To my daughter, a new teenager

Today you turn 13, though you have been a teenager in spirit for a while now. Tall, smart, increasingly savvy, curious, reflective, sensing your awareness of the world and of yourself is changing and growing. Unsure what form your mind will eventually take, which can be frustrating, as many changes in your mind and feelings are not in ways you can choose.

Sometimes your parents and brother are on the ball, other times none of us seem to get you.

I like seeing the glimpses of the different personas you try on like hats to see what suits you, or makes you laugh, or might make your friends laugh. I know as you grow more independent, and the natural shift happens where your friends' thoughts matter more than your parents' thoughts, that you will be less and less my toddling daughter of many years ago. You don't need me to refill a sippy cup or fetch a snack. You are less dependent on me the more time goes on.

But that's why, my increasingly grown-up daughter, when you choose to hangout with me, with so many other choices before you, it matters all the more. And you're good company. I delight in seeing and hearing you joke, experimenting. Some jokes are misses, but when they hit the target they THUNK like an arrow hitting a bullseye. High-fives all around, fully amused as all of us in the room laugh.

You are clever. I delight in seeing you find new outlets of expression, and build on the ones you have had for years. I delight in thinking of the baby you were, the child you were not too long ago, and marveling at the impressive human being you are now. Happy birthday, my darling daughter.

Love always, Papa.

Daughter taking a photo of "Untitled (To Donna) II" by Dan Flavin.