So, you’re a teenager now.


Yes, Allison Nicole, you have finally reached the mountaintop you have eyed for so long. No longer will you have to say you’re “almost a teenager.” You are there. Congratulations.


You began your journey as your own actual individual on Aug. 6, 2000, a mere 11 days after your mother went in to the hospital to be induced, as which point you decided you were not ready to come out. While I’m not a medical doctor, I was under the impression that when you went in to be induced, you left the hospital with an actual baby, not an incredibly displeased wife who thought the exact same thing.


When I see you now, I am amazed at the beautiful, intelligent, talented young woman you have become. I also find myself thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe I had to take you out of your aunt’s wedding some 10 years ago because you were growling at the bride.”


I know you think you’ve reached the pinnacle, but kiddo, it’s only just begun. This is the slow part of the roller coaster, the part where you tick-tock along the tracks waiting to head down the twists and turns and dips and drops and somersaults of life. Since you were a baby, I have tried to give you positive words of guidance. I hope a few of them stuck. Most importantly:


The world is not fair, and you should be thankful for that. You were born into a loving family, a nice home, grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who dote on you. You’ve never been hungry, lacked a doctor when sick or wondered if you’d have a coat for winter. I don’t tell you this to make you feel bad. Your mother and I both got very lucky in the world we entered. You got the best of those worlds. Be thankful for the life lottery you won.


One thing you have had since you were just a newborn is the gift of music. I hope you will know what a special gift that is. Somewhere in your genetic line, musical ability has arrived at you. It didn’t come from me. You can sing. You can play the piano, the trumpet and guitar. I know it seems second nature to you, but your talent not only brings immense joy to those around you, it can also be a ticket in life that will open doors of education and opportunity. You have something rare. Treasure it.


That said, some hardships await you. Life has those. As an adult, they’re often in the form of mortgage payments or traffic jams or job hunting. But those are just some of the things you have to deal with when you get older. You’ve still got some time before those affect your blood pressure. And you will experience loss and sadness. But you will find that some losses and things that make you sad pale over time. Others stick with you and become a part of who you are. It’s, well, life. But at every turn, know that you were served up into this world into a great big family that will always be there for the smallest or the biggest pitfall in life. And your mom and I will always be first in line to be there for you.


And, as much as it pains me, he will break your heart one day. I don’t know who he is. I don’t know if you’ve ever even met him. But he will. And while my greatest urge will be to defend my baby girl in the most caveman way possible, I will not. Not because I do not care. But rather, exactly because I care. Heartache is one of the great teachers in life, and usually it’s there to catapult you to a new place. That said, my shoulder will always be there for you, and you better believe I’ll agree with you when you say what a cad he was.


I’ve only got a few short years left with you under my roof. I’ve cherished all of the moments I’ve had. Well, except for the ones where you would not go to sleep, even as I was holding you in my arms singing “Rainbow Connection” at 4 in the morning. But you get the point.


I’m proud of the young woman you have become, and I’m ecstatic to see the woman you will grow into. You have so much to give the world, and I’m excited to sit back and watch you share your magic with all you come in contact with. Life is just a wonderful journey, and I know when this short chapter comes to a close, you will embark on great things. Your mother and I, meanwhile, will stand back and, as we watch you walk on to the newest chapter in your life, away from us, and say to each other, “This isn’t fair.”


Happy birthday, Allie Bear.


Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can email him at scmgibbons@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.