Because I’m a sappy parent, I believe in writing things down for my daughter. That’s why when she turned seven (though I wish I would have done this much earlier), I started writing her lists of “random thoughts” each year on her birthday. Some of my random thoughts are funny, some are heartfelt, and some are downright ridiculous. But, regardless of how corny or sweet these simple lines are, as I’m writing them they remind me of one important thing—and that’s just how grateful I am to be her mother. As we all know, parenthood is a tough and thankless job, but someday I hope my daughter will read these lines (and hopefully I’ll still be there when she does) and through her laughter and maybe a few tears, she’ll understand why I did the things I did (and why I wasn’t always sane).

So, without any further rambling, here’s my 11 random thoughts for Charley on her 11th birthday:

  • You’re 11. I really can’t believe it. But you still love stuffed animals and I dig this about you. (Even though they literally take up half your bedroom and most of your bed.) This reminds me that even though you’re growing up really fast, there’s still a little girl in there somewhere. This secretly makes me feel a bit relieved (and maybe a little less old).
  • Be on time! You have a horrible model when it comes to this, I know. (Yes, I’m talking about me). I am perpetually late because I constantly try to do too much with too little time. Believe me when I tell you this is inefficient and it does not take away the perception that habitual tardiness is rude. (We should work on this together—starting tomorrow.)
  • Send good thoughts. There will be times when you can do everything right and people still won’t like you or accept you. This is a tough one, but it will be okay. I promise. You can’t always be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s just fine, you don’t need to change for anyone. Instead of being angry, close your eyes and send good vibes to those people who may have hurt you. Chances are they didn’t mean to hurt you, and forgiving them will make you feel better. Plus, if nothing else, sending good thoughts will help you know when it’s truly time to let go.
  • It’s okay to swear—sometimes. Please don’t tell your friends (or their parents) I said this, but I think swearing can be a healthy form of release. Swearing is expressive and, believe it or not, intelligent people do swear. But, here’s the thing—only swear when it’s appropriate. Like when you stub your f*cking toe, or drop your f*cking phone in the f*cking toilet. Also, make sure you never swear when I’m in ear shot, or when your dad is in ear shot, or when your teachers are around, or either of your grandmas, or your friends’ parents … see how this works?
  • Take a breath. You get easily frustrated when things get hard. I understand a thing or two about this even though you don’t think I do. Robert Frost once wrote, “the only way around is through.” I know you’re rolling your eyes at this because I quote dead writers a lot, but take my (and Robert Frost’s) advice—when things get hard the best thing to do is take a breath and power through. Not only is breathing essential, but sometimes it gives you a second to think, and thinking is good. But please make sure you exhale before you charge ahead; if you don’t you’ll just get lightheaded and that’s bad.
  • Listen to nature. The crickets singing, the frogs croaking, the birds chirping, and yes, even the owl hooting are all things that can become background noise when life gets loud. But, if you listen to the simple things in life they just might ground you when you need it the most. (And by “ground” I don’t mean punishing you by taking away your electronics for three whole days.)
  • Write things down. You hate this, but you need to do it. Typing isn’t always the answer. Hold a pen in your hand and put it to paper now and then. There’s something magical about doing things “the old-fashioned way.” No one cares what your handwriting looks like as long as what you write sounds smart.
  • Write yourself a letter. While you’re writing with an actual writing apparatus, occasionally write something only for yourself. Why? Because writing to yourself allows you to see certain situations from the outside in. This gives you perspective, and perspective will help you understand people better. (Okay, I can’t lie, people are hard to figure out, so sometimes writing to yourself is also a good way to vent without looking like a whiner.)
  • Ask your questions. You start a lot of conversations with, “Mom, I have a question.” Sometimes I get annoyed with this, and it’s usually because your questions include something about whether or not I’ll buy you something expensive. But not always. Sometimes you’re just genuinely curious, and then I usually feel like an ass for being annoyed. Please, keep asking me questions and keep talking to me. I’ll always try my best to give you the direction or guidance you need. I might not always have the right answers, but if I don’t we can always ask Alexa or Siri, they seem to know a lot.
  • Yep, you’re still going to college. I told you, this one will make the list every single year until you actually graduate from college, or unless you develop a passion or talent that allows you to earn a really good living—like Taylor Swift.
  • Never forget how much I love you. You were born on Labor Day, and it took eleven whole years for your birthday to come back around and land on this day again. There’s something sentimental about that for me. I sometimes can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember every laborious moment (almost) of the day you were born. Back then I was ill-prepared as to what a beautiful challenge you would be, and I’m still ill-prepared. But I learn so much from you. I know big changes are coming for both of us in the days ahead. I know we might struggle and sometimes fall apart. But, no matter how much we might fight or often we might disagree, you will always be the single most important person in my life. Your smile is worth every sacrifice I have ever made, and will continue to make (and not just because your braces are costing me a small fortune). Life is hard, it’s true, but as long as we have each other, anything is possible.

Happy Birthday, Charley. I love you to the moon and back (like a million times, really).

Love, Mom

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