Yesterday my little girl turned 13.
So I guess she’s not such a little girl anymore. To be honest, she hasn’t been a little girl in a long time.
She has always been mature beyond her years. Uber-responsible, super-smart, intuitive, reflective, wise, well-spoken and witty. When she was two she not only picked out her dress for the first day of school, but also convinced me she needed the matching shoes. When she was three she formulated a logical three-point argument about why she deserved a bigger Christmas tree for her room. When she was five she befriended the little boy in her class with social anxiety and made sure he was always part of the crowd.
Today she’s affectionately known to her friends as “Grandma” because of her wise and cautious ways. I can only hope that those ways carry her through these tumultuous teenage years.
Today, I am feeling a bit nostalgic for the old days – when her birthday wishes were for tape and stickers and we had American Girl birthday parties. And I am also feeling a little bit sad about how quickly the time has gone and how soon she will be off to college. But I know that time marches on and so mostly I am feeling happy to be celebrating the beautiful person that she is today.
One of the most wonderful things about parenthood is watching your children grown and develop their own identities and personalities. I love hanging out with my kiddos now that they are older and getting a glimpse into how they see the world. Which is often very different from how I see the world. In fact, sometimes it feels like we aren’t even living in the same world. even though we are sitting in the same room and breathing the same air.
Which is tricky, because it’s still my job to prepare her for the world. I know I won’t be able to keep her close or safe for very much longer. And so today, on her thirteenth birthday, I want to share with her some of bits and bobs of wisdom that I have collected over the years, to help guide her and ground her as she makes her way through this crazy adventure called life.
13 Things I Want My Daughter to Know on Her Thirteenth Birthday:
- You are wonderful just the way you are. You are an amazing person. You are smart, independent, funny, kind, passionate, dependable, responsible, beautiful, thoughtful, resourceful, creative, talented and worthy. (I’m sure I left something out, but you get the gist). You are wonderful just the way you are. Never forget that. And don’t waste your time on people who don’t see that.
- Never apologize for how you feel. And don’t be afraid to express those feelings. Feelings are real, raw and right. They are also intensely personal. You can’t control how you feel, and you shouldn’t try. (You can control how you react to those feelings, but not the feelings themselves). Don’t apologize for or think you have to hide your feelings. In fact, I encourage you to share them – with me, with your best friends, with someone you can trust. Sharing your feelings often helps them feel less oppressive and overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel; but, never let anyone else tell you how to feel. Or be dismissive of your feelings. People will try to that. A lot. Do not let them. You get to own your own feelings.
- Nobody wants to hear your whine. On the other hand, no-one likes a complainer. Everyone faces challenges every day. Trust me when I tell you no-one is interested in how much your hip hurts, how poorly you slept last night, how much work you have to do or how hard your life is. Don’t be a chronic complainer. It’s a real bore.
- Never stop learning. Make it a point to learn something new every day. Intelligent and interesting people are in constant pursuit of knowledge, even when they are eighty years old, and there are so many new and exciting things to learn. Continue to be lifelong learner and you’re life will be richer and longer.
- You do you. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When you compare yourself to others you are setting yourself up for disappointment. There will always be people who are taller, fitter, skinnier, smarter, prettier, richer, faster, stronger, with different talents or who have more than you do. But that does not mean they are better than you or that you are lacking in any way. Instead of worrying about what others have, be grateful for what you have, and don’t live your life trying to keep up with others. You are uniquely you and that is a good thing.
- Not everyone is your friend. Sadly, you can’t trust everyone. You will meet people who act like your friend, but who talk about you behind your back. People who say they are on your side, but who secretly wish for your failure or even try to sabotage your success. People who call themselves your friend but disappear when things get tough. The problem is with them. Not you. Be cautious. Choose your friends wisely – find a small group of people that you can rely on and don’t worry about the rest. It’s much better to have a couple close friends than a bunch of acquaintances.
- Social media lasts forever. Think before you post. Social media lives on forever. If you wouldn’t want to see it on the 6 o’clock news, don’t post it online.
- Take care of yourself – eat well, sleep well, move well. You have nothing if you don’t have your health. Make it a point to eat healthy, get enough sleep and move your body every day. Read labels. Avoid toxins. Do yoga. Stretch. Choose wisely. You only get one body – take care of it.
- Stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid to say “No.” It’s a sad fact of life that many people only feel good when they are putting others down. You’ve already seen this in action and it will continue throughout your life. People will try and push you around. Do not let them. Stand up for yourself. Stand your ground. Speak your mind. Say no. Forcefully if necessary. Summon your inner strength to defend yourself and insist on getting what you deserve. If something feels wrong or goes against your values, just say no. Trust your gut. Say no to drugs. Say no to gossip. Say no to bad influences. Say no to laziness. Say no to boys who try to pressure you. You will also have to learn to say no to good things in life: volunteer opportunities, parties, activities, invitations and even requests for help because there are only so many hours in the day and you can’t do it all. Set your boundaries and stick to them.
- Choose kindness. You never, ever know what someone else is going through, so don’t judge other people. Choose to be kind. Smile. Hold the door. Yield the right of the way. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing, but it has the ability to brighten someone’s day. And it will make you feel better too.
- Take the opportunity. You will find yourself faced with some amazing, but scary, opportunities. Take them while you can. Travel, study abroad, take the job, move to the city. You have no idea what you are capable of until you push yourself to try new things. And you have no idea which moment will be the one that transforms your life. Put yourself out there and let yourself live while you are young and free and able.
- Put on some pumps and lipstick. And always bring an extra layer. It’s amazing what a killer pair of heels and a swipe of lipstick can do for your self-confidence. When you are feeling insecure, overwhelmed or just in a funk, put on your best shoes and a little lip color and you’ll find yourself standing taller, feeling stronger and more ready to face the world. But don’t forget to bring a sweater, because it’s hard to feel confident when you are cold.
- I will always be your biggest fan. You can count on me to be your number one supporter for as long as I live. I will do everything I can to help you find happiness and achieve your goals. I will celebrate each success, probably with homemade cake. And I’ll be ready with tissues and a big hug (and probably cake) when things go wrong (and they will). I will listen to you and laugh with you and love you with all of my heart until the day that I die.
Happy Birthday Sweet Girl! I can’t wait to see what the next thirteen years have in store.