To my darling daughter, who turns 10 on Nov. 22:
One decade ago on this day, I was about to become a mother. I felt like somebody who, in an impulsive moment, had volunteered for the Olympic luge team. There I was at the top of the mountain, poised to hurtle down its impossibly steep slope, and even though at moments I really wanted to, there was no turning back.
It seems like only a few days ago; it seems like a lifetime. On the night you were born, as they were wheeling me back to my hospital room, I said out loud, "I am a mother"--and I said those words over and over, because the words sounded so strange. Today, I sometimes forget I have any other identity. Your dad and I have watched you grow, and every day has been an education and an adventure. You were born beautiful, and that hasn't changed, even though the baby face has gone and long, honey-colored hair has replaced the infant fuzz that once covered your head (I despaired for awhile of ever having anything but a bald baby). Today you are a girl-child of swift and changeable moods; your smile can light up the room, and your rage can shatter the windows. You can be goofy one minute, kind and solicitous the next; you come up with more ideas in an afternoon than I usually get in a year. Your mind is like a fireworks factory. You wear me out, when you're not making me laugh. You galumph across the yard like an awkward filly, and the next moment you're coming downstairs in a new dress, looking so pretty and so grown-up I hardly recognize you.
You are, I am happy to say, a Different Sort of Kid; nobody would mistake you for just one of the crowd. And though I know you think that being different is a lonely thing sometimes (and it is), I know you also have a circle of friends who truly love you, who value you for who you are, and this (you will understand someday) is one of the richest things life has to offer, a far better and longer lasting gift than getting elected Prom Queen. (Even though you may cop that title too, someday; I can truthfully say at this point that nothing you may do would amaze me. I passed Amazement a long time ago.)
So now, here we are, poised at the top of another mountain--this one called Adolescence. And I can tell you, now that I've hurtled down a few mountainsides myself, that it's going to be jarring and awkward and painful, and also more fun than you ever imagined. Your dad and I will be with you on this trip, and so will your little sister (who adores you, you know), and after that there will be other mountainsides you'll undertake more or less on your own. You're still a child, but you won't be for much longer--and, as you prepare to leave childhood behind, I have to tell you that I've learned more from you than all the college professors I ever had.
Happy birthday to my firstborn. I am so proud to be your mom.