C is for Caroline, turning 16 on Sunday!


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Dear Caroline,

Because you have received your presents already, because cards are corny (unless they have dachshunds on them), and because I will be in Boston on Sunday, I decided to write you a birthday letter this year, for your sweet 16th birthday. When I wrote you a poem on your 13th birthday, you just about threw up, so I hope this is an improved attempt.

I am sharing this letter on my blog to show the world what an amazing person you are and because I want to set an example: parental love sometimes is only felt in all the nagging we do on a daily basis and in this routine of hovering/helicoptering over our kids, we tend to forget how important it is to stand still and express our admiration and love for you: you and William have more stress, more homework and less time than dad and I did when we were growing up, so this pressure cooker environment ain’t easy, especially when you’re maturing and also need the time to figure out who you are.

I admire that you and Will have always been very grounded—you sail a straight course (except when you’re driving sometimes, lol) and I think people respect you in particular because you have amazing leadership qualities. But you are also very considerate and a good listener. I love the talks we sometimes have in the car or over dinner. Even better, we can laugh at the world and I think we share the same sick, and at times, shocking humor. You are, and this is coming out very clearly as you are developing your comedic and drama skills in drama at school but also inside the comedy group Goats of Denmark, a great writer and actor and I think your talent for comedy lies in your sense of timing and enormous stage presence. Plus you are not afraid to make fun of yourself and you have an impeccable ear for accents and voices. I am missing Performance for Progress but I hope dad makes some good footage and buys you some flowers (wink, wink).

I especially admire your sunny outlook on life. Dad and I sometimes have a tendency to look on the dark side of things but you dance through life with grace and a smile on your face. You’re not a moper and you don’t let other people get you down or if they do, you have the resilience to not have it ruin your day. That’s the right way to live and will make you a much healthier and happier person. I still remember you came out of school one day (third grade, I believe) and you said: “I have good news and bad news.” “Give me the bad news first,” I said. “Well,” you said, “I had a C in math but the good news is: it was the best grade in the class!”

Like dad, I also think you really have a strong connection with the Netherlands. I know you have told me that the country makes you feel you belong there and that’s the greatest gift I could hope for. Raising you and Will in the US, I was a trifle afraid that you wouldn’t have that connection at all, but it’s been wonderful to see how you’ve been connecting with the country, the people and my family there. I think that came out this summer when we were there but it also came out at the funeral of my mom last year. At the funeral of dad’s mom, almost a year ago now, you blew everyone away with your eulogy in church. It showed the special connection you had with grandma, but it also showed an incredible level of maturity, poise and grace and I admired you from afar, thinking that those are the moments we have as parents when we can say to ourselves: she’s ready for the world—our work is (almost) done.

I am not sure I have advice as you finish your last two years of high school and prepare yourself to leave home (and have us rot in the empty nest, boohoo) but I will say this: trust your instincts, love life as you do right now, share your talents with the world, don’t listen to the nay-sayers, be compassionate, help those in need, take time off to pamper yourself now and then, give before you take, be a friend to make a friend and keep a friend, enjoy nature when you can, remember that a healthy mind needs a healthy body, celebrate victories big and small, travel when you’re young or better yet, live in a foreign country for a new perspective, don’t sweat the small stuff, rely on humor as a survival tool (and keep others laughing!) and know that you’re stunning inside and out.

We love you buckets. Now go kick ass.

Mom

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