A letter to Ainsley on her 13th birthday

In three days I will be the mother of a teenage girl.

While I’ve had 13 years to prepare for this moment, I still find it taking me by surprise.

Each December as Ainsley has gotten older, I’ve wondered whether I’ve reached the final year of what has been an annual tradition since she was little. On the issue before her birthday, I use this space to pen her a letter. I thank her for her patience in letting me write about her — and yours for your willingness to read about her.

Dear Ainsley,

As you well know, you are on the verge of becoming a teenager. This might be less exciting than expected, seeing as people have mistaken you for a high school student since you were in the fifth grade. But on Sunday you will be the big 1-3.

I know this is a tough time — for you and lots of other kids. Even though the “tween” years are over, you’re still stuck in that in-between phase. You’re no longer a kid, but you’re not yet a young adult. You’ve lost much of the fun and freedom of childhood and have yet to gain most of privileges of adulthood.

You and your classmates are going through a lot of changes — physical and emotional — that can result in a bit of insecurity. Unfortunately, thanks to social media, teens today are subjected to relentless commentary on everything from their height to their haircut.

You will realize, as you get older, that most people who are overly critical are that way because they feel bad about themselves. In some twisted way, they believe cutting you down will boost them up. That knowledge doesn’t make their words sting any less — whether you are in seventh grade or a grown adult. But hopefully it will help you recover faster.

If I could give you any gift for your birthday, I would give you the gift of seeing yourself as I see you.

You are elegant and beautiful. Your classmates might be giving you grief over your height and build, but that will change as you get older. I’ve never heard a grownup criticize a woman for being tall and thin. Have patience.

You have a wonderful, quirky sense of humor that makes you so fun to be around. I especially enjoy your lip syncing, funny faces and witty comments. I love it when you make me laugh.

You are a thoughtful, caring and loyal friend. Those qualities will be more and more appreciated by others as you get older.

More importantly, you are a thoughtful and caring granddaughter, niece and goddaughter who is always willing to spend time with family members — even if it means eating Christmas dinner in the dining room of an assisted living facility.

You are an amazing musician. I can’t tell you how proud I am of your accomplishments this year and how much I enjoyed seeing you play and sing in your winter concerts. Don’t underestimate — or underappreciate — the gift you’ve been given.

You have grown up so fast! It seems like yesterday that we celebrated your birthday with lunch and a shopping trip at the American Girl store, and now you’re using Christmas and birthday money to buy a new iPhone.

But as much fun as we had when you were little, I wouldn’t want time to stop. I so enjoy watching you grow into the marvelous young woman you are becoming. (And so does your father!)

So happy 13th birthday, Ainsley. It is a gift to be your mom.



— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean