My Dearest Bella,

In recent months, I've felt this yearning to be closer to you.  Closer than ever.  So I sit back, when you aren't looking, and I watch you, amazed at the young woman you have become.  Your heart has softened towards your brothers (so grateful for that!).  Being the only girl in a family can be rough.  You do your best in everything you take on in life.  That doesn't mean you're perfect.  It means you are your own best version of yourself.  You're a beautiful daughter.  There are ideas in our world right now that people shouldn't tell girls how pretty they are because it leads to body shaming.  Instead I should be teaching you how to cook kale and put 6 cubes of butter in a chocolate cake.  Well, I don't know how to cook kale and you don't eat anything green.  And no cake should have 6 sticks of butter in it.  That's just bad for your heart, and probably the rest of your body too.  So I choose to tell you how pretty you are, because you should hear that from your parents growing up.  You should always know that.  You should know you are a beautiful, striking, pretty girl and that there isn't anyone else who looks like you.  You should be proud of your body and want to keep it healthy.  And if you don't play sports, that's okay.  Because what you write with a pen and what you capture with a camera is more amazing anyways.  The reality for teenagers is that at some point you're going to hate your body, your life, your parents...your whole world.  My job is to hope that you don't by teaching you not to.  By teaching you that sometimes things suck, but we pick ourselves up.  In leading by example.  I can't teach you to love life if I don't love my own.  And boy, do I love my life!  Teaching you that there will be lows will help you appreciate the highs.  And you will have highs.  The highest of them.  I know this because at 15, you know that your worth doesn't depend on a boy, or being first on a team.  You are smart.  You are beautiful.  You are caring.  You are a leader.  You are sensitive.  You are you.  And I am so very proud of you and who you are becoming. xoxo.

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