Family Life, Feature Story

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 17th Birthday

I was a young, single mom when I had you– early twenties and a full-time college student. At one point, I was working two jobs to support our small family of three.

Elijah was just one month shy of turning 2 when you were born. I remember how excited he was to be a big brother. He loved holding his baby sister and helping care for you– the sweet way that only 2-year-old big brothers can.

My little Michala

You were such a sweet baby– happy and quiet. Didn’t really fuss much. Everyone loved you, too. I remember your daycare teachers would volunteer to babysit for me after daycare hours or on the weekends. They knew I was in college and had an internship so they’d offer to help me out sometimes if I needed it.

My mom– your Nana– was the greatest help of all when I was a single mom. She would pick up you and your brother from daycare and take care of you both when I had class. nana had a big presence in both of your lives. That’s the reason why you are so close to her now.

I don’t know what I would have done without my mother. Being a single mom of two kids under age 2 by age 21 is not easy. I’m so grateful for my mother and close friends who were my support system.

Photo of me with Elijah and Michala (2011)
Detroit family life
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Do you remember when you were little how much you loved Monster High, Disney Channel, LEGO Friends, and Hi-5? You drove me crazy with your Monster High obsession. LOL!

Still, I knew how much it meant to you so Travis and I bought you that big Monster High doll set for Christmas. Remember that? Your face lit up when you opened your present. You were SO excited!

And remember when you were in elementary school how much you used to hate reading Accelerated Reading (AR) books— the books your school required the students to read for reading enrichment.

I remember one of your teachers would always send notes home to me saying you kept choosing books that were not AR books and would I “please encourage Michala to read AR books instead.”

Watching you mature into a young woman has been bittersweet. On one hand, I am very happy and proud of you for the beautiful person you have become.”

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 17th Birthday
Michala reading at her old home in Tennessee (2013).
Michala (2018)

As a result, you ended up hating reading. You’d often complain about how the teacher and the librarian wouldn’t let you choose your own books.

You wanted to read what you wanted to read– not what you were told to read. You said to me what was the fun in reading if you had to read something someone made you read. Reading should be fun and you should be free to choose what interests you.

You were right. So I didn’t make you read those AR books. Instead, I followed your lead and encouraged you to read what you wanted to read.

The summer before your 5th-grade year, I registered you and your brother for a summer reading program at our local library. The program encouraged students to read a certain number of books over the summer and they’d receive little prizes when they reached weekly goals.

At first, you didn’t want to do the program. Do you remember that? But when you found out you could read whatever you wanted, you quickly changed your mind.

That’s when you fell in love with reading all over again. No one was pressuring you to read anymore. You would check out stacks of books and try to read as many as books as you could.

By the end of the summer, you loved reading! When we started homeschooling in 2013, I made sure to let you choose the books you wanted to read.

To this day, you are a HUGE book lover and you still check out way too many books at one time!

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Watching you mature into a young woman has been bittersweet. On one hand, I am very happy and proud of you for the beautiful person you have become.

Yet, there is a part of me that is sad because it seems the time has gone by so quickly. I miss my little girl with the raspy voice. I miss holding her when she was little and watching her play.

Now you are almost all grown up. Almost.

It’s your 17th birthday so I’d like to think I have just one more year before you are officially an adult. (Although I’ll admit, I think age 20 marks official adulthood.)

My baby girl is growing up!

Your thing now: K-Pop, K-Dramas, fashion, creative writing, and sketching.

We have this thing that we do. We like to stay up late and binge-watch our favorite T.V. shows.

Yours… K-Pop videos and K-Dramas.

Mine… Beverly Hills, 90210 reruns, Brooklyn 99, and whatever crime show I’m into.

One of my favorite things that I love is learning about the things you are into. I think you are so cool for loving K-pop. It makes me happy that you include me and want me to know about your interests.

Michala and I at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

One special memory I have of you as a young woman is when I had your baby brother Zephaniah. You were very insistent on coming along with Travis and me to the hospital. You were right by my side the whole time.

I remember you’d apply a cool cloth to my face and in your quiet voice, you’d say, “You got this, Mom. You can do it.”

Later, you told me how brave you thought I was and how you thought I was the strongest person you knew. That touched my heart and meant so much to me.

But did you know I thought the same thing about you? I thught you were incredibly brave and caring, and I am forever grateful for your love and support.

Michala holding Zephaniah after he was born (2017).

My dearest Michala:

You are my daughter and my best friend. I am incredibly proud of the young woman you are today. I am excited for your future and I want you to know I will always have your back.

You are beautiful inside and out! I love how kind you are to people. I admire your great ambition and strength. Your optimism and zest for life is truly inspiring.

On your 17th birthday, I wish you happiness, joy, and love. May God Bless you and guide you on your journey of 17.

I love you! Mom xoxo

Happy Birthday, Michala!

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