Dear O, 12 Years Old

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Dear O,

Twelve is a year of change. Once a child, you now study the world around you from a young woman's perspective.

You are a beauty, although you certainly don't realize it. Sammy Kershaw's country song comes to mind, "she don't know she's beautiful..." With your glossy blonde hair, piercing eyes, and ready smile, you are radiant. Your strength of mind and body are arresting. You can run mile upon mile, hardly breathing, your long limbs striving. This year, you won first place in your age group at the school 5k (again). It's true that you have excellent running form, which you undoubtedly acquired from your dad, but you also have something that no-one sees: mental discipline and willpower.

Dear O, 12 Years Old 1

In the academic realm, you are a standout student. A substitute teacher recently stopped me and sang your praises, ending with "sometimes there's a hidden genius among middle children and, as parents, we don't even see it." That sounded accurate to me. When it comes to schoolwork, you are sometimes "neglected" a bit - meaning that you end up completing assignments, writing papers, and studying for tests all by yourself. Miraculously, you come home with all A's and sparkling compliments.

Two main qualities stand out to me when it comes to your personality: (a) your willingness to try anything new, and (b) your incredible aptitude for making friends. If I print out a list of camps, classes, or events, you want to do them all! Never tried the activity in question? No worries! You're up for the challenge, ready for an adventure, not afraid to fail. This quality is impressive and important - and I hope you don't lose this fearlessness as you continue to grow up. Secondly, you are a good friend because you ask good questions, your give compliments, and you display a down-to-earth honesty, which is positively magnetic. Whether we are on a family vacation or trying a new sport, it never surprises me to hear you say, "I made a new friend."

Other key characteristics...

You are a reader. I simply cannot keep up with you in terms of book consumption (though I try). My annual goal is 75 books, but I'm fairly certain that you surpass me by quite a bit. You'll check out stacks of books from the library and finish them within the week, lamenting that you don't have "any books to read."

Dear O, 12 Years Old 2

You are an athlete. This year, you played on your school's volleyball and soccer teams. Unsurprisingly, you were a natural at both - in part due to your startling speed and strength. In volleyball, your serves were strong and steady, despite your smaller frame. In soccer, you played whole games without being subbed out because your lungs and your mind just wouldn't give up. There are so many analogies I could make here to other areas in your life, but this perseverance, this stick-with-it-ness will serve you so well as you grow into adulthood.

You are a writer, a poet, and an artist. Prolific in words, you write stories, poems, notes, and letters in your free time. When not writing, you draw - sketching princesses, people, animals, flowers - which you then criticize heavily upon completion.

You are also a riveting actress and performer. Had you been born to a different family, you likely would have been put up on stage from a young age. Acting comes naturally to you - expressions, accents, volume, stage presence - you've got it all.

This is your very last year before you become a teenager and I hope you drink deep of childhood. May you retain your curiosity, your confidence, your creativity. May you also grow in wisdom, purity, and goodness as you step out of your cocoon into adulthood. So much wonder lies ahead of you and I can't wait to watch you fly.

Love,

Mom

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