“Love, Mama:” A Letter to My Daughter for Her 16th birthday

This week my younger daughter will celebrate her 16th birthday, and I’m not entirely sure it’s hit me yet.

Letter to my daughter on her 16th birthday

My daughter is turning 16

I believe you’ve met my trusty sidekick Denial, whom I’ve been thick as thieves with since about 2013.

Every now again (and by that I mean nightly, typically at around 11:47 … or 1:47) my mind is consumed with the fact that she is about to be 16 — which BTW currently shares the space with the fact that her older sister is still 8,655 miles away, which is a cruel, cruel correlation of events and one that I’m not sure I deserve — and I am filled with disbelief.
Shock.
Horror.
Sadness.
Pride.
And thoughts.
Which, naturally, I have chosen to share with her (and you) in a few — or 12 — letters.

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

Impostor!!

Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

So maybe you’re not an impostor, but seriously, who the hell are you and what have you done with my baby girl? You know, the tiny one who was born nine weeks early and who has been the family’s little sister since … well, since forever?

Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

I’m just kidding. I know it’s you. How? Because you still have the same sunny disposition, pretty much 24/7. You’re still ridiculously goofy. You still talk indecipherably fast. Your smile — the one that you give so often and so willingly — is still infectious. You still sing constantly, just like you did since you found your voice, which I’m pretty sure was in utero. Y

ou’re still as stubborn as the astrology sign you were born way too early under (yet that somehow fits you perfectly). You’re still every bit as dramatic as you were when you were three and I found you sitting on the stairs with tears streaming down your face because your Barbies were in a fight. You still want to hug. And be hugged.
You may suddenly look like someone else, but yes, I recognize you.

Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

Don’t worry, I promise not to recognize you in public for the rest of this year … or the next two.

Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

Who do you look like, you ask? Well, let me think about that for a moment. You look like a girl who is confident, even though she may not always be. You look like a girl who is honest and who knows the value of living her truth. You look like a girl who maybe sometimes feels and acts awkward, but who owns it. You look like a girl who encourages everyone around her to own their awkwardness, too. You look happy. You look like sunshine.
Huh.
Now that I think about it, you actually look exactly the same as you always have.

Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

Except for the boobs and the straight teeth.

Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

Turning 16 comes with some new responsibilities. Let’s discuss.

Driving.
Obviously this is the biggie, and you know the rules: no texting, no singing show tunes you get into so much you get distracted (so basically, no show tunes), no passengers who distract you (so basically, no passengers), and no talking loudly (so basically, no talking whatsoever to your nonexistent passengers, which you and I both know could happen)
Dating.
I’ll repeat myself: Choose wisely. Choose someone who builds you up. Who makes you laugh. Who treats you with respect and is worthy of yours. And if you don’t choose well, acknowledge it. It’s okay. You’re young. That’s a mistake that there’s a valuable lesson in.
Drinking, drugs, sex, the internet.
You’ve heard it a million times through the years: Don’t make life changing mistakes. Now that you’re 16 and have big dreams and giant plans, just remember, it only takes one mistake (and give or take three minutes) to screw them all up. Make wise and thoughtful choices.
Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

Don’t forget to have fun.
Not that that’s ever been a problem for you.

Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

I get it. 16 can be confusing. And frustrating. And stressful. I’ve been there, sister. (Shockingly, the years and years of Chardonnay haven’t erased 16 from my memory.) But let me tell you this: It’s also wonderful. I know you don’t think you are or like to be reminded of it, but you’re not an adult yet.

And although you often think otherwise, that’s a good thing. John (Cougar) Mellencamp said it best in this earworm from my day, “Hold onto 16 as long as you ca-an, changes come around real soon make us women and men.” Bum. Bum bum.
Because I promise, 16 is magical, even though all you’ll probably remember when you’re older is that it was angsty, anxiety-ridden, and awkward.

Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

Why so magical? Because you’re standing at the edge but you’re still safely on the cliff. You can look over cautiously, maybe put one foot off ever so slightly to see how it feels, but you can still pull it back quickly to safety if you want. There’s magic in the possibility of you. Will 17 and 18 have that magic? Sure they will. But 16 is the first time you can truly begin to feel it, to see what your future might look like, but still be comfortable in the safety of the nest that’s surrounding you.

Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

You’re familiar with the nest. You know, it’s the one that I’m currently building a bubble rimmed with barbed wire around.

Love,
Mama

Dear daughter who is turning 16,

Listen, despite my disbelief and denial, and in spite of the many hours of sleepless nights that are to come for me over the next two (twenty) years, I hope you know how enormously proud I am of the amazing, ambitious, confident, loving, caring, cheerful, respectable young woman you are becoming.
And how grateful and happy I am that I still recognize you.

Happy Birthday.

Love,
Mama

This post originally appeared on You’re My Favorite Today

More By Michelle Newman:

Sibling Separation

My Daughters Have A Wonderful Father, Something I Never Had

Love Mama, A Letter to My Daughter Before Freshman Year

About Michelle Newman

Michelle Newman is one of the hosts and producers of The Pop Culture Preservation Society, a podcast dedicated to preserving the pop culture nuggets of our GenX childhoods, from Barry Manilow and the Bee Gees to Battle of The Network Stars. She’s spent the past nine years writing for publications like Grown & Flown, Entertainment Weekly, and The Girlfriend, as well as for her (now silent) blog, You’re My Favorite Today. A recent empty nester, Michelle finds immense joy connecting with others through the memories of their 70s childhoods. Follow the Pop Culture Preservation Society on Instagram and listen wherever you get podcasts!

Read more posts by Michelle

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