June 9, 2005…one of the four best days of my life. I’ll never forget the ear piercing scream you let out after the doctor coaxed you to breathe, your stubbornness was apparent from the first moment of your life. Two nights later, and back at home, when Lauren was afraid to sleep on the top bunk, Luke was crying because “that baby” wouldn’t stop screaming, and I was still awake at 3am because I had to stand up and rock you so you wouldn’t cry, and every time I’d sit down you’d start again…I’ll admit for a moment, I wondered what we had done. Kate, you have taught me so much about hard work and how it pays off. Training your amazing intelligence and iron will has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. You are so much like me, and sometimes when that is the case, it makes it harder, not easier to communicate. I feel you and understand you in an almost intuitive way. I feel my feet on the path you are walking, introvert, aware and observant, stubbornly strong but so sensitive on the inside you almost have to put a wall around it. You are a beautiful person already at just 13. So, as you become my third teenager in the house, I have a few words that I hope you will carry with you as your life tells it’s story.
Learn to love the work. You’re old enough to see cause and effect. Give your endeavors your best effort and note the results. The habits you form now, when your hormones are making you moody and tired, will serve you for the rest of your life. If you can focus on your process now, the benefits you will reap will run deep for the rest of your life. The reward doesn’t come from accolades from the outside world, or medals and awards or even report cards. What is of true benefit is the deep satisfaction you feel in your soul when you know that you are giving your best effort. Once you build that muscle, it’s a fulfillment that will sustain you through all of life’s highs and lows.
Find something you really like about yourself and focus on it, even celebrate it. Be humble, but inwardly, focus on your talents and gifts, there are so many. Thirteen is an age of transition, for me it was the height of insecurity, but I always had a voice in the back of my head, even though sometimes it was hard to hear, telling me I was enough, it didn’t matter what other people said. That voice got me through the years of mean girls, acne, and being taller than every boy except for 3 (and I can still remember their names, Kevin, Zach, Tino… because it stood out that much). At 13, there is always something about yourself you will question. Find that positive inner voice and work to get comfortable with it, and your doubts will linger for a much shorter time.
Know that what’s right isn’t always popular and what’s popular isn’t always right. Popular is still a word that makes my stomach lurch. The discomfort that goes with trying to fit in at 13, and sorting out your own feelings, is not a time I’d ever ask to return to. It’s a right of passage though that shapes your character, and helps you define what is important to you. Discomfort allows our biggest opportunities for growth, so now, looking back, I realize 13 for me was a time of some pretty heavy lifting. As painful as some of it is, I hope it’s the same for you, which sounds strange, but you are strong and it will help you discover so much about yourself. Know that I am always here to help you navigate, with the most open mind and heart.
The cool crowd is always changing, so set your standard. The truth is, you can only find security within yourself. Just keep being you, and you do that so beautifully. If you have a tribe, even just one or two, that you know you can depend on, you don’t need much else. Sometimes even the one or two will let you down, its ok, it’s part of life and learning…if they do, you will always have me in your corner, no matter what.
The amazing thing about having daughters, and today, you in particular, is that I get to see beautiful humans who bear a likeness to me, with vastly more potential. You inspire me to set an example to push that potential of yours to it’s farthest reaches. Kate, to say you are an original is an understatement. You are learning to use your stubbornness for good, your intelligence to learn, create and bring other people joy, and your kindness to make those who feel marginalized, good about themselves. Don’t be afraid to show those qualities to the world in the boldest ways.
Last piece of advice… dance when you feel like dancing, it will happen, and when it does, it will feel like the best night of your life.
Welcome to the teenage years Kate, you join two others in this family who are navigating it pretty well, you will do it in your own original way no doubt, but know that we are all here for you to help make this journey beautiful. Love you more than you’ll ever know.