DEAR DAUGHTER: Tomorrow you turn 13 and you are officially a full-fledged teenager. I feel like I blinked and you went from a precious 13-month-old to precocious 13-year-old. You will be the last teenager to go through our home and I’ve learned so much about life watching your older brothers lead the way.
Being a teenager isn’t easy, but being a teenage girl in today’s world (thank you, social media) is even more challenging. I know there are speed bumps ahead that will slow you down or cause hurt and pain, but I want you to hold onto this letter for those moments – the moments that you are either doubting yourself, our rules, or your choices. Let this letter serves as a compass as you navigate your way through the teenage years and find your true strong beautiful self.
If you hold onto one thing from this letter, please let it be that you are loved.
Life is hard and being a teenager is going to throw challenge after challenge at you. You might be able to duck and avoid some obstacles, but everyone has struggles and scars. Surround yourself with good people to help you through those times when you need someone besides me to be your cheerleader. Hard work, emotional pain, tough conversations and feeling vulnerable are all normal.
Choose friends who want you to be your best, not watch you be wounded or hurt. Real friends will never pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do. Good friends will respect your decisions and our rules. Don’t forget to be a good friend back – love and support your friends and allow them to be authentic and transparent without judging them.
You come from a long line of strong women. We are brave, stubborn, tenacious, and most important, we are imperfect. We have flaws (I’m sure you could easily rattle off some of mine) and we have said things or done things that we have regretted. But we believe that girls can do anything boys can do and the only person that can hold you back is you. I hope you know that whatever you want is achievable.
You are sassy, spunky and feisty. Even though these qualities get you in trouble sometimes with me (think tone) I secretly love those parts of you. You don’t get pushed around and you are one tough cookie (blaming that on your older brothers). You speak up when things aren’t right and you aren’t afraid to use your voice.
Don’t ever give your self-respect away. No boy is worth losing your self for. Here is the catch: you are in control of how much these pressures play in your life and how much you will allow them to direct the path you are on. Think for yourself. Trust your intuition. You are smart and you know what’s right – let that be what guides you. No boy or girl deserves to control, influence direct how you should live your life. That’s my job. Just kidding. Not really.
Learn to love your own company. You are fun to be with so embrace being OK with being alone. Yours is the only company you will have every minute for the rest of your life, so learn to love time spent taking care of just you. Continue to love reading and learning. A good book is such a better friend than an iPad. Don’t let technology replace your love of stories and life. And don’t compare your life, your body or your beauty to other people just because they have more likes, followers or thumbs up.
Reality is lost on social media and real versions of who people are don’t get posted. Value your time more and invest in relationships with people, not social media personalities. Your life isn’t meant to look like anyone else’s, so just love you and remind yourself what and who really matters.
There is no guarantee these next few years aren’t going to be bumpy. But we will get through it, I can guarantee that. It might be a little easier if you turned off your bedroom light, picked up your shoes in the living room and put your dirty plate in the sink (a mom can only dream). No matter what happens, nothing will ever change my love for you or my dreams for your happiness. You were made to be different, unique and wonderful and to use your gifts and talents to make the world a better place. Write your own story. Let your light shine. Be a voice, not an echo. Know that you are loved. In a world where you can be anything, be yourself.
Happy birthday, sweet girl,