Dear Emma: a letter to my newest high school senior

Dear Emma,

I’ve been working on this letter for over a month. I’ve deleted it completely now to begin again. How can it be? Parents say that all the time, but I just really don’t get it. You’re supposed to “always be baby Emma.” That’s what I promised you before Gloria was born. I didn’t want you to feel like you weren’t going to be my baby anymore, and here you are, not a baby at all. I watched you these last couple of years really emerge into this beautiful woman and I just marvel at your strength. I’m amazed by your resilience. You are laughter and wit, you’re love to the loveless, you are practical, sensible and totally spontaneous all at the same time. You’re the life of the party, often times, you ARE the party.

When you were small, I couldn’t walk out of the room for more than 30 seconds without you trying something out. Maybe you’d try climbing to the top of our upright piano when you were two. Or you’d dump a bottle of baby shampoo into the carpet. Maybe you’d see if baby Gloria could eat dog food, or what was inside of markers, or the toothpaste tube. Maybe you’d super glue your mouth shut or eat a bottle of tums. Maybe you’d stand on a plastic chair and do a backflip off the porch on accident only to land on your feet as I moved in slow motion to catch you. Maybe you’d color your entire face with a red sharpie right as we were leaving for Wednesday night church or get put in time out almost daily in pre-school for kissing the boys. (When asked if they wanted you to kiss them, you responded: “it doesn’t matter.”) Maybe you would change your pajamas three or four times throughout the night and refuse to sleep in your bed. Only the floor was good enough for you. I used to say you were naughty, but now I know the truth. You were an individual. As soon as I stopped fighting you being you, as soon as I let you be who you were on the inside, you started to thrive. When you took dance and art and pottery, when you dyed your hair pink for the first time when you were 10, when you discovered how to listen to the music of your choosing I really got to see what was behind all those little crazy adventures. You’re an individual, and there is nothing cookie cutter about you.

You’ve always been a maker. Sometimes you were the maker of messes, but nonetheless a maker. You’ve always loved to get your hands into clay or paint. It’s how your wired, it’s who God made you to be. I just want you to know that now, as much as ever, to be who you are. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. It doesn’t matter what everyone says is “normal.” You’ve never been one to follow the crowd. So why, my lovely, would you start now? I want to encourage you to listen to the little dreams that God has placed in your heart and chase them with passion and purpose. NOW is the time, and often it’s the only time to truly follow after your hearts desires. You know, I’ve never liked the phrase “follow your heart.” I think that is a dangerous plan. Your heart is deceptive. Chase after God’s will for your life. Don’t fight against who He’s created you to be. We’ve never asked you be anything but true to your self and to God. We’ve never asked you to be anything else than what you are. This year, as you approach the crossroads from childhood into adulthood my precious maker girl, don’t start following the crowd now.

I have so much more to say to you, I could go on for hours but I know that could get a little boring. As I close this letter to you, sweet Emma, I want you to know that you’re good enough for me. I accept you, I love you, I cherish you, I approve of you, I adore you and I’m always, always on your team. I want the very best for you and I love you more than you’ll ever know. I thank God for giving me the privilege of being your mom.

The beginning.



Photos by JWphotograpy check out her FB page.

The time is now (Senior mom series)

There are so many clichés about being a high school senior. People will say, “This is only the beginning” or “The adventure begins here.” The quotes go on and they are all the same, it’s great to be a senior. You’re leaving the nest and stretching out your wings. You’ll still depend on your parents for a few things but those will become less and less until at last, you’re your very own person. It’s exciting and scary, and new and different. But, mostly exciting. 

Unless, of course, you’re the mom. I’m not one of those moms who has awful kids and can’t wait to kick them out the door. These kids are great. All of them. But for now, I’m going to focus on the oldest, because alas…the adventure begins here.

Madelyn hasn’t always been easy. Matter of fact she was a difficult baby. She cried a lot. She wanted to watch TV in the middle of the night and I was so sleep deprived, I’d let her. That’s before she was even 1! I wasn’t the worst new mom, but I wasn’t winning any awards. She saw herself as my equal from very early on. By the time her first sister was born she surely felt like we were co-parenting. At the age of 2 she stripped her previously sleeping 4 week old sister down and was attempting to change her entire outfit, diaper and all, while I showered. Once baby Emma was big enough to play on the floor Madelyn would drag her by the ankles out of my sight to change her clothes. By the time Emma was one and a half and I was pregnant yet again, Madelyn took it upon herself to potty train her sister, which of course required removing all her clothes, every time. I guess she saw being a mom as a lot of changing clothes. She would brush Emma’s teeth and even taught Emma how to climb out of her crib. Once when she was about 4 Madelyn loaded the dishwasher herself and started it with regular dish soap instead of dishwasher detergent. It was a bubbly mess, which we of course played in. By the time she was 9 I was bringing home sister number 3 and Madelyn started babysitting before her 10th birthday. She would be caring for other people’s children at 11. I’m pretty sure she has felt the burden of raising children since that first sister was born when she was 2. Thus is the life of the oldest girl. We used to have a lot of conflict until she realized she was one of the kids too and not here solely to be mommy #2. I know I gave her a lot of responsibility also, she didn’t just take it all on her self. I needed her help and she was willing and able, but that made her, for a time, feel like she was in competition with me. We worked that all out by the time she was about 9 or 10 (about the time she did mini cheer) and it’s been pretty smooth sailing ever since. When she was 11 she started CYT and that gave me time with her away from her sisters for a while. I spent hours upon hours curling her hair, driving her to rehearsal and volunteering at shows. It gave us something that was ours and was really one of the best things to happen to us. She really started to shine there, she fell in love with performing and made great forever friends. After homeschooling most of her elementary years she went to high school at the Classical School and it seemed then things had changed forever. It was sad for her to be gone all day but CSW was the best educational decision we could have made for her. She was challenged more than I could have challenged her at home and she was exposed to a new way of thinking that I didn’t feel like I could offer her. Travel has been a highlight of her high school career. Even as I write this she’s in a different time zone. ICTFlight Showchoir brought her out of her shell and helped her sharpen her performance skills, leadership skills and voice talent. I don’t think her high school experience would have been as rich with out that group. 


So, now, here we are at the beginning…but I feel like it is the end. I’m not sure how quickly things will change but only that they will. She’ll be moving away in August and the thought of it pains me. For 9 months out of the year my sunshine will be in a different state. She’s my sweetheart, my cuddly kid, she calms me down when I’m irritated and that dimple can make me smile no matter how frustrated I am. She’s funny, smart, loves Jesus and is a delight to be around.

I want to go to all the moms I see holding little babies and say “Don’t get too attached.”

It’s like postpartum depression. Everyone experiences it and very few people talk about it. It’s like it’s not ok. Is it ridiculous that I’m sad my kid is leaving me that she’s never going to be a kid again? I won’t come home to her backpack contents, and uniform pieces strewn about the kitchen. I won’t trip over her shoes. I won’t have to complain about her music being too loud or that she hasn’t washed her laundry. Her room will be left neat and tidy with only the non-important things left behind. I will feel like one of those things, I’m too big to pack, and quite unnecessary, plus it would be weird.

I want to say that this really kind of sucks. I have to be happy, and I am…I really am. I know it’s the right thing and I’m happy for her, but I’m sad for me. I’m sad I’m not a young mom any more. I’m sad I don’t have car seats and sippy cups. I’m sad that though for her this is the beginning for me it feels like an end.

That had to be said. You have to know that. When you look at your little kid and they are so frustrating, they don’t listen and you feel like you can’t reach them…keep trying. You want to have the kid that you cry about when they leave. You want that to be your kid. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want my kids to break my heart. I want them to be the kind of person people want to be around, not just that I want to be around but someone you would enjoy.

With all of that, here’s the big reveal. My sweet Madelyn competed for and was awarded a full tuition scholarship to Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, near the Georgia, Tennessee state line. (It’s called the Maclellan Scholarship.) We are so blessed that she was offered this scholarship, I just know she’s going to thrive there! 

She graduates next month, the summer will fly by and my girl will move away. She’ll do amazing things.

Senior pictures by Melissa Dinsmore. Check out