Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Once, she was this 9 lb. 9 oz. baby in a pink and yellow striped onesie who looked me straight in the eyes on the first night she was born. We were alone, the two of us, in my hospital room. She was in her bassinet right next to my bed, and she turned her head and held my gaze. I know she was looking deep into my heart, and sharing her heart with me. And she has held my eyes ever since then.

When she was a baby, I would come in to see if she was sleeping, just to peek at my beautiful baby girl, and she'd be lying there perfectly still, looking up intently at me. When she was older and she was a little anxious in a new situation, she'd catch my eyes across a room and just hold her gaze on me, steadily, willing reassurance.


I hope I have given it to her through the years. It is hard to be a confident, self-assured person, much less a confident, self-assured woman—and much, much less a confident, self-assured teenaged girl.

Reading my diary from 17 is like reading an actual stereotypical novel about teens: "I'm so confused.... I'm kinda bummed but I don't really know why … I'm on a diet …Love sure hurts when it's over … Things aren't going like I expected …I really think it's over between us … I hope things get back to normal … My friends are acting weird … We need to have a serious talk with ___; we've got to straighten her out!… I'm depressed … I'm excited … I'm not depressed anymore … It seems like all I ever think about is {insert boy}."


At 17, you're on the brink of the end of childhood—there is no denying that. At 17 you are thinking about the big things, about college and love and who you are and who you are going to be. You know by now there are some things you are just going to have to take a deep breath and do. But at 17 you're also just a kid, and you're thinking about shopping and having fun and ice cream flavors and about how confusing life is.

I like how Kathryn Stockett says it in The Help: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” We all need to know that—we need to know that we are valuable and that we are doing things the right way and that we'll make it OK, whatever the "it" happens to be.

We need to know that we can catch someone's eyes across the room, and we know that the return gaze means "You're OK. We're in this together."

I'm so glad my daughter has people to be in this together with. Good people. People who love her and make her laugh and share her cake and blow out candles with her. I'm so thankful that she has adults who are invested in her life, friends that adore her, and a level of self-confidence that seems to be growing exponentially.


Seventeen is a good age to be, and it is a terrible age to be. Seventeen is angsty and perplexing, tearful and downright frustrating. But it is also a glorious time: a time of memory, a time when all your senses are incredibly acute. At 17 the smell of autumn and the feel of dry summer grass on bare feet lingers forever in your memory, and scenes begin to shape your life because they are scenes you will carry into adulthood—ones that carry a weight.


That is what I would give to my 17-year-old self that speaks still from the pages of a 30-year-old diary. You are doing OK, I would tell myself. You will make it through really hard stuff—much harder than waiting for that boy to call on a Friday night. You will be really, really happy—much happier than you ever could have imagined. And you will be so incredibly, outrageously blessed to someday have your own 17-year-old daughter, who is more than you ever could have dreamed about in your wildest imaginings.

Now, go forth and laugh a lot, and crinkle leaves in your hands, and wear a pretty dress just because. Go drive in the mountains when the poplars turn yellow, sit out by the lake and watch the sunset, and walk in the moonlight. Snuggle in your blanket and drink hot tea with a kitty purring next to you. Take deep breaths and pray for strength and courage every single day. And go to sleep every night knowing that a life of good things awaits you.

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