I have to believe

By Mir
April 18, 2012

I have to believe that when we look back—years from now—we will laugh. I have to believe we WILL look back, together, you still you and me still me and the two of us still a we that makes sense and makes us laugh until we gasp for air, until we can no longer remember why it was so funny in the first place.

I have to believe that this is the hardest it will be, at least until we’re strong enough to face stuff that’s even harder. I have to believe that when I hold your face in my hands and tell you it’s all going to be okay, I promise, that I am not lying. I tell you that your mother doesn’t lie, but that’s crap and we both know it. I lie. I lie to you; I lie to myself. Sometimes it’s the only way I can keep breathing. Sometimes lying is the closest I can come to turning dangerous hope into tangible prayer. If that hurts you, I am sorry, and I hope you know that’s never my intention. I have to believe that a part of you knows without question that no matter what, I do believe in fairies.

I have to believe that this inauspicious start to your fifteenth year on this planet is the low point, from which all following events will rise and surpass your expectations.

Usually on your birthday I recount the awesomeness of the year past; marvel over your achievements and your ever-evolving selfhood and the parts of you which are fearless and mysterious to me.

Awesome things did happen this year. I remember—and treasure—them, even if you can’t, right now. I will remember for you. When you’re ready to reminisce, we will.

I have to believe my fearless, mysterious changeling is still in there… maybe just waiting, for now. Resting. Nursing her wounds, perhaps, and working through some obstacles, sure. Gathering strength for the next chapter. Because I have to believe that you are still you, even though I can see that you don’t.

I have to believe that yes, it’s an unfair hand to be dealt, it’s awful, and it’s a heavy load to bear, even if you’re not a teenager, which is quite the crushing load in and of itself. BUT I also have to believe that you will make it to the other side and someday (maybe not for a very long time, I know), you will say: I was sick. Very, very sick and it was scary and it sucked and it could’ve been the end but it wasn’t. And now I am stronger and better and I know things I never could’ve without this.

I have to believe you might even (someday) realize that you weren’t the only one going through it, but that’s a distant hope for a more adult kind of understanding you probably won’t reach for a long time. It can wait.

I have to believe that you begged and wheedled and harangued me into cutting your hair short last night because you truly believed it was what you wanted and that it would make you happy. I have to believe—as you even told me yourself, tearfully, afterward—that if I had continued to refuse, you would’ve been angry at me for THAT; and the fact that I did exactly what you asked and you were angry about it and burst into tears had very little to do with hair, and everything to do with the continual waves of realization that what is Wrong cannot be fixed with a new haircut, or a new dress, or a new hobby.

I have to believe that being the constant target of your wrath is my job, and that it is in some small measure saving you some of that pain. I have to try to remember that your fury is rooted in hurt and fear, and that someday that poison will be spent and I won’t have to absorb it anymore. In the meantime, I have to believe I’m as resilient as I’m always telling you that you are, deep inside.

I have to believe that as you move into 14—and, in a few months, high school—that you will find a way to feel yourself within your New Normal. That you will be healthy again. That you and happiness can meet up for more than a few seconds here and there. That your anger will fade.

Your hair will grow. Other mistakes will be made, by me and by you. And they’ll pass, too.

I have to believe that you know how deeply you are loved, and that—like it or not—that love remains an ever-present life raft even as you flounder and push it away. Even when you don’t want it. Even when you say you hate me. Even when you think your hair and your birthday are both completely ruined.

I have to believe I’m strong enough to be your mom. Days like today, the truth is that I wonder a little. But it doesn’t matter, because you are mine and I am yours.

I have to believe I can pull myself together this morning and go make you the best cake you’ve ever eaten and that it will somehow communicate to you all of the things I can’t manage with words (either because I don’t know how or because you won’t let me). I have to believe that will be enough… for now.

Happy birthday, Chickadee. I believe today is a bittersweet triumph in all kinds of ways, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. Trust me on this.


  1. Chuck

    Happy birthday to Chickadee. Hope everything goes better this year. And man, that was some awesome writing.

  2. Liza

    Much love to you both. You are strong enough to get through this, and so is your not-so-little-anymore angry bird.

  3. Ani

    Hugs to both of you. And prayers that the light at the end of the tunnel hurries its darn self over to your house.

  4. nichole

    Happy birthday, Chickadee! You have a great mom.

  5. jodifur

    Happy birthday, Chickadee. Your mom loves you so, so much.

    This might be the most beautiful thing I have read on the internet. Ever.

  6. Rachel

    Happy birthday Chickadee! Hugs to you from ND, give one to your mom from me too, OK?

  7. Maria

    I believe in you both.

  8. ccr in MA

    Happy birthday, Chickie. We’re all rooting for you to have an excellent year.

  9. Genevieve

    Happy birthday to Chickadee. Happy Chickadee’s birthday to her fabulous mom who loves her so intensely.
    Things will go up from here. They will. She will have wonders this year.

  10. Midj

    Happy Birthday Chickie. Wishing you a better year.

    Mir, from the other side, I send good wishes. For us it was 15, but very much the same. Undiagnosed health issues, emotional issues and teenage issues all wrapped up into one very hard time. I will keep you both in my thoughts.

  11. Chris

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee. Wishing you peace, love and all the happiness in the world for this next year.
    I believe in fairies, too.

  12. Mandy

    I couldn’t say it any better than jodifur (#5).

    Love love love.

  13. Megan

    Beautiful. And haunting.

    All that anger and struggle and fight is a painful sort of exercise for muscles that will make her an amazing woman. It WILL get better. It WILL.

    Happy birthday Chickadee. Hair grows, troubles ease, mothers never, never ever stop loving.

  14. {sue}

    Happy birthday to Chickadee and Happy Anniversary of Motherhood to Mir. May this day, like her actual birth day, be followed by amazing and life changing things through temporary (but searing) pain. (Unless you were completely knocked out and had a c-section. In that case, just go with me…) Also? What about that hair color stuff? Always good to distract from an ill-advised haircut.

  15. Redneck Mommy

    I am a great believer of “and this too shall pass.” I cling to those words as I raise my own teenaged daughter and her teenaged brother.

    Good luck to you and your Chickadee.

    And happy birthday Chickadee. May this be your best year yet.

  16. Nelson's Mama

    Believe, Mir.

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee….

  17. Tracey

    Happy Birthday to your Chickadee and to you. Our daughters share the same birthday nd my Darby also turns 14 today. Discovering that after reading this post makes your words so much more poignant. Love as fierce and steadfast as yours will see you both through to the other side of the troubles you face.

  18. Sharon

    Happy Birthday Chickie, and Happy Birthday Mir.

    Chickie will come to realize how lucky she is to have a mom who loves her so deeply, who understands and who takes some of the hard knocks so she doesn’t have to.

    Thank you Mir for helping me remember that being patient, understanding and loving is our job even when we want to throttle them :). Every child should have a safe place to come home to where they are allowed to be a little bit rotten if that’s what they need!

    Congratulations on giving that to your kids! I’ll be reading and praying that 14 is good to Chickie and to you!

  19. Trish

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee!

  20. kario

    Wow. I have an enormous lump in my throat upon reading this as I stand not three feet away from my own (twelve-year-old) daughter who rails against me more often than not. And I am so buoyed by your insight and your spirit and your constant love. I hope that the cake is not only delicious but a glorious symbol to be shared that something amazing can be created out of some mundane ingredients, a whole lot of love, and fervent hope.

    Happy birthday, Chickadee!
    Happy birthday, Mom!

    Thank you for sharing this.

  21. Headless Mom

    Happy Day to Chickie.

    And to you Mir? Tears. For I have had many a day like this lately and you said it way better than I could. And a hug. And a glass of wine. Oh! And chocolate!

  22. Arnebya

    Oh, to get a teenager to believe that it does get better, that it will work out, that all that is wrong will someday turn on its end and right itself. WE know it’ll come. We just have to be patient and wait for that realization to come to them too, wait for them to decide to rock the short hair until it grows out and accept the compliments of those who aren’t as daring to do it. It WILL come together. All of it.

    Happy birthday, Chickadee.

  23. Amy @ Binkytowne

    Not only are you an amazing mother to chickadee (even on the super bad days, even if you doubt) but you show us other moms, who are out here flailing around trying to do the best we can, a path to seeing the good in the really hard parts. Love you for it. Best wishes to a better year for you both.

  24. victoria

    No lies were stated as, yes, each day to come will not be those through which you have already passed.
    What you’ve gone through so far only equipes you for the days to come.
    (Not only was I auto translating from French, but trying to sound sincere)
    (I’m also trying not to cry at work)

  25. Kelly

    I hope this is a new chapter beginning of what is an awesome amazing superhero teen. Happy birthday.

  26. Lynda M O

    Happy 15th Birthday, Chickadee, many happinesses await you.

  27. Katie K.

    Happy birthday to your kiddo, and happy anniversary of being her mom to you. It has been quite a journey for both of you. May the year ahead bring lots of joy.

  28. Jodie

    Annnnnnd now I’m crying on my train. Darn these birthday posts!

    Happy birthday Chickie! We all believe in fairies too!

  29. elz

    Happy Birthday Chickadee, the young woman loved all over the internet. And, to her mommy who loves her so much more than she can ever fathom-this shall pass. This place you’re in right now is scary, I wish it wasn’t. I wish we could all take the dark and uncertainty away. But, we can’t. So, I’ll wish for better days for you all. And wish that this day brings a new year of bright new possibility to Miss Chickadee.

  30. Melissa

    Happy Birthday to Chickadee!

  31. Beth A.


    You make me wish I could write like you.

    Chickie…Happy Birthday. My 14th birthday was my “golden” year (I was born on the 14th) and I started that year with the worst illness of my life…but it was the last time I was ever sick on my birthday –I pray it’s the same for you…that your 14th year is the last time you celebrate your birthday without feeling terrific. :) You have an awful lot of blog-readers who cheer for you every day.

  32. Billie

    Ohhhhh!! Such a sweet tribute to a wonderful daughter.

    Happy Birthday Chickadee!!

  33. Saskia

    The Dutch have the tradition of not only wishing the birthday day a happy birthday, but also her family. Perhaps in recognition that she wouldn’t be who she is today without her family and that they deserve part of the joy that comes her way.

    So happy birthday, both of you. Hoping that it’s all uphill from this point on.

  34. Saskia

    *birthday girl, not birthday day. Sorry about that.

  35. Little Bird

    Happy Birthday Chickadee!!
    Listen to your mother when she tells she loves you, no matter what. Being a teenager is hard, I know, but if you remember that love, it really does help.

  36. Alison C

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee! I hope the year ahead is wonderful.

  37. RuthWells

    Growing up sucks sometimes, but it’s still better than the alternative. Happy birthday to Chickie and clear sailing ahead for you all. And much love.

  38. Sara

    Beautifully done, Mir. (On both the post and the daughter.) Happy birthday, Chickadee!

  39. Schmutzie

    I remember that age so well and the pain that went with it. It is soul deep, and I feel so much for her, but I swear by this and believe it: we are refined by fire.

    I hope her birthday is fantastic and that she can feel the love.

    Happy birthday, Chickadee!

  40. jadine

    Happy Birthday from Texas, Chickadee! I remember 14 vividly, and wish you the ups and downs that will shape you into the 24 year old Chickadee that you will become. You are, and will be, awesome.

  41. Kyre

    I’m sobbing for you both.

    Happy birthday, Chickadee.

    Happy birthday of your first born, mama.

  42. amy

    Awww. Hugs to both of you. I wish you both peace and happiness. It will come. You are a super wonderful mom and I can only hope to be a fraction of how good you are. You are my role model.

  43. Mom

    Amen daughter!

    Happy birthday granddaughter. Each year will get better. Faeries know this.

    Much love to you all.

  44. Rachel C.

    Happy birthday, Chickadee.
    And, happy mom anniversary, Mir. And, Mir, you.are.an.amazing.mom. (even if it does not feel like it right now.) Trust me on this.

  45. addy

    Happy Birthday Chickie!
    Well said Mir.

  46. Aimee

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee!

    and Mir, this is just beautiful writing.

  47. dad

    Yes Virginia, that is an awesome bit of writing. But its even a more awesome message. It reenforces my premise that being an author has less to do with the selection of words, grammar and syntax than just having something important to say.

    As for your current dilema…”so have we, in our time.” Be strong. It gets better. Much, much better.

    Happy birthday Chicadee. You have a lot to look forward to.

  48. liz

    Happy birthday, Chickadee. May this year be the one you remember because you came out of the dark tunnel of scary illnesses, and into the bright light of recovered health.

  49. Crista

    What a beautifully awesome piece of writing.

    Happy Birthday Chickadee! I hope your “ruined” day turns into your most bestest birthday yet :D

  50. KarenP

    Beautifully written post Mir. Happy Birthday to Chickie! Hope the coming year is better. You can go to the JibJab site and look under the general birthday tab. Greg will play Happy Birthday to her. I would send the card direct but now you have to join to do that….and I am too cheap.

  51. Tracy


  52. Corey Feldman

    Beautiful post and writing. I know you will find the strength for you both!

  53. Sheila

    Mir, you will never NOT know how to communicate with words. And as for being Chickadee’s mama, well, you’ll never not know how to do that, either.

    I hope you’ll let her read this. It’s the best birthday present I can think of for a girl who needs her mama so much right now.

    Happy birthday, Chickadee.

  54. Becky

    Happy Birthday Chickadee! I know the anger, as I was diagnosed with diabetes after going into a diabetic coma right before this same birthday and days before starting high school. It’s so easy to blame and take it out on your parents because you do know how much they love you and they will even if you are mean. You are a wonderful mother (and writer!) and will find a way through. I still think the Mom should get the birthday presents though! Didn’t we do the work?

  55. Anna Marie

    Oof. This is beautiful. Happy, happy birthday Chickadee! May this be the beginning of a wonderful year.

  56. ste

    Your writing inspires me. You are the kind of mother I hope to be when my daughter turns 14. Happy Birthday Chickadee!

  57. Lara

    I’m sorry it’s been so rough lately for you all Mir. Happy birthday to Chickadee! It WILL get easier because you will learn to adapt, adjust, and accept. I know cause I’ve been on both sides; the youth with a chronic illness (though thankfully I was out of the teen hormonal rage though just barely!) and the parent of a child with a rare, debilitating disease. It’s still hard but it gets easier :)

  58. el-e-e

    You are the kind of mother I hope to be while my daughter is FOUR, never mind fourteen. And I’m teary now.

    Love to you both and my sincerest prayers for a good year. Happy bday, Chickie’s Mommy.

  59. Katie in MA

    Happy Birthday, Chickie! I wish your birthday was filled with more magic and your candles were wished upon with frivoless and silly, laughable wishes, but here’s what I do know: you will get through the suckitude that you’re going through right now. Your mom will get through the suckitude that is Right Now, too. And when you are a grown up, when you grow into the person your mom talks about in her birthday post, you will be better for it. You will be stronger for it. You will understand and be able to help your own daughter, or niece, or whoever, if she finds herself in the same situation. It doesn’t help the hurt and the drama and crappy times when you’re going through them, but you will know more about yourself and have a strength that too many women never learn. It’s awful now – especially when your birthday falls smack dab in the middle of it – but you will get through this. And you will be kickass, just as we’ve always known you would be.

  60. Sonia

    Wow Mir, you word things so well but continue to terrify me as to what may be to come with my own 3 young daughters. They won’t always think I’m the “best mom in the world”? How can parenting be the easiest and most naural thing to do some of the time and the most difficult and confusing the other part of the time? I just want my kids to be decent people, who treat others kindly and add something positive to this world in some way or another. And I don’t want to have to endure world war 3 to get there. I hope your daughter has a lovely birthday and hugs you a little longer and tighter tonight than usual.

  61. Janet

    This is lovely and heartbreaking all at once, just like parenting a teenager. I will come back to this post again and again.

    And happy birthday to Chickadee!

  62. TC

    Will you give this to her? I would give this to her. Not today, because today gets to be Her Day. But tomorrow. Or the tomorrow after that. Soon.

  63. Anna

    I tell my 7yo when she struggles carrying her health burdens that this will make her stronger. It will make her smarter and deeper than most everyone else in the world, and that she’ll have a special capacity to understand others’ pain. She doesn’t appreciate it now, but I do.

    Happy (truly!) birthday, Chickie.

  64. Trish

    That is a beautiful post:) My prayers and encouragement are with you and your family. Happy Birthday Chickadee!!!!

  65. Crisanne

    Such poignant words. I’ve come to expect no less from you, Mir. Deep inside, Chickie knows she can count on you no matter what. Keeping good thoughts for improved health for both of your kids.

  66. margaret

    Beautiful words. Happy birthday to Chickadee! There is a corner, and I hope you will make that turn sooner than later. Hugs and fairy dust headed your way.
    (for me it was a 13 yo home perm)

  67. Jen

    Happy birthday sweet Chickie. And happy becoming a mom day to you. :) I can’t imagine the hell you’ve both been through the last few months, and can only hope it’s bluer skies from here on out.

  68. Kelly S.

    Some of the best writing I’ve ever read … this post is a beautiful tear-jerker and poignant reminder of what we moms of teens need to hold onto day-in and day-out. Happy birthday, Chickie … and happy first-born’s birth day, Mir. I hope 14 brings you both more blessings than you’ll be able to count.

  69. Karen

    Can I believe for you? Because I do.

    Happy Birthday,Chickadee.. may this be the year of incredible healing on all fronts.

  70. Jan in Norman, OK

    Schumutzie (#39) is probably right about being refined by fire. Knowing that doesn’t stop the pain of being burned, though. And, to stretch this metaphor a little further, when you’re tied to the stake and standing on the pile of blazing kindling, it’s hard to remember that the whole world isn’t in flames.

  71. Jeanie

    Happy birthday, Chickie. Wishing for so much happiness for you.

  72. NTE

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee! I hope this next year brings you so many good things, you won’t know how to count them all.

    And, Mir, I can’t tell you how much this post made me feel – both good and bad. I was once a 15 year old, sicker than sick, and more scared than I could express. I took a lot of that out on my mom, who was the only person who stood by me as I battled a body I was sure was betraying me. All these years later, I think about how scary it must have been for my mom , and how much strength she had to summon up to help me through that – how much it meant that she believed in me, even when I couldn’t. (And how, all these years and health scares and battles later, I’m still so lucky to have her in my corner)

    I hope, hope, hope that things improve soon, for both of you, and that health worries are no longer a part of your lives, but here’s the thing: not everyone is that lucky, as you know, and, as much as we might wish it were different, we have to live with whatever hand our bodies deal us, so I know that what you’re going through is tough, on both of you (all of you, really), and that you’d give anything not to have to go through it. But I also KNOW that someday you’ll be able to look back and say “Wow: that’s when I learned how strong I really am. That’s when I became a warrior.”

    Here’s to Chickadee and Mir – Let’s hope this next year brings you both only peace.

  73. Scottsdale Girl

    These are the posts that make me grateful I work from home. BRB got something in my eye.

    Happy Birthday Chickadee

  74. jennamom2boys

    Happy 14th birthday, big girl! And happy Mom-iversary, Mir. Hope it just gets better from here on out. HUGS to you both.

  75. laura

    Happy Birthday Miss Chickadee. I hope your day is all it can be.

    Your momma has a huge fan here in the sticks of Indiana and YOU have all of my bestest wishes for the year.

  76. Jaime

    Happy Birthday Chickadee. I hope 14 is a better year for you.

  77. Chris

    Happy happy birthday Chickadee. Here is to hoping that the upcoming year brings you more joys and less challenges.

    Mir – Hang in there. You have many people rooting, praying and sincerely wishing you make it to the other side soon.

  78. Amy

    I happened to be listening to this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaVesWtNYKA) as I read this, and the combination was almost too much to keep tears from falling. I think of my 8th grade students, and the angst they suffer when things are going WELL. Poor Chickie. My heart breaks for her, and you.

  79. Charlotte McConnell

    WOW, what a lovely post. Happy birthday to her and happy gave birth to her day. Your words really reminded me of my relationship with my own mother. I know at times, I put her though hell and often do not see what she was dealing with but I always loved her, even if she didn’t know it. She died when I was 25 and I miss her so much, almost 7 years later and it hasn’t gotten easier. I hope you two can have 100 years together!

  80. jen

    Happy Birthday Chickie. I hope it is a good year for all of you!

  81. Heather

    Happy birthday, Chickadee. Your Mama loves you, and the rest of us odd folks in the computer are fairly fond of you too.

  82. Rasselas

    Hey, even total strangers who only read about Chickie grow fond of her. :) She’s an awesome kid. Happy birthday!

  83. Annette

    Happy birthday Chickadee:) Hugs, prayers, and kisses Mir.

  84. jennifer new

    Amazing and beautiful. So glad to read this as my daughter is on the cusp of adolescence and I’m getting this back and forth b/t love and anger, admiration and frustration — teetering daily. So hard – for us both. Karen Maezen Miller had a great piece about mothers this week, too… Best of luck. – jn


    Oh Mir. I’m so sorry. I’ve had one of those days w/my 5yo too. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like w/her in 10 years. (Yet, I spent most of my evening writing a very professional sounding email to her snot teacher, who I’ve had it with. So, I was basically defending that a**hole I was mad at. But they do it to us, bc they know we won’t stop loving them, right? I had to make my husband deal w/her after bedtime, bc the last threat I gave was taking away her BFF’s b-day party this weekend. She would be devastated, so I told him he needed to be her way out. It worked, let’s just hope she can hold it together for 2 more days.)

    Happy B-day Luv. Even if it doesn’t feel that way. Quit pushing your mama away & just hug her. You don’t even have to say you’re sorry right now, but both of you just need a hug from each other. It is going to get better, I promise. But getting better doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same. That’s not bc you got sick, that’s bc you’re growing up. (And, I was 18 when it all went South for me. Something different, but still scarey, hospital inducing, and it was just when I was in the middle of figuring out who I was; still working on that one. That’s bc who you are, changes as you grow. It’s scarey at first, it gets easier, sort of, later.) Getting better doesn’t mean there won’t be bad days or bad feelings. It does mean, that those days, hours, minutes, will start to outnumber the bad ones. Just hang on. Trust me on this, the ride is easier if you hold someone’s hand. I’m pretty sure you mama’s is out there waiting for yours.
    (((HUGS))) to you both

  86. dgm

    Happy birthday to Chickadee! You will both hang on, and hang together.

  87. Grace

    Happy birthday Chickadee. Happy Chicakdee’s birthday, Mir.

    Thanks for the post.

  88. suzie

    This is beautiful, Mir. (Does Chickie read your blog?)

    Happy birthday to your girl. She’s learning hard lessons, and of course, you end up doing the same. I believe, along with you, that this will pass, and you will have a rock-solid relationship forever to show for it.

  89. Mary K. in Rockport

    You will look back, but you might not laugh! I don’t. In fact, thinking of those ornery teenage years – which took a long time to resolve – gives me PTS!

  90. brigitte

    Um . . you’re more than halfway there?
    Beautiful message, as always!
    Now to amuse myself by picturing Chickadee’s reaction should all us complete-stranger old fogies descend upon her and wish her happy birthday in person! ;-D

  91. Angela

    Happy Birthday Chickadee! I just read a post here http://lifewithoutbaby.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/with-eyes-of-faith-adversarial-growth/
    about Adversarial Growth, or post-traumatic growth. In short, meaning that one can take a path to move past trauma to be a stronger person. This, of course, requires some optimism, and it does take some time to move through the grief before one can be able to be optimistic. Hang in there, it does get better! And for women, ALL major life changes (good or bad) require a chopping off of the hair!! It’s just in our genes. And yes, then we cry, then eventually we make the best out of it and look forward to it growing back! Happens to all of us :-) Hey, when I was a teenager I got my hair chopped off to shoulder-length, from being long and straight, and then POODLE-PERMED. Yeah. On purpose. Then I cried. LOL!

  92. Deirdre

    Okay, so it’s not actually her birthday anymore, but Happy Birthday Chickadee! This house full of nerdlings hopes you had a great day, and that it’s the beginning of better things.

    And {{{hugs}}} to Mir. I am convinced it has to get better. (Especially after the morning I had with my teenager . . .)

  93. Pamela L

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee!! Here’s hoping this year is a much better year, even your best yet. I wish you best in growth and health. Hang in there because you know you can handle it, especially with your mom by your side.

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