We made it! Happy 18th birthday, Sweetheart! I don't know if you feel any different today than you did yesterday. Maybe you should. Today is the day you enter legal adulthood, the day that you can legally vote (please take the responsibility seriously and approach the voting booth well-informed and skeptically optimistic), purchase tobacco products (Yuck), enter binding contracts (Please don't enslave yourself to unnecessary debt), and purchase lottery tickets (You have better, more productive things to do with your money. Trust me).
Turning 18 is a pretty big deal. This isn't your run-of-the-mill birthday. You only turn 18 once, after all. So on this momentous day of celebration, I thought I would write you a very personal letter. Sure I'm posting it to the internet for all the world to see, but you should be used to that by now. This is kind of my M.O.
I shouldn't write about the old motherhood cliche, about how I can't believe time passed so quickly, blah, blah, blah. But it's true. I can't believe how fast the years have flown by, especially when each individual day (especially those early ones) seemed to drag on forever, slowed down by the messes and the laundry and the inevitable tears (I admit the tears were mostly mine. You were a fabulously calm baby. But you've met your brothers, right?).
I know that things haven't always been easy for you. I'm fairly certain that your older brother made several attempts on your life (although he swears that Christmas tree just kept toppling over on top of you of its own volition. We eventually had to tie it securely to the wall with 550 paracord. Very festive.) and you didn't always get the best version of me. Too many times you got the rundown, terribly exhausted, paper-thin sanity model of a mother. You had so many hand-me-downs and divided attention and leftovers. There was so much less of me to give to you, and you've always had to cry more, share more, wait more than I would have liked.
But dear, sweet baby girl, I have loved you more than I thought humanly possible. Before you came barreling into this family (after 36 hours of labor. Yes, I plan to remind you of that every single birthday), I doubted the infinity of love. I honestly thought there was only so much to go around. But love isn't like the lap space you had to share with wiggly siblings. It can't be divided. It can't be shared. The moment you were placed warm and reaching into my arms, it was like I grew a whole other heart just for you. I didn't know how much love a person could feel until I felt you in my arms, until that first moment we finally met face to face.
I feel like I should be writing this to impart some important and practical life advice, but it isn't necessary. The truth is you astound me with your maturity and tenacity, with your bold sense of purpose, and a wisdom beyond your years. You've proven to be trustworthy and prudent and responsible and all of the things that people your age usually aren't. Honestly, you're a better person than I was at 18. Heck! You're a better person than I am now, at least on most days.
Welcome to the adult world, Baby! I can't wait to see what Life has in store for you. Or maybe I can't wait to see what you have in store for Life. Either way it's going to be an exciting ride.
Happy Birthday! Your life is no longer in my hands, it's now in yours. I know you'll make it beautiful. That is certainly what you've made mine.
And now I am likely to lose myself in a fit of nostalgia and a large bottle of wine. Here's to you, my wonderful, fabulous, beautiful daughter! I am proud beyond words to be your mother. Just remember that no matter which roads you choose to travel, I will always be your number one fan.