To My Daughter on Her 15th Birthday

I loved you before you were born. From the moment I realized I was pregnant, even when I was told I wouldn’t have any more children, I loved you and I wanted you. It was a struggle to fight for you, to keep you growing, spending every two weeks in the hospital just to keep you inside as long as possible.

You came into this world before the sunrise and when you were placed immediately in my arms we looked into each other’s eyes and I fell in love with you and there was sunshine in my life again. You were tiny, and feminine, and beautiful. Then you were taken quickly away and rushed out of the delivery room.

Two hours after having you, I demanded to see you. The nurse took too long to get a wheelchair and I couldn’t wait, so I walked to the other end of the hospital, holding on to the rail until a wheelchair was brought to me for the rest of the journey to the NICU. You were tiny and fragile in that incubator with wires and monitors connected to you. And I couldn’t touch you. A few days later I was released from the hospital and I had to go home, without my little girl.

Bringing you into the world was a beautiful moment, but having to leave you alone in that hospital was one of the two periods in my life that I experienced true sorrow and grief. When I walked into the door of our little house, the grief and sadness took my breath away and I fell to my knees on the brick floor and sobbed. When the last tear fell that night, I didn’t cry again for many years.

Your first year of life was rough for you (you only weighed 12 lbs at a year old), but you were oh, so beautiful with your white-blonde hair and bright blue eyes. You looked like a little angel baby or a tiny fairy princess. And you’ve grown into such a beautiful young lady.

I am proud to be your mother. You are compassionate, caring, polite, helpful, funny, talented, and smart. Even as a preschooler, the teachers called you “little mama” because you always took care of everyone else in the class. You are gorgeous, fashionable, and athletic all in one package. And you are one brave young woman. You want something and you go for it. You are fearless and you are fierce.

And you are strong. Stronger than I was at your age. You’ve had to deal with things that not many kids your age could handle. And you’ve done it with grace and you’ve been understanding, and even wise about life at times. And you’ve seen more of the world already than most kids you go to school with will ever see in their entire lives.

Shannon Hurst Lane and Lauren Lane on a gondola in Venice, Italy

Today you are 15. And you are growing up. You’ll find yourself in situations that only YOU can get yourself out of. And only you can live your life. No one else can do that for you. And while I wish I could promise that I will always be here for you, remember that everyone’s time on Earth has to end at some point and no one has control over when that moment comes. You’ll learn some life lessons through experience alone and if I can make your burden lighter from my experience and observations, then I hope you’ll read these tips for life one day when you need them:

On Habits – Don’t do drugs. If you have to, Google “meth heads” and look at what drugs to do a person. I rest my case. When you go to college parties, don’t be the girl that drinks too much and pukes in her hair. Shots may look fun, but they drain your beauty. Speaking of hair, keep your hair clean and healthy. Don’t ever bleach it and keep it as close to your natural color as possible. And always keep your nails clean and take off your makeup before going to bed and wear a moisturizer. Dress like a lady when you grow up and be good to yourself. If you don’t spoil yourself every now and again, no one else will. And do at least one good deed every day.

On Religion – I was raised Catholic and in my travels I’ve learned about religions all over the world with all having the same basic principle: Live a Good Life and Be Kind. We live in a very Christian area with some very nice and helpful people. But there are also people in our community who do not live such a good life during the week and act like going to church on a Sunday wipes their slate clean. I believe that God (or whatever anyone else believes in) is in the heart, not in a building. Live a good life, do good deeds, have gratitude, and don’t judge others.

On Love – Don’t get married too young and wait a few years after marriage before having children. Don’t settle out of convenience or because everyone else is getting married and having kids. Go with the guy who makes your breath catch, the one who makes your eyes light up and his light up when he sees you too. Marry the man that you can’t stand to be away from, not even for a day. Marry the guy who treats you like a queen and would do anything for you. The one you would do the same for in return. Marry the man you would follow to the ends of the earth. Marry the guy that touches your soul. Marry the guy that is your best friend.

On Life in General – Follow your heart. Remember your dreams. Listen to your intuition. If something feels wrong to you, then don’t do it, no matter what anyone else says or how much they try to convince you. If something feels right, then fight for it with all you have in you. You might fail, but at least you know you did everything you could. The only thing you can control in your life is you. Other people have to make their own decisions in life and go with what feels right for them. And remember that not everyone else listens to their heart.

Most of all, live life with passion. And believe in yourself.

I love you my daughter. I’m very fortunate to have the honor of being your mother. You are beginning one of the most exciting times of your life. Live it well. People remember everything you do in high school, even when you’re 70 years old. Think about that. And smile because you are loved very, very much. We’ve had a number of adventures together, and I hope we have many, many more. Happy Birthday.

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