My daughter turns 13 this month. I’m not sure how that happened. But it got me thinking about what life is like for a girl her age. It can be tough to say the least. So while I still have her mostly undivided attention, I want her to know that happiness is hers for the taking with just a bit of advice from someone who’s been there.
1. Choose friends like you’re shopping with your own money. In other words, be picky. It’s okay to try out as many friends as you want, but invest your best into those who have your back. Friends you can trust with your secrets. Friends who make you laugh. Friends who are genuine. And, most of all, friends who lift you up.
2. Run from girl drama like a toddler chasing you with a booger. Enough said.
3. Power down your phone and check into the big, beautiful world around you. Turn off that cooking vid and bake a batch of double chocolate chunk cookies. Forget that lame lip-syncing app, pick up your ukulele and create your own song (it doesn’t have to be good). Close out that color-by-number game and create a masterpiece with a blank canvas and paint. Choose to experience life, not merely exist in it.
4. Forgive yourself. Again and again and again. You’ll make poor choices, say stupid stuff, look like a spaz when you miss that extra step (so embarrassing) and get the answers wrong. You know how I know this? Because EVERYONE makes mistakes. Lots of them. The upside is that they can be your greatest teacher. Learn from them when you can. They can also be hilarious if you know how to laugh at yourself.
5. Social media kinda sucks. It’s so easy to compare your worst day (or selfie) with someone’s best. Stay off of it for as long as you can. And if you ever do post something, make sure you wouldn’t be embarrassed should I happen to see it. Because you can bet I’ll be watching.
6. Be a kindness crusader. Leave that beautiful shell you found on the beach for someone else to pick up (while you watch from afar), make that shy kid feel accepted with a simple smile as you pass them in the hall, deliver a giant gummy bear to a friend who just got their braces off, hold the door open for that woman at Target with the double stroller. Random acts of kindness = instant happy.
7. There’s only one you. Even your fingerprint says so. God created you for a unique purpose. The fun part? Eventually figuring out what that is. But in the meantime, on the days you are feeling less than ordinary, please remember that you are His one-of-a-kind extraordinary creation.
8. Be nice to your body. Feed it the foods that build strong bone, muscle and brain, but treat the soul with mint chocolate chip ice cream every once in a while. Get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Give yourself five minutes to just be still. Whatever you do, promise me you won’t look in the mirror and criticize that awesome girl staring back at you. You wouldn’t judge your best friend in such a way, would you? Instead tell her how much you like her eyes, ask her to flex her impressive biceps or compliment her wicked dance moves.
9. Sooner or later, someone is going to hurt you. I’m talking emotionally. (If physically, I will personally break their kneecaps.) It may be a disapproving glance of the clothes you’re wearing, an insensitive comment about your looks, a laugh in front of everyone at your expense. You can’t choose what happens, but you can choose how to respond to it. My advice? Two words: rise above. As the wise Jay-Z once suggested, just go ahead and brush that dirt off your shoulder. They are so not worth it.
10. Stay your goofy self for as long as you can. You are way too young to take life so seriously. Trick-or-treat on Halloween for as long as you want to. Talk in silly voices and faraway accents just because. Laugh at fart jokes. In short, let your freak flag fly. Because it’s like that bell in Polar Express—one day you’ll miss its ring.
11. Don’t roll your eyes or give me the death stare when I ask you to do something. That’s never going to end well for you. And when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
12. Being yourself is easier than pretending to be somebody else. From celebrities to sport greats, world leaders to your way cool mom, there are role models aplenty. Learn what you can from each and every one of them, but never hesitate to share your unique gifts with this world in your own way.
13. You deserve all the good things this world wants to give you. Believe that boy when he tells you you’re cute. Trust your teacher when she says you have massive potential. Be gracious for the gifts God has given you (it’s not just luck). And know that you are—and will always be, no matter what—so very, very loved by me…always.
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