Dear Erin,

This is your birthday, and I’m writing you an open letter. Yes, I could have done this privately – printed it out and tucked it in your birthday card – but you are a little bit like me and you lose things easily. So this way, we both know where the letter is: parked on my blog for all the world to see. But I promise not to embarrass you. If fact, this will be pretty short and sweet (insert smiling emoticon here).

You were born 21 years ago today. You came out screaming like a mad woman and kept it up for four straight months. Your face was purple with rage and you didn’t sleep longer than 90 minutes at a time. (See I told you that I wasn’t going to embarrass you.) I thought we were going to have to send you to live at your grandparent’s house, or just pass you around to stay with different families who had not yet endured your wrath. The problem was, I had given birth to a little boy nineteen months earlier who rarely cried and slept through the night at eight days old. We thought you might do this also. We looked forward to your birth with anticipation, and then it dawned on us as the weeks passed that perhaps you were going to be, well, different. You weren’t going to be a carbon copy of your brother. You wanted us to know that just because your birth followed his in short order, this did not mean that we would produce two identical babies. We finally got this message loud and clear by month four of your life. And then, you were satisfied. You had delivered your message and a silent truce was arranged between you and us. You stopped screaming and we stopped expecting you to be the baby we had planned for you to be.

And the story has played out pretty much like that for 21 years. You made sure, from the very beginning, that we knew you were going to be your own person. You’ve reminded us of that in much sweeter ways after the first four months. In fact, after you delivered your message, you’ve been quite delightful. The few times that we’ve butted heads, it’s because I kept expecting you to walk a path that I had laid out in my head. But you’ve always had your own path in mind and you’ve walked it. And now, you are 21 years old and I’m amazed at the person you have become without me hovering over you to make sure you ended up doing things our way. My way. You know I like to help people, fix things, control moments, and gently lead toward the decision I think is best. You must have been aware of this on November 24, 1991, when you came into this world to deliver the clear message: I am here to be Erin. And I’m going to go ahead and be Erin because I don’t know how, nor do I care to be anyone else.  

As it turns out, I love who you have become. You have tenacity, stubbornness, and a mile-wide streak of individuality. Sometimes I wanted you to blend in so you wouldn’t get hurt, but you weren’t worried about that. And so neither am I. You are still walking your own path. And you’re still delivering the message that Erin will most definitely be Erin.

Thank God.

Happy Birthday daughter.