Today, you turn 13. A milestone. For the next 7 years, you will be a teenager, and the things that you do, some of the risks you take, but also the things you don’t do, can have an everlasting impact on your life. If you don’t believe that, understand that I was 14 when I met your dad, setting my life on a trajectory that I would have never imagined. The same trajectory that has led me to writing this post because it led me to being your mother.

As I sit here, writing this for you, Reagan, I am a 34 year old woman. A woman that is still learning about who she is, what she wants, and what she can be. And the things I want for myself, I want because I want them for you. Life, it would seem, is a lot about balance. So let me share some thoughts about that with you.

I want you to be healthy. 

Our health is something we all take for granted until it’s something we no longer have. I had no need to worry about fitness when I was 13. I could eat a truckload of fried chicken and never bat an eyelash. But healthy habits are hard to start when you’re older. So do it now. Not so you’ll look a certain way, or fit in a certain outfit, but so you will be the best you can be, physically. It’s SOOOO much easier to sleep in or sit down or opt for the deep fried instead of the fresh and unpreserved. But if you make those choices now, you’ll thank me later. I vow to do better by you in my example of this. 

Balance that side of you with the side that DOES occasionally opt for dessert first. Because life is short. And we live in the south, for goodness sake. All things in moderation, of course, but life is meant to be celebrated and lived to its fullest. And the hard work that it takes to be committed to a healthy lifestyle will make that occasional indulgence all the sweeter.

I want you to grow.

Keeping an open mind will do more for you than adhering to some code for life that someone else made up and tried to assign to you. If you will go into every situation with the willingness to see past what is apparent, and try to examine it thoughtfully and critically, you will become wiser every day.

Balance that open-mindedness with truth. There are some absolutes. Faith, hope, and love. In their purest form, they transcend all human understanding and there will be times you have to lean on them all, even when, especially when, nothing else makes sense. 

Questioning things AND clinging to the absolutes is perhaps the biggest challenge for people like you and me. They both will stretch your mind and heart, and make you a better, stronger person.

I want you to take chances.

Not stupid chances. Not skydiving or race car driving chances. But dream chances. Fear is the number one killer of dreams. It will always give you reasons to not try, to give up. So here’s what you do with fear: you listen to it, you question it, and then if it’s fear of failure that is stopping you or holding you back, you punch that sucker square in the mouth and take that chance it told you not to take. And you might fail anyway. But failures are only failures if you didn’t learn anything. 

Balance your risk-taking with some common sense. Think about more than the moment you are in and more than just how your decisions affect you but the ones you love as well. 

I want you to love yourself.

I don’t want you to be lonely. I DO want you to be as happy with your own company as you are with the company of others. It is very true that you cannot really love someone else until you love yourself. So make sure you do. This is a process. We all have things about ourselves we wish were different and at your age, those things seem to stay in the forefront of our minds. Some of those things are able to be changed and modified. But know that you are a unique creation. There is not, and never will be another you. So get to know her, make her become what you want her to be. Feed her mind and soul, train her body, enrich her heart, and trust her gut. 

Balance that with acceptance of criticism. Consider the voice of your inner critic and what she wants you to know. She might be trying to help you. Consider the voices of outside critics too, mainly your teachers and coaches. Some of them might have selfish motivations, but mostly, those people are in your life to help you do your best. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes or errors, just learn from them and use them to improve.

I want you to remember.

The next few years might get interesting. You and I are very close. And for this I am thankful. But you’re going to think I’m an idiot sometimes. You’re going to think I’m unfair sometimes. And one day, whenever you have a child, you’re going to probably think about a multitude of things you’d wish I’d have done differently as your mom. 

Balance those thoughts by remembering how much I really love you. Remember that there’s nothing you could do to stop me from loving you. Remember that I would give up anything for you. 

Every year that has passed since you arrived into my life has been an adventure. It is you that makes me want these things I’ve written about for myself. 

I want to be healthier. I want to grow. I want to be a risk taker.  I want to love myself more. And when you’re 34 years old, I want you to be strong in all of these areas that I have written about.

So I try to live out the kind of example that I want you to see. I fail miserably at times. Just know that whatever I’m doing, even if it looks like I’m doing it for me, I’m really doing it for you. When I’m sleeping on Sunday afternoon? That’s so I’m not a grouchy, tired mama the rest of the week. When I’m doing something with just Shey? It’s so we can be a good example of a healthy relationship for you. When I’m exercising? It’s so I can keep up with you. When I’m gone to therapy? It’s so I can know myself better and be a better mom. 

And when I’m writing, I’m writing for you. So I can make extra money for things you need, or want, yes. But posts like this one are so I can leave something behind for you to know me better. Because when I’m gone, or not close by, my words will remain. And I want them to uplift you, encourage you, and comfort you. 

On your birthday, we celebrate the day I gave you life. But know, daughter, it was really the other way round. 

I love you and am thankful beyond thankful that I get to be your mom. I’m so proud of who you are, what you’re becoming, and who you will be. 

Happy Birthday, darling.