Dear Daughter Turning 13 Today,
Yesterday I couldn’t reach the paper plates on the top shelf of the tall cabinet and you could.
Yesterday you lay in bed with me, snuggled up like you were still five, but we read Harry Potter instead of Llama Llama.
Yesterday, you were still twelve. You were still considered a kid by society and all the people who create children’s menus at restaurants.
Today you are thirteen.
Your daddy doesn’t like when I wish it away. This growing up, growing older, growing taller by the second. He loves having you all independent and that I don’t make him carry a diaper bag anymore when we travel.
But when you were small, I could tuck you into my lap and protect you from the world. I could hold you close and make everything okay with a Disney movie and some popcorn on a school night. (I keep trying to use this tactic, hence Gilmore Girls on the first day of new school when you cried because you didn’t have any friends.)
When you were small, I was all that stood between you and all things scary. Now you’re growing up and you’re the same age as students who once called me Mrs. Brackett and talked me into reading Twilight and told me about which boys were no good. I can’t imagine you being the same age as Ansley or Cassidy or Katie or Maribeth or Mattie or Savannah or Jessica or Veronica. In my mind, you’re still five and you love coloring and mismatched clothes and playing at the house up the hill and when you grow up, you’re going to be President and Jackson is going to be your Vice President.
Now you’re standing in front of a world that when the news or weather channel is on–thank goodness we don’t have cable TV–seems awfully scary. Do I caution you about social media? Cyber bullying? Nuclear missiles? Hurricanes? EMP pulse? ISIS? Zombie apocalypse?
Or do I just teach you how to live in the face of a world we can’t control?
I think this is a better lesson.
13 Ways to Really Live When You’re Only 13
- Sing. Loudly. Off key or on key. Hamilton score or Taylor Swift (the old stuff though). It makes you happy. So do it no matter what anyone else thinks.
- Laugh. At yourself and with your friends and always, always with your family. We yell enough. We don’t laugh enough.
- Wear the clothes that make you feel good. I wish I’d learned that sooner.
- Try harder everyday. Keep practicing volleyball and geometry and music and all the things you like.
- Enjoy the sugar now. Though we do talk about healthy choices… I’m so jealous you can drink a Dr. Pepper without an ounce of guilt because you’re young and full of never-ending metabolism.
- Be yourself. You’ve never cared what the popular kids thought. Don’t start now.
- Keep the compassion. Walk between the crowds, see the ones outside.
- Know what you believe. Now’s the time to ask all the questions. To maybe find all the answers. Talk to us now, while we’re closer than a phone call.
- Talk as much as you want. I know we joke about how you could talk the wallpaper off the dining room wall (and I really wish you’d try) but I love to listen to you tell me about every detail of your day. Truly, even when you think I’m not listening, I am.
- Delight in all the small stuff. You already do–let that be a part of the young woman you become. One who sees how all the little moments really matter.
- But let the little hurts go. We talk about this almost everyday. We’re both working on it and I hope you learn faster than me that letting some things roll on off will make you happier.
- Like what you like. Music. Books. Clothes. Games. Like the things that make you grin and let others do the same.
- Stay honest. You tell me you’re like me–but you’re not. You’re stronger and more confident than I’ve ever been. And you’re honest–with yourself and others. You talk things out. You wrestle your hurts. You ask for help. Because you don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
While I could happily wait a little longer to see you become a young woman… this time keeps coming at us and the days and years seem shorter every time. Settle in, baby girl. We’re going to make it to the other side.
Thirteen years ago I birthed this baby. Eleven days ago I birthed this book. Let’s just say one took longer than the other and they’ve both caused me immeasurable amounts of tears–and incomprehensible joy.