Shop the fall collection ➔

My daughter turned 16 recently. It was a big one. THE big one. 

We spent months planning the long-dreamed-for “Sweet 16” party, and all the while my insides were crumbling into a million, tear-soaked, blubbering pieces. 

Such a small number 16 is, but it carries a punch and a weight. My mommy heart can see with experienced eyes much of what is coming, and it deposits into my heart a tome of wisdom I want to share with her. 

For you, my firstborn baby, the one I received by way of a miracle from God. Words that I pray will nestle into your heart and take root. 

1. You are 16, going on 17, and 18, and 19, and 20 . . . 
My sweet girl, you’re hopping onto a very fast-moving train. We grown-ups affectionately call it adulting. There are gloriously good days, and really bad days. In the midst of these passing days are major milestones. While we used to mark your progress by height and weight charts, by rolling over and first words and starting preschool, we will soon watch your progress through graduations, engagements, and pregnancies. 

But you aren’t there quite yet. You’re so close you can nearly touch it and I can’t help but weep at its nearness, BUT. We have a little more precious time. Until then, stay close, dear one. Spend time with the family that adores you. Laugh with us over dinners and movies and Downton Abbey marathons. Try to refrain from the urge to despise the mundane tone of everyday living. You’re on to big things, I know, but the small hours will form a foundation for those things in the days to come. Find us in the small hours. One day, you’ll look back on them as treasures. 

2. Parents have special eyes.
Not the kind that are found in the backs of our heads. That’s a fib. But the kind that look through the filters in our hearts. Parenthood brings with it special powers and one is our ability to see multiple seasons of life all smooshed together at once. When I talk with you today, in all your 16-year-old glory, I still see a toddler. Tiny and soft, with round cheeks and sparkly smiles and small hands. The voice coming from your mouth is decidedly adult until it reaches my ears, and there it morphs into young and squeaky. There are days when I have to will my eyes to look upward into yours, rather than down to the three-feet stature that used to house your body. 

And yet, I see you as a stunning woman. In smart, tailored suits, in front of crowds of people. Leading them, inspiring them, teaching them. I see you singing worship songs to women and men with arms raised to the heavens, ushering them into the presence of God. I see you cradling your babies and rocking them to sleep. I see you curled up next to your husband. I see it all at once and somehow my heart makes sense of these things sitting parallel to each other. It has to be the design of a good Father who knows well the emotions that overtake parenthood. He gives us eyes that harken back the fondest of past times, and eyes that glimpse the future to give us fuel for the tough moments in the present. No fancy cinematography can ever capture the moving pictures found inside the hearts and minds of mommies and daddies. 

3. As you leave, we grieve. 
I know you’re doing all the things you’re supposed to, my love. No matter how it wrecks me, I know. You were designed to leave us and cleave to someone else. God revealed to me several years ago that I’d know my daughters as adults far longer than I’d ever know them as children. And so, my goal has not been to raise kids, but rather to raise up adults. Contributing, others-focused, community-minded adults. Adults who enjoy Sunday dinners with their folks. Adults who still enjoy a craft fair and pedicures with mom. Adults who come to watch the Huskers play on the big screen with dad.

God’s been preparing me, but still this is hard. Already I am grieving the things I’ve become accustomed to. Like you in the bedroom down the hall, fast asleep. Your massive, filled-to-the-brim backpack. The pile of your shoes by the door. How you get up early in the morning and make too much noise, but at least it reminds me that you’re alive and well, that you’re with us. As I’ve watched the calendar pass by with surprising speed, my heart has often whispered “I’m gonna miss this.” And you. I’m going to miss all of you, honey. 

There’s beauty in the release of the things we love most. Even when it’s hard. Even when we silently scream for you to stay. I know you need this. All kids do. There’s so much for you to find on the other side of your childhood. Gracious, I sure do love you. Thanks for the ringside seat, sweet daughter. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the show. 

You may also like: 

Dear Teenagers, Be Patient While I Let Go

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 16th Birthday

Our Babies Grow When We Aren’t Looking

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here!

Mande Saitta

Mande Saitta works in ministry in Omaha, NE. She's married to a good man and the mama to two beautiful daughters. She is a terrible cook, an even worse baker and a lover of sunsets. You can find her musings at 

What a Gift It Is To Watch My Babies Grow Up

In: Motherhood, Teen
Mother in pool with teens in background

A few weeks ago I ran away and I brought my family with me. It’s become my favorite thing to do for my birthday week. Nestled neatly between the end of the school year and the beginning of the longest stretch of summer, for years that week has provided my family and I with the perfect freedom to get away. There are four simple rules for this escape from our normal lives and they are always the same. Our location must: 1. Be located in a climate with palm trees. 2. Require an airplane to get there. 3. Have a...

Keep Reading

It’s Okay to Say No to the Promposal

In: Kids, Teen
Boy holding pink sign saying "Prom with me?"

Promposals are cute.  But, even for the sweetest questions, it’s okay if the answer is not yes. I have more boys than girls at my house so the whole meet the boy asking your girl out with a gun posts don’t sit well with me. Boys and girls have an equally hard time negotiating friendships and relationships in high school, and I care equally for both. A young man spent some time, told his friends, made a cute sign, and planned to ask my daughter to a dance. A friend of my daughters mentioned he might ask (and even made...

Keep Reading

When You’re a Mom of Teens, You Never Pass up a Chance to Spend Time with Them

In: Motherhood, Teen
Football field

When your kids are little, nothing rings more true than the saying that the days are long but the years are short. You know the time is fleeting even as you struggle through some days that feel never-ending. As your kids begin to grow though, their (and your) days become filled with school, homework, sports, clubs, and friends, and suddenly the days start to fly by as well. RELATED: No One Told Me I’d Feel This Way When They Were Teenagers The irony of time in parenting is that the moment you become most acutely aware of how fleeting it...

Keep Reading

You’re Halfway Done With High School and I’m Trying Not To Blink

In: Motherhood, Teen
High school student looking back

It sounds trite to say it, but I am not sure how we got here.   It seems so short and yet so long ago that you started kindergarten, that first step into the outside world. I remember what a huge milestone it seemed at the time and how I obsessed over every detail, from your first backpack to your school shoes. You loved everything about school, and so I loved it too. Those first couple of school years were so sweet and simple, and their passing didn’t bother me. The middle years—3rd, 4th, and 5th grades—were so fun.  We were...

Keep Reading

I’m a Mom of a Teenager Now and Disney’s Inside Out 2 May Do Me In

In: News, Teen
Inside Out movie

I’m not much of a crier at movies. but Disney is responsible for three legitimate bouts of tears in recent years:  The montage of Carl and Ellie’s life in Up.  The scene in Toy Story 3 where Andy gives his toys to Bonnie and drives away.  Bing Bong’s voice trailing off as he disappears, saying “Take her to the moon for me” in Inside Out. It looks like that third one may get an encore soon—Disney just confirmed Inside Out 2 is officially a go.  The first Inside Out took us inside Riley’s 11-year-old mind, into that tween transition between...

Keep Reading

Dear Teenage Self: Hold On, Better Days Are Coming

In: Teen
Teen black and white profile

Trigger warning: abuse and self-harm mentioned. Dear sweet girl,  I know you don’t want to be seen but I see you. I know you use alcohol, cigarettes, cutting, and weed to numb your pain. I know you think your relationships with men are consensual and you feel you need them because you are missing something. I know you’re being abused by a family member and you feel stuck because no one would take your side or believe you. I know you question how God could allow things to happen and convince yourself it’s your fault and you deserve it and...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Here’s How You Avoid Middle School Drama

In: Teen, Tween
Middle school girls in hallway

“Mom, people keep telling me to be ready for the drama in middle school, and I don’t like it.” My 12-year-old daughter said this to me before she started middle school, and it made me smile. Her natural instinct is to run from drama. She is a lot like me in that she wants people to be happy and for there to be zero awkwardness surrounding her. After quickly pondering her statement, I reminded her that she chooses to join the drama or stay out of it, just as she always has. She gets to choose who her friends are....

Keep Reading

Cereal Is a Food Group, and Other Things I’ve Learned While Parenting Teens

In: Motherhood, Teen
two teen girls sitting together

In honor of a new school year, here are things I’ve learned while parenting teens: Do not wear dry cleaning to sporting events. Teen girls get a bad rap. They are ravenous. Prepare your pantry accordingly. RELATED: I Talk to Your Teens All Day: Here’s What You Can Do Better Pregame rituals include music that is trash. Learn to enjoy it. Teens need mental health days, too. Let them sleep. Let them eat. Let them play. Grades are indicators—a means to an end and not an end unto themselves. Do. Not. Die. on this hill, friends. Be a safe space...

Keep Reading

When There Are No More Little Girls’ Clothes

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Girl in dress by window

It hit me with a poignancy I didn’t expect, as a milestone I never prepared myself for. At 13 years old, my second daughter had officially outgrown even the largest sizes of children’s clothing, and my years of shopping in the little girls’ section were over. For nearly 16 years, from the time my older daughter was born, I had been shopping for little girls’ clothes. She had barely drawn her first breath when my older sister and mother rushed down to Gymboree at the mall, thrilled with the possibilities of adorable outfits for this tiny princess. Over the next...

Keep Reading

That’s My Baby behind the Wheel—Please Be Kind

In: Motherhood, Teen
Teen driver smiling

My 14-year-old daughter studied the rules of the road religiously this summer, completed dozens of practice tests online, and passed the written exam at the DMV a few weeks ago. But she’s a brand new driver and she’s still learning—so please be patient. You see, just yesterday she was 7 pounds, 12 ounces of helpless squish, swaddled safely in my arms. Then I blinked and she’s an almost-woman driving 3,500 pounds of metal, completely out of my reach. RELATED: Dear Teen Driver, Promise Me These 3 Things You’ve seen someone like her out on the road recently, I bet. Her...

Keep Reading