Saturday, April 23, 2016

Happy Birthday, Happiness

April 23, 2016

Dear Daughter,

Today you are 12 years old.  Still not a teen but at 5'11" you are often seen as a high school and a few times as a college student.  You seem bemused by the misunderstandings.  I don't find them nearly as funny.

You started at a new school this year and for the most part it has been a wonderful, lovely fit.  The teachers challenge you and marvel at your work ethic while the students are mostly kind.  Except this is that wondrous time of life when all children between the ages of 11-14 seem, at times, to get all Hunger Games on each other.

You have been in the sights of the "Queen Bees", as you call them, twice this year.  Early in the fall someone said something to you that upset you so much, that tipped the scale for you, that you stood up in front of hundreds of other students in the dining hall and yelled at her.  Told her to back off and stop her behavior.  I could not be prouder of you to stand up and yell - loudly and in front of middle and high school students - that you were being hurt.  Clearly telling off your twin older brothers on a near daily basis came in handy that fall day.

As winter ended you were part of a larger formal class discussion about body image and food and you were telling your classmates that you eat more than them because you are bigger than they are and you are hungry.  Then you cried recounting that some classmates had on several occasions whispered and pointed at how much food was on your plate during lunch.  This led to a heartfelt conversation about judging one another, about being comfortable in your body and taking care of oneself.  Other classmates thanked you for your candor, for saying what they felt and for showing that whispering and shame really hurts.

Which, by the way, are pretty great things to be talking about as 11 and 12-year-olds and I am grateful that you attend a school that addresses these issues head on, without sugar coating them and in real time.  I know a few too many people in their 40's who could benefit from that conversation, both as the perpetrators of unkind words and those who are lacking support.

But those were truly the only two days that you left school with difficult tales.  If you have any "drama" to report you talk about it as if you could care less.  With one student you made it clear "we're never meant to be friends and that is fine".  You focus on the schoolwork as well as the students who do make you happy and feel good about yourself, who in turn share with you their trials and happiness.

That fearlessness you had as a little kid, both in age and height, is still there.  New situations don't frighten you and you graciously meet new people - children and adults - with no trepidation.

So that perception of you being older than you are is an honest mistake.  You continue to carry yourself with a confidence, self-preservation and wisdom that is beyond your, now, 12 years.

I love you.

Happy birthday,