Dear Daisy Mae,
Today, you are 18 years old.
I have to say that again.
Today, You Are 18 Years Old!
I'm knocked out by what a bright, confident, beautiful young woman you are becoming. I look at you today, and in place of the awkward, rebellious teen who entered my life four years ago, I see a young lady who can conduct herself in a fancy restaurant, who can plan a dinner party for a dozen friends, who can gracefully help her grandfather in and out of a wheelchair, without making him feel out of place.
In place of the recalcitrant middle-schooler, who would routinely use phrases like, "Mom! I'm passing! Get off my back!", I see a young scholar who has dreams and goals and who takes personal offense when her best efforts don't product A's. Who is learning to think before she speaks. Who is learning to question and think critically.
In place of the frightened young girl, who looked across the table and said, "No one will ever marry me. No one will love me. I'm not worth it.", I see someone who has learned to build relationships, to bloom under the attention of a young man who thinks she is beautiful in ways she may never understand, to compromise and to nurture others. Who will fight tooth and nail to protect someone she perceives as powerless, no matter what the cost. And just maybe, who has started to love the person she is. Some women never learn that lesson. Look how far you've come!
You are strong. You are fierce. You are loving.
And still there is a little girl in there. Who still loves Barbie movies and chocolate milk. Who is afraid that there are monsters hiding by the garbage cans at night. Who can't sleep without her favorite blanket and Blue Bear. Who sometimes just wants to be cuddled.
There are some who look at you and who tell your Dad and me, "You've done a great job". But we didn't do this. We just gave you room to become who you really are. You've made good choices. You have chosen to treat your body and your spirit with respect, in a time when so many girls do not. You have chosen to take control of your academics and your career choices. This is all you. Dad and I can encourage (nag), and suggest (nag), and nag (nag), but if you don't believe in your heart that you're doing what's best for you, none of that matters. You have chosen to be successful, and I cannot wait to see the exceptional young woman you will become in the years ahead.
You're not done yet. There's a lot of growing and learning yet to do. But you've come so far, so fast.
And I'm so very, very proud of you.