When my first daughter was less than a month old, I wrote her a letter.
I remember feeling so connected to her, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and I knew it wouldn't last. I knew it would change and shift as she grew. When she was a week or so old, I remember lying down on the couch with her as we listened to Joni Mitchell's Blue album, still one of my favorite albums of all time. It's one of those memories that has stayed clear and crisp throughout the years. It was a moment in time when everything seemed to be in the proper place.
It's a bitter / sweet thing, to love a human so much, and know that to do right by them you will need to step back, to let them fall, let them hurt. Sometimes they need you close, sometimes they need your absence, it's a delicate dance.
On the outside of that envelope, I wrote that it should be opened by her on her 16th birthday. When I wrote that, I was probably thinking of myself at 16. Ready to be done with my parents, ready to have more freedom, ready for "real life" to start. I assumed that as Maya and I both aged, it would be harder to connect, that I might not be able to communicate all of the feelings I was having in this moment, with this new baby.
I wanted to make sure she had those words at a time when she might most need to hear them.
I wanted her to know how loved, how deeply cherished, she was, and that she still is.
This weekend that envelope will get opened, and we both get to see what I wrote. She doesn't know it's coming. I don't remember exactly what's in there. I do know that the relationship I have with her is not what I feared it would be when I wrote that letter. We're closer than a lot of parents and teens that age. Still, there is an awkwardness when I tell her how much I love her, how proud I am of her. I see it in her face, an appreciation and gratitude for that, along with an embarrassment and a desire for this talk to be over.
It's OK for it to be both.
It's been the greatest joy of my life, to parent two amazing humans. I still find an occasion to parent here and there, but for the most part, they are who they are, and my part in shaping that is rapidly fading. I'm proud of both of my girls, more so than any other single thing I have ever had a hand in.
Most parents probably think their kids will grow up to change the world. Those of you who know Maya know that she's a person who could actually pull it off.
I don't know how her life will unfold over the next 16 years, I can't imagine the challenges and gifts those years will bring. I know that I will see a lot less of her in the coming years, and there will be others that will be lucky enough to gain her presence in their lives. I know she will continue to challenge the status quo. She will continue to bring joy and comfort to those around her, and she will keep raising the bar for what an educated, thoughtful and driven woman can accomplish.