Thirteen years old today! I can’t believe how quickly time goes by. I still remember so vividly the day you came into your Mom’s and my life. We had been married for seven years when we found out that our first child was going to be born. Trips to the doctor, the ultrasound, Lamaze classes it was such an exciting time, filled with hope and love for our first child. Then came
It was a cold, rainy day. Your Mom and I were so excited that we already had made a couple of trips to the hospital on what turned out to be “false alarms”. It was a long wait, and we had gone to the hospital the night before. I was so nervous on the drive there that I had a couple near accidents, and I committed several traffic violations on the way.
April 10th was a long day in the hospital. Nurses came in and out monitoring you, and at times it seemed like the wait would never end. Then, at around 7p.m, came the moment we had been anticipating for so long. Our beautiful daughter entered the world, with all the grace and good nature that we’ve long since come to expect from you. I wish you could have seen your eyes. I will never forget them, so blue and so aware, looking from Mom to me and back again, almost as if you were trying to figure out what had just happened, and who these strange new people were. Your birthday was truly magical for both of us.
Now, 13 years and already a lifetime of memories later, we’re celebrating your birthday; a special birthday, because today you become a teenager. There can be no mistake, turning 13 is more than just another year in your life; it is a milestone. Today, as you become a teenager, you are taking your first step away from childhood and starting the journey to becoming an adult.
There are so many things that I want to say to you, and my thoughts overwhelm me. Many will tell you the teenage years are tough and uncomfortable. You will be challenged as never before, and will experience great joys, as well as great disappointments. This is undoubtedly true, but it is also true of life. So as you begin your journey it is important to remember that these next few years will prepare you for life. This is what becoming an adult is all about. Finding your way in life, learning to overcome your disappointments, celebrating your successes, and above all thanking God for your blessings.
I think some people look back on their teen years, with mixed emotions because they had these experiences for the first time, and for that reason found them to be very intense. My hope for you is that you find joy in your growing freedom, and learn that you have the strength to live your life with grace. If so, you will hold your teenage years dear for the wonder that they will bring you. Always remember that your Mom, sister and I love you, and will always be there to share in your life and support you. Let us help you and guide you. We may not always be right, but we will always be honest and loving.
The next years hold so much for you. You’ll graduate from upper school, begin high school, and then go to college. You will make new friends, leave some old friends behind, fall in love, fall out of love, and fall in love again.
You will also be challenged intellectually, socially, and athletically to perform and demonstrate to the world what you are capable of. So many kids run from these challenges and in doing so think that they have found an easier path. In the end though, they only cheat themselves of the thrill of discovering talents they never knew they had. So I will give you your first challenge. Take the hard road. Embrace life’s challenges with all your heart. Discover your full ability and then revel in the thrill of the victory that I know you will achieve.
There is another thing I need to tell you, and this is very important. The years ahead, indeed the rest of your life, will be filled with temptation. You are lucky to live in a world where God has given you free will. You will decide what you want to be, who you want to marry, where you want to live. You will also be faced with real choices between good and bad, and it will be important to choose wisely. Your life or lives of others may even depend on it.
To help you I can provide some advice. I have found in my life that those who make bad choices failed to distinguish between pleasure and happiness. Understanding the difference can help serve as a guide in life. Pleasure is something that provides a physical sensation; a glass of wine, buying a new car, taking a drug. Happiness is a much deeper feeling. It cannot be achieved by these things, but rather only by doing what truly touches your inner soul.
Pleasure will always seek you, either through advertising, a friend, or even someone who doesn’t wish you well. Happiness requires you to find it. Pleasure is cheap, you experience it, and it goes away. Happiness is work, you pursue it, achieve it and it remains.
I don’t mean to suggest that pleasure is bad, because at the right time, in the right place, in the right amount, it surely will add to your life. It should not, however, become the goal of your existence. Sadly, too many fail to recognize this and end up in an endless search for fulfillment because they never chose to accept the challenge of first finding their own inner voice.
So, in the coming years as life’s temptations come to you, remember this distinction and choose wisely.
Mom and I are so proud of the young lady that you already have become. It fills our hearts with great joy to watch as you display with such ease the confidence, kindness and maturity that everyone who knows you finds so endearing.
God has blessed you.
You are a natural leader.
Because of your respect for others and your innate goodness, your peers return your respect and look up to you for direction. Remember to use this blessing to choose responsibly and to watch out for those less fortunate than yourself.
You are a natural athlete.
Your love for competition is infectious – it excites and inspires others. So many times in your young life Mom and I witnessed how you have elevated your team’s level of play just through your spirit, enthusiasm and talent.
You are intelligent.
You have a good head on your shoulders and you know how to use it. In many ways I see myself in you. While intelligent, learning isn’t always a snap for you. Like me, you have to work for your academic success. Have confidence in your intelligence, and embrace this great blessing. Like me you are learning at a young age how to work for what you want. This is called mental toughness and it will be invaluable to you as you get older.
You are conscientious and diligent.
You work hard at everything, and we all know that if something needs to get done, you’re the person we go to.
You are beautiful.
A natural beauty, your looks reveal your positive spirit. Mom always told you to “make your own sunshine”. You not only make your own, but there is plenty left over for the rest of us to enjoy as well.
So today you are a teenager! It is a wonderful moment in time for all of us. In the next few years you will be stepping out into the world and beginning the first steps of making your way. I’m so excited for you and so very proud. Mom and I cannot wait to see where you go, and what you do with your life. No matter what you choose, we will always be there with love, admiration, and pride, wildly cheering you on – and you know how Mom loves to cheer!