Today is my daughter’s 18th birthday.  As I write this post, and look back to this day in 1994, I was nine hours into induced labor.  Isabel wouldn’t show up until after 10:30 that night, to the annoyance of the nurses that had been with me all day long.  They wanted to see that baby.  Isabel took her time and arrived on her own schedule.  She was born with an unfortunate head of fuzzy hair that stood up like a baby orangutan.  Nothing I did could make it lay flat.  Today, she has a head of glorious, straight, thick hair.

Like every mom, I’m supposed to say that my kid has been the joy of my life, and she has been.  I’ve been lucky.  I have two beautiful, smart, funny kids.  They’ve given me very little to worry about as a parent.  Isabel and Ben are at opposite ends of the spectrum in just about every way, and their favorite game is “Mom Loves You More Because…”  I know it well.  I played it with my brothers.  It’s amazing to see how different two children from the same parents can be.  Where Isabel is the more
“street-smart” kid and Ben is the “academic,” they are my favorite people in the world.

Recently, Isabel has been flexing for a bit more independence, and we’ve had some pretty awesome (for us) battles.  I think that we’ve both been shaken by the ferocity that we each can display.  In that respect, we’re a lot alike…stubborn to the core and when pushed, will fight like a lion for something that we want.  We don’t like to fight: but, we can’t help ourselves.

My daughter has never been a girly girl.  Isabel was a tomboy from early on.  When she was young, she’d submit to having her hair curled, or wearing a dress only under the most extreme duress.  Any more, it’s a battle that I’ve chosen not to fight.  Growing up, she was her brother’s defender.  She can’t abide a bully any more than I can, and has gotten herself suspended from school for standing up to (and punching) kids bigger than her.  For a while, we called her Dirty Harriet.

Isabel wants to be a flight for life nurse.  If you know her, you know that she will make an outstanding nurse.  She’s calm in an emergency, compassionate, and isn’t bothered by the sight of blood.  She can watch the trauma & ER reality shows for hours, fascinated.

I’ve been a bit weepy over the past couple of weeks, faced with the fact that suddenly, my little girl is an adult in the eyes of the law.  I can’t be the boss of her.  For a control freak like me, that’s a very unsettling prospect.  I don’t want to hold my child back; but, the mom in me has a hard time facing the fact that the day is here when I have to trust that Isabel will go out into the world and not forget everything that we’ve tried to teach her.

I’m so proud of my girl.  Though she may face some hard lessons in the future, I know that she will always land on her feet.  The arguments that we have had are the same ones that every mother and daughter go through.  We’ve gotten through the hardest years relatively unscathed, and are that much closer to the kind of relationship that my mother and I eventually cultivated.

Happy Birthday, Isabel.  Thank you for being the best daughter a mother could ever have.  You are becoming an incredible young woman, and I am so proud to be your mom.