My daughter is 18 today.
I’ve been a mom for 18 years.
And that is definitely an adventure!
Our daughter went and grew up while I wasn’t looking. Okay, I was looking. I’m always looking. They don’t call me their #1 stalker for no reason.
I prefer to call myself their #1 fan.
It’s just that she grew up and it seriously went by so freaking fast.
This sweet baby girl who turned our world upside down, but actually turned it right side up. This sweet baby girl taught me so many things. She’s taught her dad a lot too. This man who was still a baby himself and was suddenly faced with being someone’s daddy.
We always say we are our children’s first teachers, but our children really are teaching us. They teach us to love unconditionally, to laugh when you want to scream, to feel someone else’s joy, pain and excitement as if it were our own. Our children also teach us to be humble and eat our words. Like “my kid is never going to ______”. Go ahead, fill in the blank. Every new parent has their own word or phrase that their sweet baby/toddler/teenager has forced them to eat.
And they teach us to worry. And what real fear is like. Every time they fall down or run a high fever or when they don’t call us back right away and we automatically assume something terrible has happened. Or when you get a phone call that starts out with, “Okay, mom…I don’t want you to freak out…”
And they teach us about pride. When we look at their faces. No I mean, really stop and look. Holy crap, do I feel proud.
And the mistakes. Oh man! Our children teach us to apologize too. I’ve made a lot of parenting mistakes. And I apologize often for losing my mind over crumbs and spilled milk. For focusing on what more they could be doing, how much harder they could be working. For not putting their wet towels away or their dishes in the dishwasher. When I forget to notice that sweet note they wrote me or the kind gesture to a friend who needed a smile or the way they randomly washed the dishes (ha…just kidding they never do that).
But I have noticed. I’ve been noticing for 18 years.
Dear Emilee Nicole,
I’ve noticed all your moments. I’ve photographed the heck out of them and I’ve literally always been your #1 fan.
I noticed when you beamed that first smile, uttered your first word “uh oh”, and when you took your first precarious steps.
I noticed your cute little bald head and when people would ask if you were a boy. Even in a dress and with those pierced ears.
I noticed your perfect blonde curls when you finally grew hair and that crazy bed head in the mornings.
I noticed when you read your first book at 3 (you actually memorized the stories and read them with such animation). The Three Little Bears and Are You My Mother were your favorites. You loved books. I hope that you always love books.
I noticed how you loved to dress up and sing and dance. I wish we still had that video of you doing your “Little Bunny Foo Foo” routine.
I noticed how you loved your hair to be perfect. Ok, maybe that was me and all the crazy hairstyles I put your curls through. All those soccer games we had to rush to because the ponytail wasn’t perfect.
I noticed how picky of an eater you were. The days of chicken noodle soup and fruit snacks. And the one food battle that I lost because you threw up and it was then that I decided it wasn’t worth it and that you wouldn’t starve to death.
I noticed when you went off to that first day of kindergarten with your “take charge, I run this show” attitude. You conquered school in your bossy, wise beyond your years way.
I noticed when you put on that first tutu for ballet and those first shin guards and cleats for soccer. And every ball you stole and goal you scored.
I noticed how much you love your family…even when we are driving you crazy by asking too many questions or being embarrassing. And how you love the dogs (sometimes it’s from a distance like me). I get it…they smell like dogs.
I noticed when you stopped wearing glasses and when your cute front teeth were fixed by that first round of braces.
I noticed how you loved routine and hated big changes or surprises. Your reaction to the infamous Disney World surprise was priceless.
I noticed how you practically invented the selfie and how creative you’ve always been. I noticed when you began to film your videos. “Pants on the ground” will always be iconic.
I noticed how you weren’t afraid to be silly and laugh at yourself. That’s important. Don’t ever be afraid to be yourself. And smile and laugh often.
I noticed when you jumped out of the car and walked into the middle school for the first time and I cried as a I drove away because you needed me just a little bit less.
I noticed how you love to argue. Your passion for what is right is a gift. Just remember your mom is always right (just kidding…refer to above and me being wrong often). Okay, so my advice is to admit when you’re wrong and to apologize and forgive easily.
I noticed when you first jumped off the rocks in Grand Coulee. Of course I noticed…I couldn’t have ignored the racing heart and anxiety.
I noticed when you stood up in front of your peers and read your lines like nobody’s business during the 8th grade Veteran’s Day assembly and when you walked across the stage at recognition ready to take on high school.
I noticed when you struggled to navigate the emotion of not making the high school soccer team and when you decided that high school wasn’t your thing. You got lost in the crowd and didn’t find your niche.
I noticed when you drove off in your car for the first time by yourself. You have no idea how much worry has occurred since then…
I noticed when you started putting yourself out there and making new friends (and reconnecting with the one who’s been there the longest). The kind of friends that are worthy of you. The real, honest, loyal friends. The ones you should always surround yourself with.
I noticed how loyal you are. Everyone needs a friend like you.
I noticed how you’ve been a role model for your brother. Sibling love is special. It’s important that you are always there for each other.
I noticed when you found your first love. He’s such a great guy and you two are adorable. You waited until you found someone worth your time. You deserve that and you will ALWAYS deserve that.
I noticed when you left for your first day of Running Start and when for the first time in a long time you found your passion for learning.
I’ve noticed how you’ve grown up into a beautiful young woman. How you are humble and gracious and kind and so very intelligent. You know that this world needs more love and less hate and I have no doubt that you will leave a positive mark on this planet…you already have.
Go on, my grown-up daughter, and conquer this world. Be brave. Be confident. Be kind. Be adventurous (but not stupid). Dream big and work hard.
Just remember that we will always be here for you.
Love you more,