adult. I’ve said (many times) more than once, “She’s going to be an amazing adult if we make it through her teenage years.” And look, we did! (At least the hard part.) She is officially an awesome, amazing adult.

She’d make a great writer if she wanted to be a writer. (Please don’t be a writer, Marley. It’s so torturous.) I’ve been looking through an old journal to find some of the things she’s said and found these: One night when she was eight and I was putting her in the bath she said to me, “I feel as tired as a baseball that’s been thrown a thousand times.” Another time she had just brushed her hair and said, “I brushed out that rat’s nest, but the rat fought.” (Okay, maybe she should be a writer.)

Marley sassay

She fights for the underdog. Her heart bleeds for the under-represented. She stands up for what she believes in. She will not back down. When she was 16 she organized a protest march making me more proud than I’ve ever been. She cannot wait until November so she can finally vote.

She is direct. Intense. She’ll tell you exactly what she thinks. And yet, she has a sweetness that doesn’t just touch my heart, it grabs onto it hard, making it feel like it just might explode. She tells me to come look at the sunset when it’s especially beautiful. She sends me funny texts. She always thanks me for dinner, for giving her a ride (before she could drive herself), for buying her something unexpected.

She is smart. Oh, so smart. And I know that’s something everyone says about their kids, but truly. She is smarter than me (by far). Smarter than her father (who, ask anyone who knows him, is a really smart guy). And smarter than her brother (who is currently attending Berkeley). When something interests her, she knows everything about it. When she applies herself there is no limit to what she can do.

She is tenacious. (And yes, stubborn.) When she wants something she digs her heels in and will not back down. (See above in difficult-to-parent child becomes awesome adult.)

She is quick-witted and funny and sarcastic. (Unlike me who is slow-witted and funny and sarcastic.) When she was a toddler instead of saying the word ‘hilarious’ she would say ‘the larriest’. (That’s the larriest!). The larriest is forever in our family vernacular. (A friend of mine says I should trademark it.)  I hope that I have taught her the importance of laughter, because I truly do believe it is the best medicine.

She loves music and appreciates the heart-piercing beauty of a perfect lyric. She told me that her goal for the year is to go to one concert a month. That melted my music-loving heart. (Maybe I have been a good enough mother.)

They say be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. I wished for a daughter and I got Marley. And I thank the universe for letting me be her mother. How wonderful to be challenged, to look at the world from a different perspective, to know someone so special, so unique.

Happy 18th Birthday, Marley. I love you to the moon and back times infinity.

Marley 1st grade

To My Firstborn On His 18th Birthday

Chandler turns 18 today. My firstborn child. My son. My baby. My man.

And probably like every mother before and after me whose firstborn turns 18, I think to myself, “How did this  happen so quickly?” Yet at the same time the day he came into this world seems so long ago. But whether it was a the blink of an eye (oh, it was, it was) or a lifetime (it was that too), it’s here, his first day of official adulthood and whatever I write about him, about the privilege of being his mother, will not nearly be worthy.

How do I express the love I feel for my firstborn? How wonderful and special and sublime he is? How he’s made me a better person? The words fall short. I am not a good enough writer to string together the proper words to articulate my undying love for this boy. (Or rather, this man.)

It is simply not enough to say that I love him for his uniqueness. I love him because he doesn’t follow the crowd. He stands up for the little man. He understands that the world is unfair, but it still often personally offends him. (Oh how I adore his bleeding liberal heart.)

He loves to hike and to run and to be outdoors. He wears a size 13 shoe, but strives to make his carbon footprint small, minuscule.

He’s quiet, but funny, so funny in the smartest way. He is thoughtful and kind, though his sister may tell you differently. But even with her, his greatest foe, I’ve witnessed acts of generosity and encouraging words when needed.

I believe Chandler’s best quality, and one that will serve him well in life, is his tenacity. The first time I really remember noticing this was on his 7th birthday. I took him roller skating after school with some friends. He fell and he fell and he fell and he fell. (I skated with him and considered it quite an accomplishment that he never pulled me down with him!) I thought he would cry and give up and say that skating was stupid. Instead he looked up at me and said, “That was so much fun! Can we have my birthday party here?” I see that same tenacity when he runs. When he studies. When he wants to play Monopoly over winter break and none of the rest of us do. He doesn’t give up. He’s all in.

He told me over the weekend that he’s not quite ready to turn 18. He wishes he could be 17 again. (Oh, I do too!) This surprised me because he’s been pushing away lately. He says he can’t wait to go away to college, the farther the better. (I really shouldn’t have taught him to do his laundry. I should have made him need me more.) But it also warmed my heart to know that as much as he wants to go, part of him very much wants to stay.

And I think to myself, if I could freeze time, which part would I freeze? Would it be when he was a baby and I would hold him in my arms for hours on end unable to get enough of his baby smell? Or when he was a toddler and we would snuggle in his bed every night to read Shel Silverstein and Good Night Moon? Or that between stage of toddler and boy when he would kiss me like this:

Mother-son-kiss
This will forever be my favorite picture of us

Would I freeze the days we taught him to ride his bike or that first day roller skating or the first time I saw him perform with the band in middle school? The first time I watched him win a race. When we taught him to drive? (No, definitely not then!)

Which moments were the most precious? The most special? The best?

All of them of course. I couldn’t choose just one if I were able to, which of course I’m not. (Otherwise I’d be forever 36. Seriously, forget 29, 36 was my year!) All I can do is stand back and admire my son and the man he has become.

Thank you, Chandler for making my life so much better, richer, more meaningful. I am so proud of the man you have become. I am so humbled and honored to be your mother.

Happy Birthday son.