As I stand back and reflect on life as your mother, I find that I am often overwhelmed by how quickly the time has passed. Everyone always tells you to enjoy it because it will pass quickly, but somehow that just isn’t possible. And now I wish I could push rewind, so as to be able to enjoy it all over again. What I would do to be able to watch you learn to walk again, to listen as you babbled your first words, to smell your sweetness after a bubble bath, to taste your tears as we rushed you to the ER, and feel the touch of your little hand inside mine. Somehow, I NEVER imagined it would all go by this fast. As a young child, you were quite the precocious little girl. You have always been a free thinker and quite strong minded. And that means it wasn’t always easy being your mother. This one time, after yet another one of your antics, I remember asking you who had given you permission to do what you had done. You proudly announced, and I quote you, “I asked myself, and myself said YES!!” Your strong convictions meant that we had a lot to learn. When the weather got cold and you knew you had to wear long pants, you solved this wardrobe malfunction but layering a flowy puffy skirt over your jeans. We learned not to get embarrassed but to be proud that our four year old could dress herself. And when you wanted to buy the all too expensive American Girl doll, you decided you would use your birthday money to get. And as passersby watched, you sat on the floor of the store counting out your dollar bills and proudly walked over the counter to pick out your doll. But now you are entering a new phase in your life. As you begin to approach adulthood, you are bound to realize that life is not always easy. You will be faced with many choices, and it may not be obvious which path is the right one. In fact, you may even veer off the path. But as you stumble along, know that your father and I are here to support you. Although we can no longer make your choices for you, we are here if you should seek our guidance. But this new phase of your life will be equally difficult for your father and myself. You are 13 now—a teenager—-our first teenager. And as prepared as we were to raise young children, we are definitely not prepared for life with a teenager. So as we venture down this road together, have patience with us as we learn to step back and let you become the author of your own life story. You see, you will always be our little girl. The little girl who donated all her birthday presents to a local hospital, the little girl who started wearing my heels as soon as she could walk, the little girl who still likes to climb into our bed at night long after her brothers have gone to sleep. You are the little girl that taught us it is OK to dance to a different beat, it is OK to use paint on your body instead of on the paper, that the number 11-teen really is a number and it is followed by 12-teen and 13, and it is definitely OK to do pirouettes on the basketball court. And you will always be our little girl. So forgive us if we hug you too often and hold you too tight; and forgive us if we love you too much and want to be a part of your life too often….You see, you may be ready for the next stage in your life, but we certainly are not. We would much rather keep you nestled in our arms, protected from the world and life’s challenges. We would rather keep you by our side and shield you from harm. But we know that is not feasible. And so, with baby steps (both ours and yours), we will watch as you spread your wings and find your way.