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Letter To My Daughter On Her 16th Birthday

Dear Nell,


Today is your 16th birthday. I find that incredible. I won’t tell you how it felt like yesterday and get all gushy about the first time I saw your face or express the overwhelming power of love that bonds a mother to her child. I want to talk about now, though I am ready to tell the beautiful baby girl story of you any time.


Don’t cringe and roll your eyes just yet. I promise not to offer you Hallmark platitudes of wisdom, the inspirational things that go on greeting cards and hang in there kitty posters.


This is something else.


I’ve known what I’m about to tell you, but didn’t say until today when I sat down to write you this letter.


It’s about being honest in explaining that I’ve been winging it all along in hopes of giving you something to believe in, an adult who knew all if not a lot of the answers and who you felt could help guide you especially when and after your father died. Without him, I was lost.


It has been you over the past 16 years and definitely over the last six who’s been teaching me more than I could ever dream of teaching you.


You’ve taught me patience even when the lessons were hard and tears were shed. I’ve learned the best lessons are often the ones that hurt the most.


You’ve taught me that sometimes shouting at each other accomplishes nothing– that listening is much more effective and is the one of the best things a parent can do for their child. I know there are times I correct you, lecture you and repeat myself and probably always will because that’s what mothers do. AND it’s in our DNA.


You’ve shown me there is more than one path to happiness and success. It doesn’t have to be traditional as in getting straight A’s or slamming one out of the ballpark. You know what makes you happy and what works for you and you’re not afraid to go after whatever that is. I think the world of you for standing up for what you believe in, even when it doesn’t always work out. That’s called life.


You’ve proven that someone can shine without being in the spotlight. I love that you step away from it, casting your own light on almost everything you do and the people around you. I love seeing you with your friends, giggling and laughing, and watching all of you grow up together. These are the people who will always love you. You’ve given me the same laughter and joy, but also the frustration and confusion that comes with being a parent– emotions so raw I feel them in my bones. This is what I am talking about, the imprint you have made on me. And because of all of these things and so much more, I’ve never felt more alive since the day you were born. That’s called motherhood.


So on your very, very special birthday, I need to thank you for giving me life. You’ve helped me become a better mother and most of all, a better person. I can’t wait to see what other gifts you give me and things you teach me as you grow up and go out on your own into the world. I already see you pulling away and exploring life in ways I always imagined for you. Watching you do things like ride a bike from here to Canada to test your endurance or to hear that you’re a family’s favorite babysitter makes me really happy. When you see my tears, please understand it’s not only because I feel like I’m losing you, but also because I am so proud to share you with the world.


Happy Birthday, Sweet 16! My precious baby, Nell.


Love, Mom


  1. Joe Paglia says:

    Dear Laura,

    I am not a parent, as you are aware. I suppose it takes all kinds to do parenting really well, as there are all kinds of children and all kinds of family circumstances. But, if this heartfelt letter, overflowing with thoughtfulness, wisdom, eloquence, devotion and raw humility, comes from being a great parent, I have severely deprived myself – even more than I had imagined.

    You are a shinning star, a tremendous role model in countless ways, and the reason that a child, at any age, becomes grateful and completely devoted to her/his parent. Of this, I do know.

    Happy 16th, Nell! Please hug your mother tightly – for yourself and all of us who admire her so truly. And, please linger – because the hugs don’t last long enough. Of this, too, I know.

    Thanks you for sharing this transparent love letter,


  2. Mel Goldstein says:

    Beautifully done Laura, and Happy Birthday Nell.
    Best to you all,

  3. Ebarbara says:

    great letter Laura. It’s not easy to put in words all the things we feel when we see our daughters, but you have put it into words so well.

  4. Barbara says:

    Happy Birthday to beautiful Nell and Happy Birth Day to her equally beautiful Mother, inside and out!

  5. Naomi says:

    Beautiful, Laura. Wish I’d thought of all that when my daughter turned 16. Except with the actual facts of HER life. But oh, yes, I’ve learned to listen and she has taught me so much. And oh, how I could feel the ferocity of your love for your daughter in this love-infused birthday greeting. May she have many, many more happy, love-infused birthdays!!