"I wuv you mama, you my BEST fwend," she mumbles from the sacred dark.
She has one tiny palm pressed against each of my cheeks and she smells of baby lotion and her dad's Doritos. The night light shoots stars and the moon into orbit around about her and I'm starstruck to be her mother.
The girl who never wanted a daughter. The girl comfortable in her world of sons and boys and not a scrap of pink in her wardrobe.
This tiny, wisp of a daughter of mine, she has soothed my scars and kissed me better from the inside.
She is a unique.
And while she sleeps I click through all the ways the world wants to tell her she's anything but.
In 2013, the media taught loud and hard and brash that she"s a product -- marketable and disposable.
The beauty industry told her from its glossy pages and storefront ads that in the eye of the beholder, her appearance must fit into a teeny tiny little size zero box with its edges tightly, perfectly manicured shut.
That women are literally shrinking before our very eyes.
How does a mom strap that Hello Kitty backpack onto her only daughter's tiny frame and send her out the door, down the three front steps and into the world when there are so many wolves abroad?
Maybe that mom models brave, instead of fashion. Maybe she dresses her daughter in words that wrap her around with confidence and courage and bellows into the wild dark -- "You shall not pass!"
Maybe that mom writes love letters with every ordinary moment, between the helpings of macaroni and cheese, that say in so many unsaid words:
Daughter, you are more than the sum of your limbs and hair and eye color; you are a living, breathing galaxy of wonder. I am awestruck by your eyes.
You are wildly loved and crazy brave, especially on the days you choose to live out loud even when you are terrified.
You are sneakers and high heels, you are mud and princesses, you are not playing dress-up when you model grace and forgiveness.
Follow in their footsteps, daughter.
Sing your own song. Make your own art. Make it messy.
We won't be afraid of the chaos of a girl growing into all her divine, God-given potential. We won't box it in or try to keep the world out. We will fling open the windows and dance in the rainstorms.
Grow, daughter, grow.
Throw back your hair and don't worry about your legs being too skinny or too thick.
Worry about them being strong so they can carry you across borders and boundaries; over divides and barriers into the lives of the beautifully different people that will always reflect the corners of your soul you most need to get to know.
Run, daughter, laugh. Lift up your eyes and remember the sky is always brighter than the shadows would have you believe.
Sink your teeth into new ideas. Reach your roots down into the soil of this family and revel in the boring ordinary of the familiar. It will give you the guts to venture into the strange and awkward.
You are more than the sum of your closet and less than the inflated importance of the award shows.
You are going to fall. Lay down your embarrassment, right here, beside me. I will treat it with care and kiss your bruised parts and send you back out tomorrow. And tomorrow. And the day after.
Keep going back out into the fray, daughter, so you can learn for yourself what you're made of. No sugar and spice, no over-worrying about what's supposed to be nice and correct and acceptable. But test the truth by how it ends up treating your neighbor.
Speak up, daughter. Test your voice. Use it for the left out, the lonely, the unchosen. But don't forget to love the popular in all their desperately insecure unhappiness. Let your lunch table be a welcome place. Your freedom a great gulp of hope to the girls who try to fit into the skin of models who don't exist outside the pages of the glossies.
Remember that meanness is a symptom and not a condition.
And that love is the gift that can't be outgiven.
Fight me, disagree, storm out -- but don't ever stop knocking your way back in. My heart is your home and you can't outrun your DNA. I am the start of your story and you can't write me out of the ending, even if you spend years trying.
I will always come for you.
When you don't know where you're going. When you're the most sure of yourself you've ever been. When you're holding onto faith with just your fingernails.
Daughter, I will come. And I will always say the words that need saying, even if they terrify us both. Even when we've both gotten it wrong.
I will not stop telling you what I wished I'd said yesterday.
I pray tomorrow you'll still believe me.