This is what I want to say to my daughter:
My Dearest Buttercup,
I have loved you from your very first heartbeat.
I have loved you through your first toothless smiles for me.
And through your first little pouts.
I have loved you through your first steps in my direction.
And through your first run away from me.
I have loved you through your pleas for help in getting your shoes tied.
And through your declarations of "I can do it myself!"
I have loved you through your wobbly, desparate first attempts to ride a bike.
And through your first ride around the neighborhood without me.
I have loved you through your clings to my leg, afraid to be left alone at school.
And through the half-hearted waves of good-bye.
I am no longer the center of your world.
I knew this day would come. I have been preparing us for it. It is the way it is supposed to be. You can't grow and love and live your life unless you break away from me a bit.
Things may get rocky for a while. You won't like the rules. You won't like the chores. You probably won't like me sometimes. But in the end, it will all work out.
I have loved you from your first heartbeat, and every single one since then.
As your heart beats now, I love you.
And know, through all of our missteps and misunderstandings, I will be praying. And God will love both of us through it.
No matter how much you grow, you will always be my baby.
I love you.
And yet, when the eye-rolling, muttering, defiance, or blame-shifting begins, I lose my mind. Why can't I just hug her and say, "I love you"? Why do I get stubborn right back at her? Why do I have to prove my point? Did I learn nothing from my own preteen/teen years?
Sometimes I can be calm. Sometimes I can let it go. Sometimes it takes awhile. Sometimes, when she says I never listen to her, she's right. I really don't want to listen to her.
Surely one of these days, one of us will grow up.