I had to write a letter to The Durable Daughter for a church retreat that she is going on this weekend. In the Unitarian Universalist Church, 13 year olds are in a “Coming of Age” year, which we have deemed a significant milestone, as these kids prepare to transition from middle school to high school. I wanted to share it with all of you.
Dear Durable Daughter,
You were born in our Philadelphia home, in our bed, after three ridiculous days of pain and sleep deprivation. The story has been told to you, written down, and even published in a book this year. It is fitting that such a special girl should make us work so hard to meet her, and I feel honored to be one of your parents. Even before I met you, I had a sense of who you were. When I finally got to meet you, and look into your gentle, inquisitive face, it didn’t feel like we were meeting for the first time, but reuniting.
You were a wonderful baby. You did everything early, and kept us on our toes. People marveled at this tiny running, talking toddler wherever we went. You were not shy, but you were not quick to smile either, studying people’s faces, taking them in. I always put large fake flowers on your hats, and at times I’m afraid you looked like a grumpy old lady! It was adorable. I love that you still wear them today.
When your brother came into our family, in the same house and bed, you woke up a big sister. We had prepared you all those months by telling you it was “your baby.” You never expressed jealously or asked that he be sent back, like some stories I have heard from other families. You have always gracefully accepted the disruption that is a little brother. We know how difficult that has been sometimes. But we also see how wonderful you two are with each other. Family is like that: at times no one else understands you better, and at times, you want to pee in their cereal. But hopefully, the good outweighs the bad, and over the course of your life, you will have each other to laugh with and lean on.
As you have grown and matured, you have cheerfully thrown yourself into every situation. You are an excellent student. You are multi-talented: I only wish there were 48 hours in a day so that you could do all of the activities that you desire. You have learned how to take criticism and feedback with strength of character well beyond your years, and it has paid off. The transformations that you have made over the past several years have been a joy to watch. I could not be prouder of the choices you have made in friendships, as well as your treatment of people and your own self.
And finally, I can’t write a letter to you without mentioning our favorite subject (eyeroll.) Yes, I saved the best for last. But it is and it isn’t. Your EDS does not define you – you are so much bigger than your disease. But it has brought out the best in you. Because of it, I have watched you learn to stand up for yourself and your needs in a way that some adults have not. You tune into the needs of others with tremendous sensitivity. You consistently persevere and demonstrate true grit, because you have had to practice over and over and over. Even at the age of thirteen, I have every confidence that you have the skills that you need to be successful in life, no matter where your heart takes you.
We are both so proud of you. But you should know that. I hope that nothing in this letter was a surprise to you, because we are doing our job by telling you your story, and how proud we are of you, and how much we love you.
All of our love,
Mom and Dad