A Letter To My Daughter on her 12th Birthday

When you’re twelve, birthdays are still kind of a big deal, so when the day doesn’t quite go as you hope it would, it can be bitterly disappointing.  You and I share same knack for bad timing, so I know how you were feeling when you walked in the door after school.  Today was supposed to be fun and exciting – but you were in and out of the nurse’s office, resting your head that ached from the concussion you are fighting or stealing a few minutes with the nurse’s heating pad on your sore neck and dealing with the few wretched classmates who gave you a hard time for wearing your sunglasses indoors to fight the bright glare from the overhead lights.

And with a mild concussion, perhaps a movie wasn’t a good idea. But it was a movie you have been waiting for months to arrive, counting down the days.

Since we’re leaving on vacation the day after tomorrow, a big cake just wasn’t practical. You opted for adorable unicorn cupcakes, but before we could even sing to you, one dropped to the floor, icing down, of course.


To steal a phrase from a favorite story book, it might have been a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”.

But it wasn’t, because although you feel things deeply, you bounce back quickly. You fight to see the positive or the better side of situations and people.

This past year, you have amazed me. Transitions have never been easy for you, and the move to middle school was more difficult than we anticipated, but you persisted and things look SO much differently for you than they did in September. You sought ways to overcome your obstacles and I could only look on in awe. You speak up for yourself in ways I still struggle with as an adult, and I couldn’t be prouder of this quiet strength of yours.


You really are fearless. You’ve taken on challenges and tried new things, and stuck with them even when some of them turned out to be less than you’d hoped for. I see the quiet determination and concentration when you are wrestling or kickboxing, and I marvel at the calm focus you exude when you are sewing something new. You tried out for the school play, joined a Destination Imagination team which chose Improv over the more-STEM natured options you were hoping for and stuck with it.

You’ve grown emotionally and intellectually, and physically – where did those long legs come from? We can talk about difficult, terrible topics and about embarrassing topics and I have faith that you will come to me when things trouble you – but I also know that there still lingers my little girl who will welcome a hug and offer a tighter, squeezier hug in return. I see how big your heart is and how thoughtful and giving you are and I hope that never changes, not one tiny iota.

Tonight daddy and I caved, and let you go to that movie you’ve so been waiting to see. You took a friend, and during the car ride home you dissected the movie, talking about the bits that were different or missing from the book from which it was adapted (and which you’ve read three times, so nothing was getting past you.)

Your enthusiasm filled the car, and it showed me the smart, silly, goofy, and oh so complicated girl that we so love.

No, today wasn’t what you had planned…but you took lemons, and made lemon bars. (Forget lemonade when you can have dessert.) You always seem to bounce back with a can-do, fighting attitude.

It may not be a birthday that goes down in the books, but we’ll be sure to celebrate your birthday week while we’re on Spring Break. After all, you are the girl who always finds a way to make the best out of everything.

Happy Twelfth Birthday, my sweet, silly, sparkly child. I love you so.



  1. Gmom Phyl says:

    Jenn, you nailed it! If we didn’t know Maddie already, we would now. She is quite a girl, and you and Pete must take credit, too, as her parents!1 Much love, and proud Gmom Phyl

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