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Today I’m giving myself a little pat on the back and a “good job, you made it.” This self-congratulating is because today is my daughter’s birthday.  Good bye teenager.  Hello 20s.  She’s alive and thriving.  I still have most of my hair left and pieces of my sanity remain intact as well despite the last seven years that were her teenage years.

Allow me to clarify.  I loved her at 13.  I loved her at 14.  I loved her but didn’t like her much at 15.  I loved her at 16 and 17.  I loved her at 18 but she was a little shady.  I liked her on most days when she was 19 too.  But I can’t get enough of her at 20.

Today, she is sitting in a sorority house at her university campus, about a 3-hour drive from me, killin’ it.  I never would have believed it had you told me on one of those nights that we both stormed out of the room crying with frustration hurt feelings blinding rage over a disagreement miscommunication full-out brawl about her attitude.

We celebrated her birthday 3 days ago when we drove there to take our family to dinner.  The next morning, during breakfast at our favorite diner just a couple blocks off campus she said, and I quote “mom is my best friend.” It was a quick phrase in a long story she was telling us about her friends.  I sat across from her trying not to react.  Trying not to choke on my granola yogurt parfait. Cool as a cucumber as my heart filled up with her.  How far we have come since her 13th birthday when we drove her and a carload of friends to Nashville to shop.  I contemplated giving her away to anyone who would take her that day.  But now?  Now only a short few years later she was sitting there all adult-like having a conversation with her parents; casually saying out loud that I’m her best friend.

I write this as a form of encouragement to so many of my dear friends who are smack dab in the middle of the teenager, smart-assy, unpredictable, sanity-challenging days that you worry will never end.  They end.

If you can, keep them alive while still reminding them that even being a grade A jerk doesn’t diminish your love for them.  The rest will hopefully fall into place.  Staying alive and knowing they are loved are the primary goals.  It’s rewardingly refreshing to hear her reflect back on those grade A jerk moments with regret.  She sees things with more mature eyes now and I don’t seem so dumb to her now.

20 is still a fresh adult with so many faceplants and heartbreak ahead; much yet to learn.  However, I look forward to hearing my phone ring with her voice wanting to talk about it rather than a slammed door.

Teenagers.  They don’t keep.  Suck them up and love them while you can.  Because thank you Jesus, one day it ends.

Dear 29 year old me,

You’re here! You didn’t think you’d live long enough to see 40, but unless something unforeseeable happens in the next few months you will be celebrating the big 4-0 this summer. You aren’t even bothered by it that much like you think you will be now. You are counting down the days until your girl’s trip to the beach to celebrate with other friends who are also celebrating milestone birthdays this year.

You aren’t white haired and on a cane. It makes me laugh to think how old 40 seems to you at 29, but now that you are 39 and knocking on the 40 year old door you’ll discover that you don’t feel as old as you thought you would at this age.

That time you were adding up how old the kids would be when you turned 40 and you couldn’t visualize them being teenagers. Well, they are teenagering quite well so don’t worry.

Your daughter who is in preschool now is almost 15. She finally outgrew that embarrassing thing where she thinks she’s a cat and meows all the time. You will even look back on how she use to meow in response to the waiter at a restaurant asking for her drink order and laugh instead of being worried that she would meow like a cat forever. She also doesn’t demand that a high chair be brought to our table to put her baby doll in anymore either. In fact, I’m not even sure where that baby doll is now. I think it’s packed away in a plastic tub with her huge collection of zoo animals and Polly Pockets.

Oh, and your 3 year old son is 13 now and did finally start sleeping in his own bed, but not until he was about 10 years old. Sorry to disappoint. Just try not to overthink it too much for now. I know it’s annoying to always be cramped and not get a good night’s sleep unless you can con his sister into letting him sleep with her every now and then. But trust me, you will look back at all the cute things he said during those quiet nights he was wrapped in your arms and you wouldn’t change anything. Also, at 13 he will still gladly sleep with you in your bed when his dad is out of town on business so don’t listen to what people tell you about how boys close off emotionally as teenagers. It doesn’t happen to your baby, or at least not yet. But the bad news is that he didn’t outgrow being a messy eater. We are still working on that one.

I’m mostly writing to let you know that you are doing a good job. You should let up on yourself some.

All the PTA meetings you’re about to be knee deep in and Saturday birthday parties at the inflatable jump house places are exhausting and not how you want to spend your time exactly, but you did a fine job juggling all that while also working full time. Stop being so hard on yourself when you forget a dentist appointment. Don’t get so stressed out when you have to reschedule a meeting because the kid who was perfectly fine when you left them an hour ago is now vomiting and running a fever. You won’t even remember what meeting you had to reschedule or how frazzled you seemed doing an ill prepared presentation because of it the next week. You will, however, remember sitting in the rocking chair with your sick little girl who wouldn’t allow anyone but you to tend to her and didn’t want you to leave her side because she feels like she “has to fro up”.

In the words of a future Disney movie that will make you thankful you don’t have toddlers anymore, just “Let it go.”

As frustrating as family can be, make more time to be with them. You won’t have everyone that you love right now with you when you get here at 39. By the time you get here you won’t have any grandparents. Make sure to visit them and tell them you love them often. Make sure to write down your Mamaw’s recipe for fried cornbread because she’s the only one who knows it. It hurts me to tell you this, but you won’t have 2 parents with you anymore once you get here. You will be missing one and it will leave a giant hole in your heart. It’s hard to fathom that right now and actually I’d rather you not try to. I’m only telling you because I want you to use this time wisely and soak up all the time you get to spend with those you love. It will be the memories from those days that will carry you through the bad times once their gone.

Take lots of pictures. Record lots of video.

Oh, and just to prepare you, there is going to be a birthday in your son’s life that’s coming up soon where you will go all out and hire a magician to do magic tricks and make the party as perfect as you possibly can. You will give your husband one job. One. Job. His only responsibility that day will be to record the magical birthday party on a ridiculously large camcorder. He will give the illusion he is doing this, but after the party you will discover that he never pushed the record button and so there is no video documentation of the event whatsoever. I only have three words of advice for you. Let. It. Go.

I’d also like to take a moment to tell you to stop worrying about the ending of your 20s. You think that the 20s are the peak of your life, but sitting here on the back side of the third decade I can tell you that you are about to start your peak time. So stop spending so much time worrying about getting old. Take this new decade you are about to enter and hold your head high. Stop worrying about every detail of your appearance. You will look back at pictures of yourself at work parties, at holidays and on vacations and think “damn, I looked good.” As you turn 30 know that you will reflect back on this decade and be proud of your accomplishments. Stop being so hard on yourself and just enjoy. You’re winning!

I hope this was helpful to you. I’d send you a picture of 39 year old you, but I don’t want to give you more to think about….and try to prevent.

So congratulations. You survived your 20s. You navigated through getting married, moving away, coming back home, having kids, messing up and making up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that any day now a letter from the future 49 year old me will show up and give me some pearls of wisdom.

This decade is about to be a crazy ride and I’m excited for you.

See ya in 10 years. Good Luck!

Sincerely,

39 Year Old Me