Hello, Thirteen. We finally meet.

I have worried about our meeting off & on over the years as today you officially become a teenager. It is often said that the teenagers are some of most intractable, as you search for independence, a sense of self, & a passel of other things depending upon who you ask. As a young mother, I feared those far off years wondering how I would ever survive them. (Of course, there were years I wondered how I’d survive the toddler years, the tween years, and honestly, the infant ones, too.)

As a thirteen year veteran mom, I know that trying to define which stage begins & ends is a fool’s errand best left to people writing books to terrify young parents. Reality says that there’s no clear line, & trying to define it is as aggravating as trying to navigate it. I know that I’ve seen flashes of diva attitude often attributed to “teen years” since you were Four, and I’ve seen glimpses of the woman you could become at every milestone stop along the way.

I also know that the fear I’ve felt for the teenage years – and Thirteen especially – was pretty much vanquished by Twelve & all of it’s ups, downs, zigzags, & curveballs. (Never fear: I’m not challenging the universe. I’m not saying anything crazy like, “how much worse could it get”, it’s just, Twelve pretty much set the bar for Hard Shit. I was talking to Mana in the wee hours of this morning, “She only has one cyst in her brain, so that surprise has already been sprung.”) After Twelve, it seems silly to worry about an arbitrary number that defines nothing about you beyond how many years you’ve been on this planet.

Trying to define you is almost impossible these days. At your surprise birthday tea today, you said something was probably obvious & I didn’t have the heart to tell you that “obvious” with you isn’t always “obvious”. There are a few constants: you’re a huge nerd & proud of it; if it’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, odds are fair that you’ll like it; you hate washing dishes (something we’re going to work on this year); you love pink (with a few rare exceptions); you’re an amazing kid that I love (even when you’re being a pain in the tush) more than I ever knew was possible.

I honestly don’t know what to expect from you, Thirteen. Twelve gave me a lot more silvery-golden hairs than I had before, made me face a situation that was similar to one of my worst nightmares, & in general, was downright terrifying (& not only because of the beginning of our journey to Seizureville). That fateful June day at the allergy doctor’s office changed all of our lives forever, though looking back I think it’s more accurate to say the life changing moment was when the ER doctor walked into the room & said, “It’s not nothing because it’s obviously something, but it’s nothing” just after he said they’d found a cyst on the CT.

My heart skipped a beat & I struggled with myself to remain brave for you even though inside my head, I was screaming a variety of things that could best be summed up as, “NOOOOOOO! NOT MY BABY!!!!” I listened to that ER doctor explain what they did know & also how much they didn’t. From that point, we began a journey that has changed all three of us in good & not so good ways. It’s still a journey as there are still so many unanswered questions, but the one thing that I know is we’ll make the journey together, your two moms & you.

Twelve also saw a spike in inattentive behavior, a tendency for slacking in your work that’s been downright maddening at times, & a few hints of attitude that I’d really like to not see repeat too much with Thirteen. While the seizures likely account for part of this, we’ve also confirmed that you likely do have ADHD though trying to sort those two things from, as your therapist put it, “a healthy case of being twelve”. All of this has made for rocky times, but I also know that it’s something you’re trying to work on, & I’m hopeful that between the strategies you’ve learned in the last few months & a genuine effort on your part to improve that Thirteen will find even more improvement. I hesitate right now to include this section & may yet delete it; however, it was definitely a recurring theme of Twelve, and I want you to be able to look at this in the future & say, “wow! Look how far I’ve come.”

Thirteen, I have no idea what to expect from you. Your therapist suggests that one thing to expect is a quest to define yourself as a separate entity from the you that we as your parents have helped shape. This both intrigues me & terrifies me; I’ve always been amazed by watching you grow & change before my eyes. It terrifies me, because I don’t know what to expect & that’s always a challenge for me.

In the last several months, you’ve been doing some work both with our help, with your therapist’s help, & on your own to learn to be able to communicate your thoughts & feelings more clearly & to find a better balance with your emotional self-care. At times, this has frustrated you beyond belief, made you in turns angry & sad, and has clearly been a challenge, yet you keep trying. I’m so proud of you for that; I know how difficult this type of sorting can be.

Thirteen, I know that no matter what happens, I’ll love you more than I have words to speak & I know the same can be said of your Mum, because no matter what, we’ll always love you. Always, baby girl. Always.

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