06/29/2016 07:55 am ET Updated Jun 30, 2017

When We Were Young: A Letter to My Daughter

Kari Layland via Getty Images

I became a single mom when you were two years old. Only 22 myself, I had no idea what I was doing. But I knew I had to do it, so we figured it out together. By four, you were remembering to pack your lunch and bring it with you to preschool. Administration was obviously not a skill in my wheelhouse, and you could read me like a book. Well, you couldn't read books, yet, so I guess you could read me better than a book.

We've spent a lot of time over the years lamenting the stuff you've had to go through. My heart aches for the 14 short and endlessly long years you've been on this planet. Life was hard in the beginning when you were an infant and I was barely an adult. And life is still hard, but it's sweeter now that there's a bit more stability and safety. It can be easy to forget the in-between time, when it was just us against the world.

You didn't even bat an eye when you learned we'd be moving 400 miles away from everyone we knew. Or when we moved again the next year. Or the year after that. With each new space, you'd get excited--marveling at the cool, new possibilities. Looking back, I am amazed, and a little bit humbled.

I know how badly you wanted a sibling, and how disappointed you were when you got one! It's hard to be 10 years old when your little brother is always crying and pooping and spitting out his pacifier. You were such a big help, and I probably relied on you too much.

To your friends, your dad and I are known as the "cool parents." They say they envy the environment which nurtured your blue hair, your vocal feminism, your stargazing atheism, and your non-conformist wardrobe. I know you struggle with that because all that coolness came at a price: having to grow up with your mom. You've spent more years than either of us would like to admit "mothering" me. I hope you can forgive me for all the mistakes I've made, and find some healing in the fact that I am willing to admit them. I love you.

It is a privilege to be your mom. You shine brighter than you realize. I continually told you when you were younger that it was not all about you. But I was wrong. I've come to believe that the universe has many centers, and you are definitely one of them. I love how thoughtful, funny, and genuine you are. I love how you well you care for people. If I could go back in time, I would change the circumstances you were born into, but I couldn't risk changing anything about you. You are perfect, and I am as proud as a mother can be.

You will always have a story with a heavy introduction. I will spend the rest of my life wishing that wasn't the case. It is my greatest wish that your greatest wishes come true--that you move to the city with your best friend and stock your fridge with cookie dough and leftover pizza. Until then, I will insist you take your vitamins every day, and eat your vegetables, in the hopes that they might sustain you through the reckless college years.

Don't be afraid of your darkness. Don't be afraid of your light.

With all my love,

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