That’s an old-fashioned term and I’m sure it’s not entirely accurate in today’s dance world. No doubt you’ll set me straight, rattling off French terms that slip through my mind like water, and describing in minute detail how things actually work in a dance company. That’s your world, not mine.
You are deeply invested in it: forgoing other activities, squirreling away money and birthday requests for additional classes and competitions, always spinning and leaping and holding your arms out just so. This past year you danced 4-5 nights a week: ballet, lyrical, musical theater, jazz and pointe. It’s exhausting. You know… for me, who has to sit in the car in my pajamas every other night playing on my phone while you drag yourself out all glowing, sweaty and limp with muscle strain.
It’s a level of discipline I don’t even aspire to, but deeply admire. And so very you. To choose something you love and pour yourself into it without reservation. You’ve inherited your father’s propensity for intense devotion. That’s a good thing.
Especially for us. We have the most unusual parenting problems with you.
- “It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get all your homework done.” You’re an honours student and our only concerns are that you chill out occasionally.
- “Honesty isn’t always the best policy, be diplomatic.” You don’t play social games, you’re almost impossible to offend, and you only seem shy because you’re quiet.
- “Let us be the parents, relax.” You step in so much to help with your little brother and sister that they consider you more of a parent than a playmate. You are a powerful combination of responsible and nurturing, especially for someone your age.
And that’s the tough stuff. Who knows, maybe 14 will usher in a wild period of rebellion. I doubt it.
This year we celebrated 13 with a mother-daughter trip to New York City and Boston. Not only was it a great adventure for us both. It was a great opportunity to step away from normal life and just enjoy you. We had so much fun, so little sleep and made so many memories.
Life just gets busier from here on out. You’re already commenting on how fast time flies by. It just gets faster. The teenage years aren’t always easy, not even for us responsible types. But they are also exciting and important. Enjoy 14. It only happens once.
And now, a word from Dad…
Who is this young lady I see before me, and what did she do with my little girl?
What a year it’s been for you. New York. Chicago. A starring role in the ballet show. High school. New friends, new church, new babysitting jobs…
To be honest, as hard as it is for me to believe that you are already 14, I also have a hard time remembering that you are ‘only’ 14. You bear so much responsibility at times and juggle so many things so well, that you often seem much older. You are mature beyond your years, and I couldn’t be prouder. But, don’t let the world – or your parents – rob you of your teenagehood. It’s easy to pile things on you because we know you can handle it, but sometimes we also want you to just enjoy being young!
I’m so glad that you and Mom got to take that trip to New York. Not exactly what I had in mind when I first pitched the idea of a 13-year-old trip many years ago, but so much better. When you got home, Mom told me how wonderful it was to spend that time with you. For the first time, you were relating to each other as something close to peers; she got an early taste of what it will be like to hang out with you as an adult, and she loved it.
I joke about being jealous of you guys getting to see New York without me – and it’s true, I would love to go someday. But more than seeing the city, I’d just love to be able to spend that kind of focused, uninterrupted time with you, anywhere I can get it. As your schedule gets increasingly full with school and dance and jobs and friends, that time becomes more and more precious. I promise to make it a priority over the next few years, if you promise not to roll your eyes about having to spend time with your old dad!
I also joke about you being another me. And though we’re so alike in so many ways, the truth is, you are uniquely you: a one-of-a-kind mixture of kindness, generosity, smarts, beauty, grace and wisdom. Your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your dance teachers, the people you babysit for – they all tell me what an exceptional person L is.
But they don’t have to tell me – I see it every day. I love you! Happy 14th birthday.