An Open Letter To Someone Who Just Turned Twelve

Whenever we see babies, I always think (and sometimes say) how much I wish you and your brother were still that age. If I say it aloud, someone — usually a stranger — will tell me I don’t mean it, that (insert age here) is a lovely age, too.

Here’s a secret: I do mean it. I mean it with all my heart.

I’d take three again, the year you had such terrible tantrums I feared for your well-being, actually called the doctor to see what I should do. I’d take three-almost four again, when you started preschool and we began that long, slow separation process that still continues today.

Image Five, when you started kindergarten, and I watched you walk so bravely into a classroom filled with strangers, then went home and cried with your brother? Absolutely. The delicious chubbiness of nine months, when your elbows had elbows and your hair was something from a Shirley Temple movie goes without saying.

Even twelve. Someday, off in the very close future, you’ll be sixteen, and I’ll be longing for twelve — the year you are almost, but not quite, as tall as me, the year you’ve started a new school with new challenges and new friends and new opportunities, the year you’ve begun to look so much less like a child. Someday, I’ll see the year of twelve in a haze of golden light, because it will be a year that you were still mine.

You’re not, of course. You never have been. You have always been very much your own independent person. But it’s easier to pretend when you are little that I can hold you forever, keep you safe, keep you happy, keep your heart from being broken and your spirit intact.  I could still soothe your hurts with a hug or a kiss, distract you with a lollipop or toy. The hurts that are coming — and you will have some — won’t be banished so easily. The joys that are coming — and you will have those too — won’t be as easily shared. They will be your own, and you may tell me about them or you may not.

So I miss three. And eleven. And every single age you’ve been, even as each one takes you a step further down your own path. I’m glad I’ve been on this journey with you, glad to be your traveling companion, if only for a little while. No matter how far ahead you may wander, I’ll always be here cheering for you (quietly, so as not to embarrass you).

I may miss three, but I’m awfully proud of twelve.

Liz Michalski


  1. Norman on October 8, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    A beautiful and compelling open letter . . . . Thank you.

    • liz on October 9, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      Thanks for reading, Norm!

  2. Anne on October 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Liz, as always, this is simply beautiful.

    • liz on October 9, 2013 at 10:27 pm

      Thanks, Anne. I know you are enjoying a stage much further down the road than I am. I know you must be loving it, but it must be bittersweet, too.

  3. Lynn on October 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    But they are yours, and always will be….no matter how big they get! You CAN look at them and think “mine”!! Yes, their joys and hurts belong to them, but they will also always be yours, too, simply because a part of you is forever within them. You will always feel their joys and hurts in your heart, too, and it is what makes being a parent such a joyful, painful, beautiful thing, and it is what makes you burst with pride in them!

    • liz on October 9, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      Do you think so? I hope so. Thanks for the encouragement!

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