I met someone who changed my life forever 18 years ago today.
On Aug. 28, 1990, at 4:27 p.m., my first child entered the world with a head full of dark brown hair, sparkling brown eyes and an impish little smile on her face. She was so tiny in my arms, yet I knew she was going to be something incredible in the world.
Charming the Clay County Hospital staff from the moment she was born, several made sure to come and say goodbye when we left three days later.
Although I had nine months to prepare for being a mom, I must have gotten up to check on her every 15-20 minutes that first night home.
Every time I touched her chest I kept thinking, "Is she still breathing?"
I thanked God each time her eyes fluttered and a smile filled her sleepy face.
Growing up she was loving, kind and gentle, but she wasn't the most graceful child. She fell down so often that she started to think it was fun.
Remember those Lipton Ice Tea commercials where the person fell backwards into the "refreshing" pool?
My daughter stretched her arms out wide and would do that for fun off the back steps, the front porch, out of the car and off picnic tables, all while laughing. Of course she would cry when she hit the ground, but within a few minutes, and a hug from mommy, she'd laugh while doing it again.
It got so bad by the time she was 2-years-old that family members would run to grab her whenever she spread her arms out wide.
The first verse of Van Morrison's song "Brown Eyed Girl" was her favorite lullaby, but when she started talking and singing on her own, it was quickly replaced by Garth Brooks' "I Got Friends In Low Places."
It is really cute watching a little girl in pigtails sing that song!
When her little brother came along in 1994, she took being a "big sister" very serious.
It was her "job to help bubby take a nap" by reading him a story. Every afternoon, she would prop him up on pillows to sit next to him while holding a book and point to the pictures so she could tell him the story. Sometimes she would ask me to join them, other times it was their alone time, but I always knew that within 15 minutes they would both be asleep.
When it was time for school, she was so excited that she ran off and left me the first day.
Having a thirst for knowledge, she would listen in on adult conversations, watch the news on her own and read books far above her reading level.
Her creativity also blossomed as she grew into the person she wanted to be during middle school.
The search for individuality can be difficult and, like many other young people struggling to find themselves, she went through many changes.
There was her brief girly phase of wearing ribbons and bows in her hair, that what seemed to last forever wearing the same T-shirt and blue jeans grunge phase, the head-to-toe encasement of black clothing and wearing thick black eyeliner phase, a brief return to the grunge phase (only this time with sweatshirts and jeans with holes in them) and then repeating the black phase.
According to a few friends, they lost connection with their sons and daughters during these tumultuous times, and a few never regained it.
But a wonderful thing happened between my daughter and myself, we became friends.
I didn't want to believe it at first. How do you dole out punishment if you are friends with your child? I admit it, I figured I'd done something wrong and became stricter with her.
We had a few battle of words between her 14th and 16th birthdays.
But whenever she needed someone to listen or a shoulder to cry on for no apparent reason, my daughter came to me. When her world was crumbling, and she was trying to face problems on her own, I'd go to her, take her hand in mine and whisper, "It's all right. I love you."
Together we developed the "5-Minute Rule," which has been implemented for our entire family.
It works like this: We have no secrets. So when problems occur, they can tell or ask me anything they need too about the problem, and then I have five minutes to be an angry mom. (They also get their five minutes when I have to tell them something they might not like.)
Afterwards we sit down together and in a calm, rational manner create a solution.
And they have no problem making sure that I adhere to the time limit.
"Time's up," will interrupt my good tirades and "you promised" shuts them down completely.
I've heard some interesting things over the years.
I brooded angrily in silence for my five minutes when I found out who took the $20 bill out of my purse without asking, yelled about how the new basement window was broken, was in shock when asked some delicate questions about relationships and failed miserably at holding back giggles when someone admitted to their first awkward kiss.
Through it all, my daughter and I have helped each other through some tough times with compassion and love using that rule. (My son takes advantage of the rule too, but, strangely enough, not quite as much as my daughter. They also use it in dealing with each other.)
In the past two years, as my world was crumbling around me, it was my daughter who would take my hand and whisper, "It's all right. We love you," while my son held the other. At times, I've found them hugging and whispering the words each other.
Possessing a wide spectrum of friends of all ages, I've seen my daughter pull them close in their times of need. Her capacity for love and friendship knows no bounds.
Today, she's taller than me with long dark hair and big brown eyes. Although she's willing to fight for people who can't fight for themselves, I still can't get her to put away her clean laundry or sweep the floor when I want her to do it.
At 18, she's a beautiful young woman with a kind, loving and generous heart who is ready to tackle the world and eager to express herself through the written word or her incredible artwork.
Counting the final days of her high school years, she is excited and ready and willing to run headlong into her future while trying to figure out how to make college classes in criminology, culinary arts and psychology a career.
At some point I figure she will throw her arms out into the air and find the answer. Hopefully before she will hit the ground learning, but if she doesn't I know a few people who are ready to take her hand.
"You're my best friend, my hero," she said a few days ago while hugging me for no apparent reason. "You made me who I am, and thank you."
I still want to cry with pride just thinking about that moment, but all I could manage to say was, "You're my hero and I love you."
Olivia Herron, my daughter, is the most influential young woman in my life, and I'm blessed that she's my best friend. Happy Birthday!