FICTION: A “sweet sixteen” letter to my daughter

June 6th, 2013  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, Fiction Writing

Dear Sierra,

I know that you’re not surprised by this letter, as I’ve told you it was coming for years at this point, but let me continue to be predictable by first telling you how much I love and respect the young woman you have become!

Letting you know how much I love you has always been a priority for me, because as an African child myself, once upon a time, I never heard it growing up. Sure I knew grandma and grandpa loved me because they clothed me, and fed me, and paid for my college tuition those years mommy was an undocumented immigrant, just trying to get an education… But the absence of the “I love yous” mommy saw on “Sister Sister,” “Family Matters,” & “Full House” left a void I never wanted you to feel.

Hope you’re enjoying these shows too by the way! Isn’t Stefan Urquelle so much cuter than Steve Urkel?

Because you are your mother’s child, I know turning 16 feels huge. Well it was for me too. At 16 I gave myself permission to be a woman. But I wasn’t quite there yet, despite my hips, curves, and boobs telling a different story. I didn’t know my relationship at 16, had an extremely slim chance of lasting forever. And so I made concessions to be with my first boyfriend, I never would had made if I didn’t feel like I had already given so much, to just walk away.

No, I wont go into yet another “sex talk” with you, but I do hope Idris and you continue to wait. Sex is amazing, and I see the way you two look at each other. I know you’re in love. But trust me, it will be 100 times better, the more you both get to know yourselves!

And can I just say how much I love Idris! I was so relieved he was who you brought home to meet dad and me 2 years ago. A part of me was afraid you would respond to one of the many advances and catcalls that started when you were just 13. The day I looked out the window and saw that the Johnson boy had followed you home from the bus stop– my heart sank. But my spirit immediately lifted when you came in, with your hands on your hips and said, “Ma. Can you believe Kenny tried to get my number? He’s a senior.” It took everything in me not to laugh.

You want to know a secret? I dated the “Kenny’s” of the world when I was your age. No. I wouldn’t ever trade my experiences– I needed them to raise you.

Here’s something else I never shared with you– I never thought I’d have you and your brother. I thought I’d only give one of these “Sweet Sixteen” letters to your cousin Cyan, but the day I met your father all of that changed. I knew we’d create magic the moment I saw him. He would kill me if he knew I was telling you this, but he was the first man I ever slept with, without any birth control in place. As I always tell you- I was always a 2-method girl! Some combination of birth control, condoms, and pulling out… but married folks have permission to do what they want.

Truth be told, when I felt your brother inside me for the first time, I was terrified. I’d seen all your aunties go through this thing called pregnancy, and I wanted no part of any of it… from the morning sickness to the labor. But God spoke to me through your daddy, and I never felt so sure about anything in my life. As soon as I held Junior in the delivery room, I knew I’d be holding you one day too. [But don’t worry. You’re it! Mommy got her tubes tied.]

My ultimate wish for you is that you know you have the authority to be anything in this world you want to be. And that you know you also have to authority to change your mind and do something else. As the artist formally known as Drake coined: YOLO! I know that sounds old school, but its true! And there are many ways to achieve your dreams. But yes, you still need to go to college, that’s a per-requisite to life… But after that- take risks!

And dream big! Daddy and I will always be here to catch you if you fall. And if for some reason we aren’t around, you have your grandparents, aunties, uncles, and that bank account you already contribute to every month.

Ok. I’ll let you get dressed now. We have a flight to catch in a few hours. Can’t wait to show you just how tiny the Mona Lisa looks up close.

Je vous aime ma fille!


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