When the girls were little I read a lot of parenting books. And I mean a lot. I started with everything that Berry Brazelton wrote and moved on to The Baby Whisperer, Raising Your Spirited Child and How to Talk So Children Will LIsten and Listen So Children Will Talk. I’m not sure which book I took a particular mantra from but I’ve held onto it for a long time. One of these books suggested that instead of saying, “I am so proud of you” you should always say, “You must feel so proud of yourself.” The premise was that children should learn to be intrinsically motivated and to do things to make themselves happy and not to please others. These, of course, are important messages I am glad I taught the girls but all these years later, I’ve learned a pretty big downside to this parenting method.
Caroline turns 15 today and just recently I learned that she is always surprised when she hears me talking highly of her to other people. She told me that she knows I love her and am proud of her but that I don’t ever really tell her so. Gulp. At first, I started to deny this but in fact, it is pretty true. I default to ‘you must be so proud of yourself’ and I hesitate to brag publicly on Facebook and Instagram. These are my preferences but I realized while listening to her that she reads my Facebook and Instagram and sees a steady stream of other people highlighting their children’s achievements. My feeds are full of books and articles, an occasional picture of the girls and very rarely, a shout out of something great they have done.
Once a year, I take a chance to shout from the rooftops how wonderful Caroline is. Today is that day and I now promise that I will not let 364 days go by before I do this again.
Today you turn fifteen years old. This was a year of staggering change and amazing growth for you. The start of high school was not easy but you met and exceeded every challenge. You carried an intensely challenging course load and finished the year with great grades and more importantly a love for the subjects you learned, for (most of!) your teachers and for the new friends you made in your classes. I was reminded again of what a mature thinker, reader and writer you are. Your natural intelligence and curiosity will take you far in all your future academic endeavors.
You were not content though to focus only on your school work. You loved the time you spent on the soccer field, both for your high school team and your club team. You made it to States with DECA. You wrote for the newspaper and were chosen to be one of next year’s editors. And you did something else truly amazing. After the Parkland shootings, you gathered with others to form the Ridgewood chapter of Students Demand Action and you led over 1000 students in a school wide walk out. During this time, teachers and administrators consistently told me how shocked they were that you were only a freshman. Your maturity and leadership skills reflect a student much older than your years.
As I write this I realize that there were many, many missed opportunities to tell you directly and to tell the world publicly how proud I am of you. I hope that while I may not say it out loud, you know deep down how proud I am of all that you have accomplished in these 15 years and that beyond that I am so, so proud of who you are.
You are a remarkable friend. You have friends from all your activities. I am so impressed that you have formed relationships with all sorts of people this year and each one has added to the richness of your life. A long time ago, a friend told me that you were going to have more friends than you knew what to do with once you got to high school. She said that people were just going to like being around you. It seems like this prediction certainly came true.
And you are an amazing sister. Katherine loves you with all her heart and the way she looks at you makes me so happy. She knows just how much you love her. I tell people all the time how lucky we are that you two have the relationship that you do. Of course, you disagree as all sisters do but the angry moments are far fewer than the loving moments. I know that sometimes you sacrifice time with your friends to spend time with your sister and I know that there are few teeanagers who would this voluntarily. This means as much to me as it does to Katherine.
This year more than ever, I hope you read these words and understand how deeply I mean them. I am so, so proud to call you my sweet girl. Happy, happy birthday. I love you so much!