My middle baby turns 16 this week. It has been an extraordinary journey, watching our sweet, little Bubbles metamorph into an equally sweet, gorgeous young lady with a world full of promise in front of her.
I remember sixteen being an extraordinary year. The prospect of adulthood, that island of responsibility and freedom that you’ve so longed for, suddenly appearing on the horizon; still distant, but now something very real, and sometimes really frightening. It is a year of SATs and Prom, class rings and college visits, learner’s permits and first jobs.
I fell in love in my 16th year, not for the first time, nor for the last, and I hope you get to experience that whirlwind of emotion, when you can feel your heartbeat in your fingertips and your feet don’t seem to touch the ground and every song is about you and your beloved. I had my heart broken that 16th year as well, once so crushingly I thought I couldn’t breath for a week. And while I never want you to feel such pain, it is still good in its own way, for it lets you know you can survive, sometimes even thrive, when all seems dark.
The friendships I held in that 16th year were the strongest I ever had, and in many cases have still. Your generation, who never really knew a world without Facebook, seem to have friendships wide rather than deep, but I hope you will find someone that can match the steadfastness and loyalty of a Harvey or a Scott, someone like a Frank and a John to laugh hysterically with at the world, and definitely someone like a Tim, as much a brother as a friend, and without whom life would have been a much emptier place.
I woke up a bit in my 16th year. With that island of adulthood looming, I realized that it was no longer acceptable to get by with the minimum of effort, and finally started thinking about the person I was going to be, not just the person I was. I hope you, so like me in many ways, will do the same. Middle Baby, I promise, you can do this and will still be able to find all the joy and adventure being 16 allows.
And adventures will abound, for 16 is a year of firsts. That first kiss with The One, your heart a hummingbird beating against your ribcage; the satisfaction of that first paycheck, and your first feeling of outrage when you see how little you actually can keep. The liberty of sliding behind the wheel the first time, Mom or Dad holding the opposite door handle with silent, white-knuckle panic. You will have so many paths to choose, each one with it’s own discoveries. Choose them with eyes and heart open and know that even the wrong paths lead to learning, and we will always love you.
Sixteen is a year of idealism. Of passion. Of knowing you can change the world, even just a little. Hold onto that, treasure it, cultivate it – for such hope is priceless, especially in a world grown jaded with twenty-four hour news feeds, world leaders who act like children, the celebritizing of bad behavior, and Snooki. My generation is going to hand yours a world slightly dinged, and it is that hope, that belief, that passion that will make it right again.
So happy sweet sixteen, Middle Baby. May it be an exhilarating year filled with all the love and light and laughter you deserve!