I can’t believe it! Today is your 13th birthday! I know you’ve heard Mom and I say it before, but time certainly has gone by fast.
It seems like only yesterday when Mom told me that I was going to become a father again. At the time we didn’t know if you were going to be a boy or a girl, and we made sure the doctors never told us – we wanted it to be surprise.
Maybe it was because of the anticipation, but those 9 months took forever to pass, and the final days before you were born seemed to be the longest. Mom went to the hospital a few days early to make sure everything went well, and your sister and I stayed home and kept up our daily routine of school and work.
Finally, on Tuesday morning, the doctor said it was time.
The day you were born, PD1 went to stay with Grandma and Far Far, and I went to the hospital to be with you and Mom. After a long day, you finally joined us sometime around 7p.m. and I became “Dad” to my second daughter. I’d never been so happy in my life!
The next morning PD1 came to meet you for the first time – it was a moment that I will never forget. As she came into the room, you were quiet and very aware looking at all of us and probably trying to figure out what was going on. PD1, who brought you a small stuffed animal - your first present - wasn’t quite sure of who this new girl was. She looked at you a little suspiciously and we had to convince her that it was ok to hold you! We all thought both of you were very cute together.
We’ve often talked about those early months with you PD2 and sometimes I’ve felt a little bad about how we’ve teased you about being so colicky. Yes, at times the crying was difficult, but what has gotten lost in this story is how close we became to you during those times. You see, Mom and I had to work out a schedule to take care of you since we both were working, and you didn’t sleep very much before waking up. This arrangement resulted in one of my most treasured memories as a father.
Every night, Mom would go to bed early and I would stay up to give you your last feeding. It was during these times PD2, that I had the most wonderful moments with you. The family room, quiet except for the sounds of a “Rockford Files” rerun on TV, was where you and I would sit in the Lay Z Boy chair and rock quietly while I gave you a bottle before bed time. It was a simple thing, and I know it doesn’t sound like much now, but the magic of those quiet moments with my new-born daughter was incredibly special.
This experience taught me something about life that I hope you will learn as you grow and mature. In life, the big events that you expect to form the base of most of your memories often turn out to fall a bit short of your expectations, while the quiet moments that you share with your loved ones sneak up and remain imprinted on your memory forever. This is what happened to me, and I’m grateful that I have this memory of time with you.
So, today my youngest daughter turns 13. This is an important moment in your life PD2, because it is more than the simple passing of another year. Today, you officially begin to leave your childhood behind and start on the road to becoming a young woman. To be sure, it is an exciting moment, but it is also one that we need to stop and recognize for all its importance. In the book of your life, you are about to begin a new chapter and what you write in these ensuing pages is entirely up to you.
So I wanted to mark this moment for you with my thoughts, and hopefully some pearls of wisdom that you can consider. You see, as a teenager, you need to start thinking about your life, about what type of woman you will become, and what mark you want to leave on this world. You are an extraordinarily lucky young lady. God has given you life and blessed you with free will. He has seen to it that you have all the advantages one could pray for in this world. These circumstances are a blessing, but they also are a challenge. To those in whom much is given, much is also expected, and you have been given so much.
Your intelligence is unequaled. I know there are people in this world that may have a higher IQ, but your intelligence is special. You are a quick learner and your wit brings with it the ability to leave people laughing at a moment’s notice. This gift is special, because it presents you with a unique challenge. You can choose to use your intelligence to help you do the minimum work required to meet expectations, or you can use it to explore your world, and help you make connections that others never even have the opportunity to see. My dream for you is to find the joy in hard work and deep introspection, to recognize that there is so much to see and learn, and for you to revel in the discoveries that you will undoubtedly make.
Your personality is infectious and you make friends easily. PD2, I’ve always been amazed at how quickly you can integrate into a group and make friends with virtually anyone. Perhaps this is partly because as the second child you’ve always had to try a little harder to keep up in our competitive family. Whatever the reason, it is a talent that few people share, and as you build your confidence and leadership skills I know that you will find ways of using this talent to help others see not only your wonderful personality, but also the insights and knowledge that you have gained in this world with your intelligence.
You are sensitive. Mom says that you are, like her, an empath, and this is undoubtedly true. Time and time again we’ve seen you demonstrate an uncommon sensitivity to the emotions and feelings of others. This is one of the things that make you most special.
The next few years, PD2, will be very important in your life. You will experience moments of great challenge, the disappointment of failure and the thrill of great success. This is the natural course of life. Your job is to take these challenges on, and no matter what the outcome, make sure that you always learn from each experience and that you never give up. Perseverance, PD2, is the key to success in this world.
More than most young ladies, I believe that you are well equipped to handle the challenges of being a teenager. You already have built a solid sense of who you are, what you believe in, and you have developed a moral sensibility that will help guide you to making good decisions. For this reason, I want to challenge you to follow your heart! So many teens are led astray because they want to fit in and be popular. Sadly, in doing so they miss a key point of life; our differences are what make the world such a wonderful place! Standing out as an individual and contributing those talents and thoughts that make us special is not always easy, but it is always rewarding.
As a teenager it is important that you begin to find your way in life and as you do, that you hone your talents and build your confidence so that as an adult you can master anything that life will throw at you. Above all remember to thank God for your blessings and help those who are less fortunate. Doing so takes a strong sense of purpose, courage and confidence. I know that you will find joy in your growing freedom, purpose in your growing responsibility, and that you will learn that you have the strength to live your life with dignity and grace.
Of course, you are not alone on this adventure PD2, and you never will be. Always remember that Mom, PD1 and I love you, and that we 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.
There is another thing I need to tell you, and this is exactly what I told your sister when she became a teenager three years ago. 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. Too many people 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.
In the coming years as life’s temptations come to you, remember this distinction and choose wisely.
So welcome to the teenage world PD2! Mom and I look at you with such pride knowing that you have already accomplished so much in life, and at seeing what a wonderful young lady you are becoming. It is with great love that I wish you “Happy Birthday” today, and it is with great excitement that I look forward to watching you become a young woman over the next few years.