In the early years, when you were very small, parents with older children would sometimes stop us and knowingly say to us, "Oh, she's so sweet! But...just wait until she's a teenager!" Deep down, I thought that perhaps they were wrong to assume that adolescence was something to be feared or endured.
Now you are fifteen and I am the one to knowingly make remarks about having a teenager. Only my comments are quite different. My most honest statement about having a teenager is that it is lovely, absolutely lovely. You have made it so.
I think - perhaps - some of it came from reading so many excellent children's stories. Of sword fighting, castles, bold knights, brave ladies, beautiful scenes, and the most courageous of heroes. You have shown yourself to be as noble, pure, gentle, and strong as the protagonists we read about - ever thoughtful and generous, brimming with goodness and mercy. You display selflessness and courage on such a daily basis that I am often humbled and challenged by your actions. You fill water bottles for your siblings, set out their outfits on Sundays, and pack their luggage for trips. Even when I don't say anything, I SEE. You give of yourself constantly - to serve our family, without being asked and with tender humility.
I have loved every season of motherhood. I adored having rose-lipped babies with soft skin, how you wrapped your little hand around my fingers. I enjoyed the dangerous adventure of toddlerhood. I was grateful for the elementary and middle school years too, as you slowly started growing into yourself. In many ways, however, the teenage years are my favorite.
At fifteen, you are an interesting, articulate, and intelligent person. We talk about most everything - from books and movies to fitness and friends to theology and current events. You offer informed opinions in a winsome way (Thanks, in part, to your excellent Classical education, including rock-solid Logic and Rhetoric classes!).
You are quite academic and love learning, ever with your nose in a stack of (very thick!) books. One gift that you have is that your academic interests and aptitudes are so broad. Instead of clinging to just one subject as some students are prone to do, you engage in all of your classes with joy. I'm not even sure what your best or favorite subject is. Is it Honors Algebra II or AP Latin or Honors Western Civilization or Honors Rhetoric or Sculpture? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure because your report card is a long line of A's and you are not one to complain. Rather, you find pleasure in school, sometimes even in tests!
As for strengths, you are both a logical and creative thinker, full of excellent ideas on everything from architecture to party planning. Your dad and I often come to you for your opinion about anything that might revolve around the topic of beauty because you have such an eye for it.
You have maintained a deep interest in art and we can often find your sketching. In keeping with the artist stereotype, you are never fully content with your own work and you have an intensity which can drive you crazy if what you see in your mind doesn't exactly match what you create with your hands (Perfectionist tendencies? Yes). When I envision your future, I see you in a long skirt with an easel in front of you and a paintbrush in your hand, your curls cascading down your shoulders, glass windows and greenery in the background. We both often say that you would have done very well in a different era.
When you were little, I laughed at all the ways that you were an "old soul." You still are, but with each passing year, you become more comfortable because you are truly meant for an adult world. The teenage world often leaves you exhausted and I know that you would far rather be dressed in an oxford shirt, sipping a cup of tea, and discussing a novel with a close friend. You belong in luminous lecture halls, taking copious notes or presenting from the podium. You belong somewhere with white pillars, chandeliers, framed classical art pieces, and bookshelves (with books organized by height). Crop tops, cell phones, social media, emojis, and high-top sneakers - so not your thing.
You are a paradox though. Although you love formal clothing and floral binders, I call your name when your dad is gone and there is a scorpion in the house (true story) because you are calm and brave. You complete ropes courses, lead the pack on hikes, and were among the first high school girls to cross the finish line at the 5k at your school last year. In other words, you can wear either a swishy skirt or a lab coat or a volleyball jersey and it will suit you just fine.
The most wonderful thing that I observe about you, however, is your deep and real love for God, for His Word, and for His people. You read your Bible daily. You lead with a quiet grace that lends itself to your beautiful countenance. When we recently went out to eat, you ended up at a different table with your siblings. Without any prompting, you held their hands and led them in prayer.
So if anyone asks me what it's like to have a teenager, I don't hesitate. I say it's a beautiful gift. It's something to look forward to. It's the fruit and the flowers after much sowing.
Happy Birthday, K. May people see you for the bright light that you are.
* I write letters to each of my children on their birthdays so that they will remember and I won’t forget. As Sheldon Vanauken so aptly put it, “Writing has something of the timeless about it – a breath of eternity.”
** This letter is more than a month overdue. Happy (very belated) Birthday, K.