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Happy Birthday, Natalie

hapbdn.jpgHow did this little girl get to be 14 years old? She was barely three when that picture was taken, yet I remember taking the photo as if it were just this year. Fourteen. I can't get my mind around that. Thirteen was okay; that's still almost a little kid. But fourteen is different. It's boyfriends and high school and another stretch of the tenous cord that binds us together. When you are about to have a baby, anyone who has faced parenthood before you will tell you one truth among all the horror stories and old wives tales: tempus fugit. You nod your head and smile when they tell you this because you know it's just a cliché, just one in a long line of clichés that parents of grown kids feel the need to pass on to new mothers. But oh, how right they are. Believe it when they tell you that time goes so fast your head will spin. Everything goes by in a blur; trying to recapture all the moments is like trying to catch all the scenery on a car trip while you're doing 80mph. Vroom. Swooosh. Firststepstoilettrainingnurseryschoollongdivisionpubertyhighschool. When she was crawling, I wished that she would walk. When she was walking, I wished she would stay still. When all she could do was cry, I wished she could talk. Now I wish she would just stay quiet for ten seconds at a time. When she was four, I couldn't wait until she was older so we could stay up late drinking tea while she told me about her first date. Now, I wish she was four again. I want to go back in time and learn to let the days linger. Take more walks, sing more lullabyes, spend less time trying to get her to eat string beans and more time pushing the stroller along the boardwalk. I want to savor the little girl with the sweet smile who used to laugh in her sleep. I recount her life in cultural phases; Barney, Power Rangers, Rugrats, N'Sync, American Idol and everything in between. Now it's punk rock and black clothes and her hair hanging in front of her face. I used to be able to put bows in her hair and shop in the Disney store for the cutest outfits. Now I'm not part of her clothing decisions. I drop her and her friends off by Hot Topic and they're on their own, with their cell phones and earned money and boys. I complain about her a lot. After all, she is a teenage girl and they tend to be somewhat melodramatic, whiny and petulant. It comes with the territory. I take the few moments in between the tantrums and seemingly endless phone calls and savor them. She tells me things; she confides in me and lets me in on most of the gossip going around school. I pay attention to her tone and her body language and I know from the way she talks that I can trust her; she knows right from wrong, she knows good kids from bad kids, she knows what will get her grounded and what won't. I trust her, yes. But do I trust myself? Did I spend the past fourteen years giving her enough guidance? Have I let her learn her own lessons and fight her own battles often enough so that she can get through the jungle of high school with her self-esteem intact? No other birthday of hers has found me in such a melancholy mood. Ten made me feel old. Thirteen made me feel like she was old. But this one, it makes me nervous. There's more than a year difference between thirteen and fourteen; there's a wide chasm that kids marking this birthday jump over. Once they reach the other side they belong less to you and more to the world and you can only hope that you've made the bridge between you and your child strong enough so they can come back to you whenever they want; for a hug, for guidance, for cash. It does go so, so fast. It's not just a saying. See that picture up there? It was taken at my mother's house. We were trying to get a good photo for a Christmas card and that's the one we ended up using. She had on black pants and red socks and her little black boots were on the ledge by the fireplace. She was a sport through it all - I think we shotn two rolls of film - and we kept her happy by playing a continuous loop of Disney sing-along tapes on the VCR. She had pizza bagels for lunch and fell asleep for a nap soon after we were done. I remember all those details because it just happened yesterday. It feels like it did, anyhow. The moments between that day and today may have come and gone at 80 miles an hour, but I have a snapshot for each one. It's the only way to slow time down. Pictures, videos, memories. Hold them all dear because one day they are sleeping soundly in a crib and the next they're getting a job and you need something to keep track of all the days in between. Happy birthday, Natalie. We love you.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Happy Birthday, Natalie:

» Happy Birthday! from Classless Warfare
It's amazing how time flies. When I first moved to Florida, my son Michael was 5 months old. It doesn't feel like 6.5 years have passed since then, but they have. Now, the kid who used to get pasta... [Read More]

» Awwww from Inoperable Terran
Michele's daughter is feverishly hoping nobody ever reads this, but I think we all appreciate it.... [Read More]

» A Birthday Wish from Sketches of Strain-Stupid is as stupid does, SIR!
To Natalie, Michele's daughter who has just turned 14. Argh, 14! Poor Michele! When my twin and I were 14, we nearly drove my mother into the mental hospital. Take a deep breath, Michele. It really will be okay. Me,... [Read More]

» http://www.brandondufau.com/archives/000015.html from Brandon's Puppy
My mommy is all sentimental right now. She just read Michele's post over at A Small Victory about her daughter Natalie, who's 14th birthday was yesterday. Go wish her a happy belated birthday while my mommy drowns me in hugs... [Read More]


That was really cool and true and beautiful. Happy birthday Natalie. :)

Happy Birthday Natalie. What a wonderful tribute, Michele.

Lady, you have my sympathies. I have a thirteen year old daughter. She's killing me, apparently by tearing off a little piece of my heart every day.

All we can do is hang on for the ride and try to do the right thing...Somehow civilization continues inspite of teens.

Best wishes to Natalie and the whole family. She's in good hands, Michele--yours. You're doing great.

Natalie might not appreciate your words about her right now, but I have no doubt that she will come to cherish them as an adult. Yet another beautiful post, Michele.

Michele, you made my dried-up old cinder of a heart melt. Do cinders melt? Well, mine did.

Happy birthday, Natalie!

Happy Birthday Natalie!

A wise old friend with two teenage girls told me:

You spend the first two year trying to get them to walk and talk, and the next 16 trying to get to sit down and shut up.

Happy Birthday, Natalie - and tell your mom you love her.

Happy birthday, Natalie.

(Michele, if you see what looks like this exact same post in November for Emily's 15th, I didn't steal it. Honestly.)

Happy Birthday, Natalie.

And Michele, thank you for putting into words all the emotions all parents go through when time slips by and suddenly gurgling toddlers are asking for the keys to the car.


My youngest, Siobhan at 16, starts her driving school next week...and I don't feel any differently than when her older sisters did the same.

Hang in there, Michele, you'll feel the same with D.J., too.

oh Michele... that was so amazing...
i turned 25 yesterday. i talked to my mother, and i could tell that this birthday was hard for her. so much happens to your kids as they go along, i can't even imagine what amazing courage being a parent requires. you have to be willing to love something with your whole self, bigger than your whole self, bigger than the sky, knowing that if you do your job well, they will leave you.
my mom and i had our issues. like your daughter, i was a melodramatic punker kid with what i thought was a "hard" attitude. but my mom never did anything but let me do what i had to and let me know that she loved me anyway. i still apologize to her for "that whole 14-17 thing". and every year on my birthday, i call her and thank her for being my mom.

happy birthday, natalie!

heh... when i was 14 (two years ago now) i came out to my mother... she eventually found out i was in love with a 23 year old girl from the USA. my best friend was a 45 year old college math professor from new york, and i spent about 6 hours a day on the computer, programming or blogging. my poor mom must have nerves of steel.

It seems like yesterday that we were taking them out for ice-cream and telling them to stay in their seats stop acting so silly...oh, that WAS yesterday.

Happy Birthday, Nat, and don't worry Michele, she is going to marry Josh eventually!!!

Happy Happy B Day Natalie
U lil cutie

Hey Michele how does it feel to KNOW
that stuff we were told as kids (Time Passages)
is actually freakin true. Speaking for myself, I always knew ;-)

That photo is cute! How often does Natalie read your blog? I've always been melancholy--towards myself and my age. I'm fourteen, going on fifteen. Beautiful piece!

lovely post, michele :) happy birthday, nat! big hugs to you both.

high school and boyfriends and driving, oh MY!

My Girl turned 15 last fall. I've tried to impose a -2 year age penalty because 15 is waaay too close to 16 and driving, but she's not going for it.

I'm also trying to convince her that she and I should go to college together. (Wouldn't it be FUN! We could be in the same study group.!) Rolls her eyes in disgust.


She's a freshman and I'm already mourning when she will leave us. OK. I know that's my job and she's wonderful and I really believe she'll have a great life. She's a lot more together than I was at that age.

My Dad told me that his Dad said the only way to pay back your parents is to raise your own.

Happy B-Day Natalie!

You're not alone Michelle.


Michele, this is a beautiful piece of writing. As the mother of a 14 y.o. girl, and two more coming up behind her, I felt as though you were speaking directly to me. Thanks for putting the experience into words so wonderfully.

Happy Birthday to my favorite Niece!! And marrying Josh wouldn’t be such a bad thing, at least she would have really great in-laws.

Happy Bithday Natalie!

Nat, you've done a good job raising you mother; you should be proud.

Happy birthday, Natalie!
Michele, someday I hope that I can show Brandon he is my heart, in as eloquent and wonderful a way as you've shown Natalie here.

Michele...I feel your pain. Anna turned 14 at the beginning of this month, and I've found myself having the same thoughts as you. I think the problem is that she is inching (at warp speed) closer to the age I was when I first smoked a joint and then went on to bigger and better highs....got drunk....cut school....and - the biggest, scariest, fear-making thought of all - gave up my virginity to a guy I barely knew.

My only consolation is that I've worked very hard at building the kind of relationship with my kids so that they will talk to me about anything and everything, something I never ever had with my parents. I learned the importance of listening, no matter what they wanted to talk about and whether or not I found it meaningful or not, something my ex never understood - because if kids know that you don't really care about the little things in their lives, they learn very quickly to not bother coming to you when they have big things to talk about. I am involved in her life. Her friends think of me as a second mom, and I love them dearly.

It's not easy. Sometimes I feel like I am just hanging on for dear life. It's like being captive on a carnival ride that I have to see through to the bitter end; it's exhilarating, despite the moments of sheer panic and heart-pounding anxiety. I know, though, when it's over....when she's made it through high school and her feet are set firmly on the good and true path of life....that I'll feel the relief and sense of accomplishment at surviving that wild ride.

All I can say is this - boys are easier!