Twelve years ago today, at 7:26 a.m., you were born. It was not an easy birth, and you literally were vacuumed out of me. I often think that though you were almost 3 weeks past your due date, you would have been happy staying inside my warm womb for a long time.
I remember the nurses laying you on my chest, and I felt the most incredible and instant bond of love, a love I didn’t even know was possible, a love I’m convinced women feel stronger than men, a love so great that only other mothers can understand. It was like someone sucked all the life out of me and replaced it with the all the love in the world, embodied in your tiny, 8lb 8oz. body.
Your birth made me believe, without any doubt, that God exists and His love for us is mirrored in our love for our children.
As great as my love was, I still thought the nurses and doctors were crazy to send me home with you. I knew nothing about being a mother. I was 22, 1 week shy of being 23. I was in college. I didn’t even like kids. I didn’t know how to be a mother.
To compensate for my youth and inexperience, I followed my instincts on almost every occasion, and despite the multiple times I woke you up when you were still a newborn to make sure you were still breathing (it was so hard to tell and I was so scared you’d die in the middle of the night) and the times I was, in retrospect, too tough on you (making you give away your favorite doll to Jailyn when you bit her at 3 years old was pretty harsh I think), my instincts have always served me well when it comes with you.It’s like I can read what you need, what you are thinking, especially when you were younger.
Since you were 6 weeks old, it’s been just you and me, and even now that Luke’s joined our family, in many ways it’s still me and you. And you have been my absolute favorite companion. You and I have grown together, and I hope that I have been a good mom and instilled good values in you, but Maddie, you have taught me more than I think I could ever teach you.
All the times we stayed up late together, side by side, as I studied for school and wrote long essays; the nights you waited up for me when I was waiting tables; the hugs you gave me when I first began teaching and I was so unsure of myself; the times I slept right next to you, crying hysterically when I was going through my difficult marriage and then divorce and you held me; the patience you have shown when I’m too busy to take you somewhere because I am grading essays or the many times I didn’t have enough money for you to do something you so badly wanted; and the kindness and love and help you give to Luke, your sometimes pesky little brother:
Maddie, you do all of these things without complaining, with respect, with compassion. Maddie YOU are the rock of this family and I’m thankful to have you as a daughter and a friend and someone I learn from everyday.
You make me proud in ways I didn’t think were possible and you wake up each morning with a smile. I’ve never heard you complain of being bored and I’ve never seen you complain about things you don’t have in comparison with other kids your age. You are poise and grace and love all rolled into one. Even on my crabbiest days, I love you fiercely.
These 12 years have been an adventure and really, transcendental for me especially. That I received you as a daughter is beyond anything I thought was possible in my life. I imagine the next 6 years will provide many challenges, but these are challenges that I look forward to conquering together.
Maddie, I hope you had fun tonight as we celebrated your birthday with family at the same sushi restaurant we’ve been going to since you were 2, where you still blush when every employee comes out to sing you happy birthday.
I hope you liked all your gifts and the cake, but more importantly, I hope you felt special today. Because you are–absolutely–the most special person in my life.
And so, I end this with a few other hopes I have for you as you continue to grow:
I hope you are always compassionate. When you were much younger you used to cry when other kids got in trouble. Good. Keep doing that. Cry when you see someone else get hurt or when you see injustice in this world.
I hope you’ll always want to crawl into bed with me, regardless of age, because it comforts me as much as it comforts you.
I hope you keep reading and writing stories voraciously. You are, by far, the most creative person I know.
I hope you keep dancing your weird dances and making your odd faces in order to make people laugh. You have such a good sense of humor.
I hope you go to Stanford. Really, I do.
I hope while at Stanford, you study something that you love even if that means you may not make a lot of money.
I hope you stay close, close, close to your family: from your dad’s side (because they’re amazing) to my side (they’re amazing too) to the family in New York and New Jersey. If you are ever wondering whether you should vacation in St. Barts or see your family, please see your family.
I hope you maintain a strong group of friends that also become part of your family.
I hope you don’t always love Katy Perry and top 40 music.
I hope you maintain a strong self-esteem and self-confidence and that you treat your body as a sacred temple that no man will ever defile unless that man merits such a blessing from you. I hope you learn self-defense and have the sense to kick any man who doesn’t treat you with respect in his BALLS.
I hope you know that falling down, not getting your way, being kicked by life, and feeling like everything is wrong is the BEST way to learn and grow and become a better version of yourself.
I hope you always give back to your community and those less fortunate.
I hope you and your brother will always be best friends.
I hope you have a lot of fun in life. I hope you travel the world (well, the safe parts).
I hope you stay away from drugs and alcohol cause dear, addiction runs strongly in your blood.
I hope that you never settle and know when to walk away when you are not in love.
Most of all, I hope you will always be my best friend, my absolute love, and the person for whom my heart beats.
Happy, happy birthday.