Today my beautiful daughter Brianna turns 17. It is a day full of bitter-sweet for me. I'm so proud of her and thrilled to see her growing into this beautiful woman; yet it is also sad because I know that my days with her in my home are numbered. One day, she will leave and build a beautiful life of her own. I remember when she was young and my friends with teenagers would say, "Enjoy it--it goes by way too fast." At the time, I was recently divorced with a toddler and it didn't feel like it was going by very fast at all. In fact, some days felt like they would never end. Yet here I am on my last year and believe me when I say, "Enjoy it--it goes by way too fast." Once Brianna leaves my home it will never be just the two of us and it will never be the same again.
When I had Brianna it was at the tail end of about a decade of very difficult times. Life hadn't gone according to plan and I made a lot of poor choices and was struggling to figure things out. Yet I was smart enough to know that this little girl was a miracle and from the day that she was born I have treated our life together as such. I had my share of regrets in life but one regret I wouldn't have was how I raised my daughter. I have based every decision I have made in raising her on what was best for her. My decisions haven't been about what I needed or wanted. They have always been about what she needed. I have made a lot of sacrifices on her behalf. Every sacrifice has blessed my life a million times over. Brianna has grown into this amazing woman. She is beautiful. She is smart. She is wise beyond her years. She has this amazing laugh. She is athletic. She is a leader. She has such self-confidence and she knows who she is and what she wants in life. She is full of life and lights up the room. She is the one her friends turn to when they have a problem. She loves babies and would do just about anything to hold a baby. She is a light in world of darkness. She is all that is good in this world and more.
The other night as I watched Brianna sleep I shed more than a few tears. At 17 she is the same age that I was when I got raped. I realized just how young and innocent I was when life went so bad. My heart hurt for me and all that I had gone through at such a young age. My heart hurt thinking about Brianna's life ahead and knowing that along with the good there would be bad. You can't have the joy without the pain. I would do absolutely anything to save Brianna from the hardships that this life holds for her but I also know that some of my best qualities and greatest strengths have come as a result of hardships. Sitting on the bed crying and watching Brianna sleep I wished that I could hold her in this time and this place and protect her from the world that awaits. Knowing that I can't and that I have to let her go live her life in spite of what might happen I realized that the best gift I could give Brianna was to let her know I believe in her.
There is great power in having someone believe in you. Just one person is all it takes. This world would be a better place if everyone had someone that believed in them. When life knocks us down the first thing we question is ourselves and our belief in ourselves and our ability to pull through. Having someone that believes in us gives us that safe place to figure out the hardest of days. So Brianna on your 17th birthday I want you to know that I believe in you. I have always believed in you and maybe that's part of why you are who you are today.
I believe in you on your best days, but even more so on your worst days. I believe in you every day for the rest of your life. I believe that you have inside of you all that you need to see you through in this life with all that it holds. I believe that you have what you need to be able to make the decisions that will best serve you and someday your own family. I believe that no matter what hardships you experience that you will always rise above them. I believe that you will do amazing things. I believe that you will be an amazing wife and mother. I also want you to know that I am always here for you. There is not one thing that you could say or do that would change the way I feel about you or how much I love you and believe in you. I will hold your hand when you go off to college, get married and when you have all of your babies. I will hold your hand on your best days and I will hold your hand and wipe away the tears on your worst days. I believe in you and who you are and who you will become.