My daughter Holly turned 16 today. This particular age strikes a chord in me and feels bittersweet. Sixteen is the age that I was when I first fell in love. It was the age when I started to awaken to what this world is all about and my own part in it. I’m remembering this as I look at my daughter today, and think about how she’s just starting her own amazing journey. But I also think of the day she was born, a little 6 pound peanut who came rushing into the world in 2 hours and 5 minutes. My only baby born with a head full of hair. The doctor caught her like a football after only 3 pushes. And then she nursed for an hour straight. Apparently she was born so fast because she was just really hungry.
It seems like different lifetimes, the hot 104 degree day in Denver when she was born, and today, where she hasn’t quite found herself yet. And it got me thinking about how she isn’t my oldest, or my youngest. In many ways, she is somewhere in between with all of it. Trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs.
Holly is only 22 months younger than her very loud, theatrical older sister. Her big sister who has always been center stage no matter what activity she was doing, who was nicknamed “instant party,” by her kindergarten teacher. But since siblings tend to be so different, Holly was never like that. Holly was the kid who didn’t walk till she was 19 months and didn’t talk till she was 3. She was my youngest child for 12 years, and for a lot of that time she was quiet and serious. At age 6, she found gymnastics and tumbling, and back flipped and cartwheeled her way through her childhood. But as time went on, she found other interests. Friends, water ski, volleyball, pole vaulting. But so far, she hasn’t found that thing that makes her heart really sing. She’s still looking for whatever it is what will help show her who she is. And since two little brothers came along in the past few years and knocked her out of the “youngest” spot, she really is stuck somewhere in between in this family. Not that we don’t love her and cheer her on at her track meets or chorus concerts every chance we get. But still, she’s searching for her identity everywhere. In every part of her life.
Holly is a lovely girl, and it’s easy for lovely girls to get caught up in thinking that their beauty is their identity. I do all I can to discourage this, as it won’t serve her to cling to her looks like a security blanket or protection. But the way pretty girls get treated in our society doesn’t help my cause. From what I’ve seen, it’s harder to find your voice when you have a very pretty face because everyone is always watching you.
As a mother, I want so much to help my children find their way. But as someone who still remembers being 16, I know that this is something we must all do for ourselves. This will be her life for a little while yet. Because she can’t quite drive yet. Because she still has a couple years before she goes to college. Because she is still in the process of growing up. This is, by definition, an “in between” time of life.
But I also know that Holly will find her way to many great things in this life. And I can’t wait to be there to cheer her on through them all, and to see what she chooses to do in this world.