The moment you were born, my notion that you would be my mini-me was dispelled by the sight of your huge eyes and olive skin. Little did I know that this was only where our differences began.

In the hospital, I pored over every detail of you—noting certain features and predicting your future based on them. Then at home, in the haze of sleepy days and the rawness of adjusting to this new life in my care, I could see that you were small but mighty—even as a newborn, your intent gaze held the force you possess to this day.

Without a doubt, you are, and have always been, so solidly you.

And as you've grown, there have been moments where the differences between us have proven that point even more.

As a newly minted crawler who had a taste for independence and wanted to get going, you found diaper changes to be the perfect time to express your distaste for the inability to do what you wanted. You flipped, you kicked, you giggled—you resisted each and every attempt. And it was then that I realized—even though I am predisposed to be cooperative, you, on the other hand, definitely are not.

When you were three, having had a full day of "No!" from you, I sent you to your room, only to find cheeky little you stripped naked and singing and dancing atop your time-out stool. I realized it was not defiance you were showing me, but instead the difference between us. Whereas I am a rule follower, you will always be a make-lemonade-out-of-lemons girl.

And while I am cautious and contemplative about new people and places, you optimistically jump in with two feet and hardly a thought about what you will do if things don't work out, because somehow they always do.

At six, baking was an adventure with you, one that included more flour on the counter than in the bowl—cause and effect being far more interesting to you than the pretty cookies we were trying to make. Though I am a follower recipes, you clearly are not—your bold spirit emerging so many times throughout our baking experiments, reminding me again and again that we are very different.

Through these moments of pure you, I learned that being different than me and seeing the world with another perspective came from a solid sense of self that deserved to be nurtured and defended so it could remain intact, allowing you to become who you were supposed to be, and not shadowed by my desire for you to be like me.

Throughout your teenage years, managing our differences wasn't difficult in the usual sense of the word, where challenges and power struggles would be met with pouting and maybe even some yelling before one of us could claim victory. No, the difficulty was found more so in the quiet moments, where will and desire wrenched both of our hearts. Each petal of your bloom, exposing itself to the elements of life's rules, expectations and limitations, made our differences even more pronounced.

It has taken so much patience and perspective—all wrapped up in a whole lot of love—to get to this point where you are who you are today...strong and smart, independent, beautiful and kind. The spirit I saw when you were small still remains.

And here we are. And I cannot believe I am your mama. And you are setting off into the world.

My daughter, because we are so different, I want you to know…

...that seeking adventures can be just as much a journey inward as it is outward, so remember to take the time to be really still so you can hear what your heart is telling you.

...that your self-discipline to stay focused on goals also needs to be used to allow yourself to not be scheduled, not be on task, not be in control, and just to be. And in that, you are enough.

...that your conviction gives you a backbone, but you need to know when to bend and allow compassion to help you see, sympathy to help you hear, and forgiveness to help you heal your heart.

...that your outer beauty merely hints at the light that's inside of you, and whether you achieve world domination or not, by sharing your light you will illuminate what is good and leave the world better off for having known you.

You like to lead, I like to guide. You have an unquenchable thirst for adventure, I have a need to deepen my roots. Though we share similar tastes in food and fashion, and we both harbor a distinct and undeterrable drive to change the world in our own way. And when a problem arises, I'm more, "Now how do we fix this?" while you're more, "Let me put this in perspective."

We're a little the same, and a lot different. And I find a lot of beauty in that.

I admire your optimism and strength and would like to think that you still own it because you were given a soft landing place at home to fall if you did. And, my daughter, I want you to know that landing place is still—and always will be—here for you if you need it.

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