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A birthday letter to my 16-year-old daughter thanking her (in a manner of speaking) for being super smart, super bossy, and getting scratched in the eye. In other words, thanking her for being absolutely fabulous.

Dear Daughter,

It’s always been easier for me to nag you about things I think you should change than it is for me to recognize and acknowledge everything that is wonderful and amazing about you. So in honor of your 16th birthday, I want you to understand how truly fabulous I think you are.

First off, you are super smart. Which is great, but I have spent many a night on my knees, praying that you will be able to combine that intelligence with wisdom and channel it in a positive direction. Because I often see you being smart (but not necessarily wise) and outwitting siblings or winning debates regardless of whether you’re technically “right,” it’s not always easy for me to detect positive progress.

But recently, your high school biology teacher chose you to receive an award for excellence. She wrote the following to explain why she chose you:

“(Your daughter) is a joy to have in class. She is always willing to help anyone I ask her to with their work and does so with a positive attitude. More importantly, she is self-confident and stands out by making good choices and decisions regardless of what other kids around her are doing.”

Reading those words helped me take a step back, see you from someone else’s perspective and begin to understand who you are becoming. I can’t imagine a better use of intelligence and wisdom than what you displayed in your biology class.

Secondly, you can be bossy. When you were 8 years old, your grandpa watched you playing with your brother and said, “I grew up with a bossy sister and I sure feel sorry for him!” I did too, to be honest, and have tried over the years to help you curb that tendency. Sometimes, when I hear you barking orders at your siblings —who generally comply because you’re cool and they like you — I wonder if there has been any progress at all since you were 8 years old.

But then your Sunday school teacher stopped me in the hall at church to tell me how much she appreciates having you in her class. I listened with interest as she explained that you are a great leader because you always stay on task and encourage the other kids — who generally comply because you’re cool and they like you — to stay on task as well.

Again, hearing what your teacher had to say helped me take a step back, see you from someone else’s perspective and understand who you are becoming. I can’t imagine a better use of leadership skills — sometimes known as bossiness — than what you show in your Sunday school class.

Lastly, you possess a will of iron that often refuses to bend. I have definitely lost the most sleep over this through the years, and wonder if and when you’ll decide that it’s OK to admit weakness or vulnerability — that it’s OK to ask for help when you need it.

During a recent family vacation, something terribly painful lodged itself in your eye. It was late at night, so we decided to see if it was still there in the morning before taking you in. Crying (which for you is so very rare), you curled up in bed beside me and I moved to turn out the light so you could sleep. But you stopped me and said, “Mom, I hate to ask, but could you read me something from the scriptures?”

Your pain was intense — the doctor later explained it was excruciating because a tiny piece of glass scratched your cornea each time you blinked — yet you still had the fortitude to ask me to read so that you could keep your goal of reading daily. I can’t say that I would have done the same under similar circumstances.

By the time I was done reading, you were asleep and I was the one crying.

I cried because I couldn’t imagine a better use of wisdom and willpower — sometimes known as unbending will — than asking for help to reach a goal that simply couldn’t be reached alone.

I cried because I understood how lucky I am to have a daughter who is becoming someone with incredible willpower, intelligence and wisdom, and who is on the road to being an inspiring leader.

And I cried because I realized how much I have already learned and how much more I can still learn from you.

You are beautiful, fabulous, wonderful and amazing. I love you.