Letter to my daughter on her 14th birthday

My darling girl,

WHOOOOOOOSH! That was the sound of time flying by and you and I are both another year older! Can I say, it looks a lot better on you! A lot has happened this last year:

  • you traveled to exotic locales like Sikkim and not-so-exotic-locales like Newaygo,
  • you had some exhilarating soccer wins and some heartbreaking soccer losses,
  • you watched your immigrant mother vote for a woman president and saw an orange, virulent, ass-clown win instead,
  • you were Student of the Month at your school and also earned (and I mean legit earned) your first C in a test,
  • you learned how to make pancakes and mac n cheese to add to your Raman repertoire which makes you more of a chef than your mother at the same age…..or indeed any age,
  • you got braces…..very expensive mouth bling,
  • your favorite retort to anything I said this year was – “MOM“, and “umm, that’s debatable“,
  • you gave up choir,
  • you’ve developed a phobia for germs that makes you very resistant to hugs and kisses,
  • you watched whales in the Salish sea and rafted whitewater in British Columbia,
  • you stayed in a college dorm for a soccer camp that you thought you would hate but then you loved,
  • you read sad sad books of war and misery while rejecting all the happy ones I suggested – please please please read Daddy-long-legs my emo child,
  • you grew closer to some wonderful friends, and sadly but unavoidably, grew apart from other good friends,
  • you marched for science,
  • you graduated Middle school with honors and a Presidential certificate!

And now you’re in High school?! Really? Aren’t you a little young for high school?! And while it may be quite a change for you, it’s been hella steep learning curve for us as well!

The Hunger Games style locker grab, the online class scheduler from hell, the convoluted process of taking you out during school hours for a doctor’s appointment, the thousand activities that we should ensure you are part of so you can get into a good college in 4 years – frankly, we’ve been kind of crap at all of it, and I don’t see that changing soon!

In three weeks you will go to your first Homecoming dance! Your first official boy/girl, buy a dress you will wear just once for an obscene amount of money, get your hair done, find the right shoes for – dance. And, this may be a good point to ask – what in god’s good name is your infernal hurry to grow up child? You can’t wait to drive a car, go to college, get a job, move out of the house, date – meanwhile I am clinging on to your childhood with my finger nails!

So on your birthday you will revel in being a year older and the seemingly unlimited possibilities of the future. I will look at baby photos and videos of your first steps, and first hiccups, and first yawn (you were our first child so we documented a lot of crazy stuff), and how you looked when you saw your baby brother for the first time, and your first soccer games. And there is a non-zero probability that I will get verklempt.

One of my favorite memories of being pregnant with you is when you started to move. At first it felt like champagne bubbles, that turned into butterfly wings, that became persistent jabs – pretty special when those jabs found my bladder BTdubs! And by the end you stretched all your limbs out and turned and twisted like some giant eel doing yoga moves in a sausage casing!

And while all those movements were life affirming and wonderful – there was a move you started to pull pretty early on that was – how should I put this – bloody awful! Ever so often you would stick your head or a knee or your hip or your foot right under my ribs and push till I thought my chest was going to explode! For an accurate representation of how that felt, see John Hurt’s seminal work in Alien – you’re welcome for that visual!

And that feeling of having an immovable object meet an unstoppable force – that continues today! Every time you exert your will and test your boundaries and dig your heels in, I feel that tightness in my chest – like you’re still head butting my ribs from the inside.

I guess you’ve decided that 14 is going to mark the start of your Teenage Angst period – fan-friggin-tastic!! So we’ve had some conversations about attitude, and appropriate vocal styles, and acceptable behavior – I foresee many such conversations in the future. It’s amazing how you have the power to be incandescently nice and kind and generous for most of the time, and then turn into a giant rage monster in an instant – effing hormones!

Here’s an example recent conversation:

Dad: Maya, go clean your room!

Maya: No thanks!

What the….?!!

But then there are moments when you hug your brother or lie down next to me and chat or reluctantly allow me to hug and kiss you  – and I remember that your brain is still developing so I need to be patient and understanding and all those things that I am normally not! In short, your adolescence is just revealing all my failures as a human parent – which makes me feel like crap – which then makes me yell at you – which sends you into an emotional tailspin. It’s a classic feedback loop from hell!

The imtortant [sic] thing about my parents is that they love me. They always do fun stuff and they play with me and they help me with math. And they give me good food to eat and they laugh at my jokes even though they aren’t funny and they hug me and kiss me. but the important thing about my parents is that they love me,
So I’d like to remind you of this – you wrote this when you were 9. And I love it because it’s got hearts, and peace signs, and a soccer ball on fire, and you’ve drawn dad and me, and an alien or ant, and a horse or cow – classic!  And I’ve kept it because you nailed it!

Don’t ever forget, the most important thing is that we love you – like, stupid love. Like, take a bullet for you love. Like, save the last brownie love. Like, massage your stinky feet love. Like, let you mouth off periodically love. Like, watch bad reality TV love. Like, listen to a solid hour of griping love.

And now we come to the super useful advice that you’ve been breathlessly waiting for…..are you ready? Ummm….I’m blanking! That doesn’t mean I don’t want to tell you things -I always want to tell you things. I just don’t know what to focus on. So here’s a short bullet list of things:

  • There are going to be times that you won’t want to talk to me, or look at me, or deal with me – that’s ok. I won’t stop talking or seeing or helping so – deal with it.
  • Friends are super important and you have lovely lovely ones – but they are all your age and are going through some of the same stuff. I, on the other hand, have been through the stuff you’re going through and have come out the other side a beautiful butterfly….or bedraggled, uncoordinated, giant moth….take your pick. I may have some insight that is useful to you – try me!
  • If you are out somewhere, and you feel like you don’t want to be there anymore for any reason – call me because I will come pick you up! Anytime, anywhere – no questions asked. Whether you went with or without my permission –  I will come get you.

I usually end the letters with some musical montage ode to your year using songs you listen to ad nauseum. This time, you weighed in. In fact, what you actually texted me was:

BTW you always do a song for my birthday so be more original

Do something different. Pick a song that when you listen to them, you think of me

Ok, settle down child! First, I write you a friggin letter every year!! My originality is on fleek and must not be questioned you ingrate!! Second, and more importantly….challenge accepted!! So here’s the songs that make me think of you!

This first one by Shakira just reminds me of you dancing at the soccer game with all your friends.

When you were 2 years old you made up a song while we were visiting the beach in San Francisco with my aunt that was all about the beautiful day and the beautiful waves. This song by Obi always reminded me of your song on the beach.

There’s all kinds of fierce feminist music that I love and every time I hear Pat Benetar or the Indigo Girls or Beyonce or Pink – I think of you. But this song by India Arie from 2001 feels just like it was written for you – “learn to love yourself unconditionally because you are a queen“!

There’s a whole host of Hindi and Marathi songs that remind me of you but this one represents a life of travel and adventure that I wish for you! And Ranbir Kapoor is easy on the eyes! And yes, I know you don’t know what it means so here you go!

Van Morrison – ’nuff said!

This is probably the most beautiful song ever written and this woman is probably the single coolest person to ever sing it! It always makes me choke up just a little – “if the mountains should crumble to the sea, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear, just as long as you stand by me” – heaven! So always remember sweetheart – your dad and I are on Team Maya. We’ve got your back…..always! We are the Chewbaccas to your Hans Solo, the Bassanios to your Antonio, the Pedros to your Napoleon, the Lizzies to your Jane Bennet!

So happy 14th birthday my beautiful child! You are loved so very much!

Mom and Dad




  1. Sam, what a magnificent mom you are! I totally love this line: “And there is a non-zero probability that I will get verklempt.”–That is the most science-nerd-vs.-humanities-nerd sentence I’ve ever read and loved! Maya is a very lucky teenager!

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