Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Era of Teenagers... AKA Ainsley turns 13!

Dear Ainsley,

Happy Birthday my sweet girl. I wrote a facebook post sometime last year that said, "when it comes to the age of my daughter, the number of her age should be pronounced "twelveteen." So although we have had glimpses of "teenager-ness," today it is official.

You are a lovely teenager. You are sweet, kind, smart, compassionate, and you have in the past year become quite witty. You have gone from the kid, "we are laughing at your silly, kid-ness" to, "we are laughing at the things you say because you are actually funny." Of course as I sit down to write this none of these come to mind, but in recent months there have been many times when you pop off with a hilarious little comment. It is very entertaining to watch your more grown-up humor develop.

As Camden commented a few months ago, 7th grade is the middle of middle school. It is. And this fall it felt like full-on middle school. We had some drama-moments with you. It was probably about other Things, but it came out as drama about math. Specifically algebra. You had some learning about math to do, we had some learning about parenting to do. And about how to step back, and let you do what you were going to do. We had lots of talks about high expectations, and why we have them. As we have told you countless times, there is nothing you could or couldn't do that would make us love you one ounce less. Yet we are going to expect you to do your best, and there will be consequences when you don't. Not because we love you less, but because it is our job to make decisions for you on stuff that doesn't make sense to someone who only has 13 years of experience on the planet. As we were battling over school a bit, the possibility existed that you would have 3 "B"'s on your report card. When I pointed out that a GPA with 3 B's would mean you didn't make honor roll suddenly it kicked in for you. You said, "I can't sit up in the bleachers (instead of with the honor roll kids in chairs) during the assembly!" Almost by magic, that GPA skyrocketed. Last semester, you are back up to straight A's.

Overall, you are totally spoiling us as a teenager, and we know it. You work hard, are sweet and kind, and your siblings love you. Hero-worship is what Reagan has with you. What is also so cute is how much her friends all adore you as well. Getting to go in your bedroom is magical for the 4-year-old set. Probably part of that magical draw is the over 100 bottles of finger nail polish you own. You are a nail-art master.

Today, along with both sets of grandparents, we got you new furniture for your bedroom. I was worried you wouldn't be super excited about it, but you were overjoyed. You are so excited to reorganize your room. Something that totally overjoys me! But along with that came little pangs in both daddy and my heart. You went through and took out all the things off your shelves you didn't want. That included all your trophies, (you kept your math medal and medal from winning a tennis tournament last year), baby pictures, about 30 books that you decided were too young, and (gulp-little tear) a framed picture of dad and I that you used to pack and take with you places. Earlier this fall you brought out a big basket of all your Adventures in Odyssey CD's and told us you didn't want them anymore. I'm sitting here writing this next to these things stacked on the desk, physical evidence that you aren't a little kid anymore. I'm loving the young lady you are becoming, but I so loved the little girl you once were and it is hard not to mourn that being gone. I'm just going to keep looking forward to how awesome you are and praying for your exciting future.

Notable things about your year are that you got braces (and you are the absolute best about taking care of them and wearing rubber bands), started going to youth group at Cornerstone (which has been awesome), went to Trout Creek Bible Camp again (one of your favorite places on earth), have become a powerful little tennis player (delighting your father to no end), and went with our family to San Diego (helping me navigate the first day without dad and with all four of you). This year you have really stepped up and it feels like having another adult in the house, which is awesome.(Audrey Hepburn  in Breakfast At Tiffany's for Halloween)

There are countless little steps through childhood where you separate from your parents and become your own person. Or at least that is what the world tells us. Ainsley, I want you to grow up and be whatever you want to be. However, I don't want you to, "become your own person." I want you to be God's person. I want you to fully and completely embrace the view that you are living your life entirely to please God. The teenage years are hard because you are so focused on what others think of you. But nothing could be better for you than to just focus on what God thinks of you. He loves you so intensely that He died for you. Rose for you. Wants you to live forever with, and for Him. Grasping that reality will elevate you above every ounce of the teenager-garbage that the world thinks is inevitable.

In these years you are being assaulted with so much absolute rubbish. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your  heart, for everything you do flows from it." You must intensely guard your heart by filling your heart with Jesus. Nothing else you do on earth will compare to the joy you will find in your savior.

So that is how I will leave you as we enter into the beginning of 16 straight years of having a teenager in the Pate household. (many of those years there will be two, and a few with three!) As a teenager, (and always) guard your heart. Fill it with Christ. We will be here, praying for you and cheering you on.

I love you so much my Ainsley Grace.