To my first daughter, Ella. Today you are 11 years old. 11! My girl, time cannot be stopped. I watched you this morning. You were outside relaxing on the patio furniture. You had a magazine in your hand and your long, tan legs draped on the stool in front of you.

My gosh, you’re beautiful. Just the site of you made me pause.

It’s not your outward appearance that stopped me — although you’re flawless, of course. It’s just your goodness, kindness and humble heart shines in everything you do.

You’re magnificent.

They didn’t tell me that.

You know what they told me? You know what the books and the magazines and the well-wishers all told me 11 years ago?

“Soak it all in,” they said. “Time will fly by,” they said. “You don’t want to miss a minute.”

They were right, mostly. It does go so fast. I don’t want to miss a minute, although there have been a few times in our 11 years together that you and I could both forget. Like the endless nights when you were just a baby and the sass (from you and me) now that you’re a tween.

I get that part. I knew that part. I knew it would go fast. I expected it. I’ve soaked it in as much as a mom can.

But they didn’t tell me how fun it is to watch you learn new things and experience life at each new age.

They didn’t tell me about the first day of school, your first friends, your first tooth, your first hurts.

They didn’t tell me how my heart would ache when you didn’t make the team and how my pride would soar when you finally found your passion on stage.

They didn’t tell me what a joy it would be to watch movies together — the good ones, the ones I liked at your age.

They didn’t tell me that you would look so much like your daddy, but act so much like your mama.

They didn’t tell me that you would care deeply for others.

They didn’t tell me that you would be one of my favorite people in the entire universe.

They didn’t tell me what an honor it is to be your mom.

They didn’t tell me because they couldn’t. No one can. The gift of being your mom is something only I get to experience. Wow, my girl. What a privilege.

You are such a joy, my Ella. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.

Happy 11th birthday!

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