A Letter to My Daughter on her 18th Birthday

My daughter is a senior in high school and her 18th birthday is just around the corner. I want to share with you a letter that I wrote to her. Let me know if you understand how I feel.

Dear Claire,

Little Claire!

Congratulations on your 18th birthday! This moment is a cause for celebration, but I am filled with mixed emotions. I know you were always on loan to me, as those parenting books said, but now that the time is here, it’s very hard for me to give you back. 

You have grown into a stunning young woman with a fiery spirit. You don’t like to be labeled or defined, but I think I understand what you are about. You are passionate, driven, creative, and independent. You are as brilliant as your namesake, and yet your heart is fragile. I want to protect you against pain, but know that I can’t. You will go out into the world and laugh with new friends, and cry on someone else’s shoulder. I won’t be there, but I will always be there. You are a part of me, as I am you.

I recognize what your turning 18 means, because I experienced it with your brother. It doesn’t get any easier though, even the second time around. In fact, it’s excruciating because I anticipate just what is to come – a gaping hole in my heart where you once were:  a little girl who loved to dance to Dancing Dora, devour stories about Eloise and her adventures at the Plaza Hotel, and make pancakes with her dad every weekend.

I am trying to relish the last, first things this year – the last first day of school, the last first football game, the last back to school night. These annual events will disappear and soon be replaced with graduation, first day of college, internships, jobs and so many more wonderful new experiences. I want to stop time. I want to bottle up these events and never let them go.

Bigger ClaireSometimes when I talk to you about these last first things, or ask you to do something together, you withdraw. You distance yourself from me and tell me you need space to grow up. And you absolutely should be doing that. But having raised you, and knowing the emptiness to come, my instinct is to hold you close. I suspect this might be a difficult time for you too, because I remember the fear and thrill of turning 18 and leaving home for college soon.

You wrote a poem about me this summer that took my breath away. It was about a girl in Korea who died in a fire at age seven, and a girl the same age who became an immigrant in a new land at the same time. The little girl in America was lost, but a new self emerged. I am that girl turned woman, but your journey is just beginning. Your childhood and youth will soon be gone, but your future is wide open, and the opportunities for self-realization yours to grasp.

I can’t wait to watch you grow into adulthood. I hope you will be happy and fulfilled and be caring of others. As our relationship evolves, I wish to create moments together that are unique, authentic and personal, as I expect you would want them to be. I may still say and do things that are embarrassing, but I cherish you, and will always love you to the moon and back.

Happy 18th birthday Monkeyshines!



Thank you for reading my letter and reflecting on these milestones with me. How have you celebrated special birthdays?

2019-07-12T18:58:08+00:00September 29th, 2017|Family|

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  1. Jill Masuda October 22, 2017 at 8:24 pm - Reply


    • Rosa October 24, 2017 at 5:02 am - Reply

      Thanks for reading Jill! Miss you guys!

  2. Maureen October 23, 2017 at 4:10 am - Reply

    Wow Rosa. Just wow. THAT was an amazing, insightful and poignant capture of motherhood at its finest and most vulnerable. Thanks for sharing your raw feelings as well as your amazing writing style. I so enjoyed every word. Good luck Claire! I miss you! Be good to your fantastic mother – you are so lucky to call her mama. ❤️

    • Rosa October 24, 2017 at 5:05 am - Reply

      Thank you Maureen. Your comment is so touching. I’m grateful for your friendship and insight. You have more experience at this than I do so I can learn a lot from you. I enjoyed reading your article about the empty nest the other day. It’s coming soon!

  3. Michelle Dahle October 23, 2017 at 5:02 am - Reply

    Rosa, your letter is beautiful and captures what every mother feels during this time. Claire is lucky to have such a stunning mother that speaks with such eloquence.
    Love you and thank you for putting every mother’s feelings and fears into such a beautiful and meaningful letter.

    • Rosa October 24, 2017 at 5:08 am - Reply

      Awww Michelle. Love you too! Claire actually read the letter for the first time after I hand wrote it and hand-delivered it to her. She is obviously of the generation that does not read emails or Facebook lol! Thanks for being right there with me, with both of our kids! It is so comforting!

  4. Bettina October 24, 2017 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Beautifully written Rosa!❤️
    Thank you for sharing.
    Yes, I can relate.
    I wish you both all the best.

    B 😘

  5. Sabina Helton October 24, 2017 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful letter. Captures so much of being a parent and that gradual (yet abrupt) process of our kids becoming adults. As I go through this process I often think of my parents and how they must have felt the same way.

    • Rosa October 25, 2017 at 5:12 am - Reply

      Thank you Sabina! I’m glad you brought up how this must have felt for our own parents. I was so young and naive then! I had no idea what they were going through!

  6. Gretchen October 24, 2017 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Rosa, this is beautiful and heart felt! I sent my baby off this August, everything you expressed to your daughter, I felt as well. It’s super hard! The journey of being mom continues and you will have wonderful new adventures and memories!

    • Rosa October 25, 2017 at 5:16 am - Reply

      Gretchen I appreciate your comment! The journey does continue and we have to adjust to the evolving parent/child relationship. It’s reassuring to know that as moms, we are all in this together! Big hugs to you!

  7. abraham brits July 24, 2019 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Thank you, I am a dad and my daughter turns 18 next week. I feel the fear and the emptyness sneaking up on me. I have only one child and letting go of her will be very difficult for me. Your words will help, it will make it a bit easier but will not take the fear away completly.

    • Rosa July 24, 2019 at 2:28 pm - Reply

      Congratulations to you and your daughter on her 18th birthday! Thank you for reading and relating to this post. It’s a difficult time but it’s nice to know you’re not alone!

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