I guess I always knew this day would come, and of course, I consider myself lucky you have reached your 18th birthday! You are no longer a baby, toddler, young girl or young teenager but instead a beautiful young adult. I did my best all of the way. I know sometimes I screwed up, and other times I feel like I did the right thing. Hopefully, through all of it, there has been way more good than bad, and you feel loved and adored. I feel so much love from you, which makes me so incredibly lucky. You have one of the kindest hearts I know.
Life is cruel sometimes, and if I could build a bubble around your special soul, so you would never get hurt, I would do it in an instant. I know you would save every single pet and child in the world if it was possible, and I will always admire you for that. The sad thing is none of us can, but I know wherever your road travels, you will be helping. You will be someone people can count on in their moments of need.
The first time you had a broken heart in the fifth grade, and I saw those tears, I knew exactly what they were. You walked into the bathroom, and you didn’t even have to tell me Tanner had broken your heart. There were more heartaches that followed, but piece by piece you learned to get through each one and dealt with the hard facts people will let you down. You have learned to adjust and let go of things that aren’t good for you. Sometimes it takes people 50 years before they realize the need of letting go of drama in their life.
You have always taken the high road, and I have learned from watching you. You taught me I could be athletic and be a girl, too. You have taught your sisters the same thing. What a role model you have been all of these years for all of these kids! You have shown the boys women can be beautiful but modesty is a trait to be admired. Your brothers and sisters are all following in your example of being appropriate on social media to protect who they are and what they want the world to see.
You are on a six-month countdown to moving out and starting the next chapter of your life. It will be gone in a blink, and I can’t even imagine my mornings and nights without you. I have fun just getting gas with you. I love the games we play in the car. I love your gorgeous smile and how it lights up my mornings and sometimes is the last thing I see before I go to bed. As you begin these slow steps into adulthood, you will hit some bumps, and there will be bruises. You will always have your family to lean on and seek guidance from when you need it. I promise I will let go as much as I can and not check up too much, but it isn’t going to be easy. You will be taking a piece of my heart when you go that I will never get back.
For your birthday, we are past stuffed animals and puzzles, bicycles and scooters, Barbie Jeeps, hair bows and new cell phones. It is time for you to start thinking about your financial future. I am starting you out with a gift that you may not fully understand now. I have started a Roth IRA account for you and was able to do this because you worked so hard this year while going to school and earned money so that you could already start saving for your future. I am proud of you for this accomplishment. This could become a nice piece of how you pay your bills later on when your career is behind you. It’s hard to think that far ahead at 18, but life goes so fast. Trust me, I was just holding you for the first time, and now you are an absolutely gorgeous woman.
There are lots of decisions you will make on your own now. Some will be the right choices, and others will be wrong, but you can only learn from those and become a better person. In life, it is our mistakes that generally help us grow the most. Be sure to leave your comfort zone, and try lots of things in college and after as well. Travel. Meet new friends. Try new foods (even the spicy ones). Don’t be afraid of a broken heart or being single if that is where life takes you at certain times. You will learn more from yourself than anyone else, and once you truly love who you are, you can offer that love to a partner, children, extended family, and friends. You don’t have to rush any of this — it is all up to you.
Never forget: Wherever your next steps take you, you are always just a heartbeat from home. I will always be with you. Our relationship will change now as I have taught you all I think you need to thrive both physically and spiritually. I have disciplined you when it was necessary and given you the tools I thought would help you most in your life. Use everything wisely, but know I am here to offer advice and my unconditional love and friendship to you all of the time. I love you deeply and can’t wait to see where your caring heart takes you. Good luck finishing up this last semester of high school. It’s a hard one as you can taste your freedom but still have to stay focused until that last final in June. I already miss you as I know you started letting go of my hand years ago, but in my heart, I will always be holding yours.
Katie Coombs is the host of the radio show “Uncommon Sense with Katie Coombs.” You can reach her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UncommonSenseKC/.