I feel like all I ever write about is my awful love life. While there is ample content to share on that sorry subject, today is not the day.
My birthday was last week and I had the idea of writing a type of “life lessons” letter to my daughter. That’s a letter that could easily turn novel as there is so much that I want my precious pre-teen to understand. I tailored this letter to her and some of what she’s currently going through in her life as an adolescent 6th grade girl.
You, my girl, are the sunshine of my life. I love you so much. As I’m celebrating a birthday and reflecting on my life and the many, many things I’ve learned, I wanted to share some (well, okay…a lot) of different thoughts with you.
You have seen me happy; you have seen me sad. You have heard me laugh uncontrollably; you have seen me cry hysterically. You have watched me offer love and support; you have watched me breakdown in frustration and anger. The point I’m trying to make is that life is beautiful, but it’s not always perfect or easy. Sometimes life is hard, very hard. Sometimes we struggle and we fail. Sometimes people are incredibly mean and hurtful. But my daughter…sometimes life is so amazingly fun and beautiful. Sometimes things go our way, we reach our goals, we find success, and we are as happy as can be. Sometimes people are so very kind and thoughtful that their generosity brings us to tears.
No matter what happens in my life or your life, I will always love you. I’m proud of you and I’m proud to be your mom.
Things to remember…
Even though dad and I are divorced, we both love you so very much. I know it seems really unfair that J. and G. live with dad and get to see him each day. You’re right; he was your dad first. I know at times that makes you sad and I understand why you feel that way. Unfortunately, there is no easy or magical way to fix this, but I hope you know dad loves you just as much as he loves his other kids. That I promise you! There are times that I still get sad and upset that dad and I are divorced, especially during the holidays. It’s okay and totally normal for both you and I to miss dad at times.
Love is not a fairy tale. We’ve watched many a Disney Princess fall in love and be rescued by a prince. In real life, true love does not work that way. Love takes time – – you don’t see a cute Prince Charming (or Prince Eric or Flynn Rider, etc.) and immediately fall in love. In my opinion, the most important things in a relationship are: trust, honesty, respect, loyalty, friendship, communication, connection, and support. But even more important than that is self-love. In order to have a healthy, loving relationship with someone else, you must first learn to love yourself. Please don’t ever look for a boy to make you happy – – that doesn’t work! In the beginning it might, but in the end if you put all of your hope and happiness into a boy and he leaves, it will crush your heart. Trust me, I know. Be smarter than me. Besides…the happier you are with yourself the more you will radiate positivity and confidence and those are two very attractive qualities.
I know you cringe when you hear the “S” word…sex, there I said it. I won’t go on and on, but this is what I want you to always remember. Sex is special. It was created by God. It is not something you should EVER let a boy pressure you into. Having sex when you are young is risky for many reasons. When a girl has sex with a boy and then they break up, it so unbelievably painful; emotionally it destroys a girl. You don’t ever want to experience that pain. There is also a risk of getting pregnant or getting a sexually transmitted disease. Oh girl…your future is too bright and promising for that. As you get older and into your teen years, sadly…some (maybe even a lot) of your classmates will have sex. Just because others are doing it, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you and your future. I spent 16 years teaching about this…I’m not just an old fashioned fun sponge that doesn’t understand kids these days – – I know the risks, I know the emotional devastation it causes and I want more for you! If/when you ever want to talk about this, I promise to listen without judgment and to offer the best, most honest advice I know.
Again, as you get older some of your classmates are going to do other things that can really hurt them, trash their reputation, and ruin their future. I’m talking things like sexting (sending inappropriate – like nude – pictures of themselves), smoking, vaping, drinking alcohol and doing drugs. First, sexing is just wrong (and illegal for someone under the age of 18 – – not that anyone over 18 should be doing it either). There is a reason we get dressed before we go out in public, that’s because it would be humiliating and mortifying for everyone to see us naked. The same concept applies to sexting because those types of pictures get spread around, like WAY around. My dear beautiful daughter, please know that sending a semi-nude or nude picture of yourself is not sexy, or hot, or cute. Please love, cherish, and respect yourself enough to never do that. There will be girls who are either so desperate to get a boy’s attention or to be liked that they will send those kinds of pictures. Please don’t be one of those girls. Value yourself and your body more than that! And if a boy ever asks you to send a nude pic – – just no! That request is 100% proof that he does not respect you. Along the same lines…modesty is such a respectable quality. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve just rolled my eyes and shook my head at teenage girls and even grown women who walk around and post pictures with their boobs and butts hanging out. Like seriously…even though some guys might find that “hot” – – those guys are not the kind you want around. They are the type that will care more about your looks/body than your heart and your emotional well-being. Stay away – – far away; they are a heartbreak just waiting to happen.
When it comes to smoking, vaping, drinking, and drugs, my hope is that you will not do it. Teenagers (and even adults) often turn to these things because they are first pressured into it, they are curious, or they are looking for an escape. While it’s true, that in the moment, drugs are supposed to make you feel good – – that good feeling lasts only a very short time and then what? Then people become highly obsessed and addicted. They can’t function without the drugs. That is a horribly sad life to live. I have personally seen addictions (to cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana/weed, and prescription drugs such as pain killers and Xanax). Nobody ever thinks they’ll become addicted but millions and millions of people do – it’s never worth it. And think about junior high and high school – – if you try it, you will face consequences at school and in sports. You’ve seen some of my cheerleaders lose the opportunity to do something they love because they made a bad choice with drinking alcohol and smoking weed. Be smart, kiddo. While there will be classmates that drink and smoke and so call “party” and even brag about it on social media – – there will be plenty that do not – – find and be friends with those kids. If every “cool kid” parties and shares it on their snapchat for attention – – take pride in NOT being a “cool kid” and be proud of yourself for being smart, thinking about your future, and making good choices. Consequences last so much longer than any party or “fun” moment.
Along with growing up and entering junior high and high school, sadly…the drama is probably going to get worse. How can that be, right? It’s already been kind of ridiculous in 5th and 6th grades. My advice is to stay away from gossip and don’t get wrapped up in rumors and talking poorly about people. Oh. My. Word. It is pointless, stupid, hurtful, and a waste of your time and energy. I think the best ways for you to avoid a lot of drama is to find a good friend group, don’t talk about other people, don’t post everything you do and think on social media, don’t be totally boy crazy and desperate for a relationship, don’t do the risky things I just mentioned (drinking, smoking, drugs, sexting) and simply be a nice person. Don’t give people negative and controversial stuff to talk about. And if/when people do talk negatively about you – – you have to learn to be the bigger person; to not believe the hurtful things they say. It’s not easy, but it’s so much better to just ignore it.
When it comes to friendships, I keep circling back to the same thought…find a good friend group! This is so important, more important than being considered a “cool kid” – – you are who you hang with. What does that even mean? If you hang around kids that do bad things, eventually you’re going to follow them and do bad things too. Find friends that make good choices. Find friends that are kind, supportive, and trustworthy. Find friends that care about the same things you do (like school, sports, music, art, their future, etc.). Find friends that will stick up for you and be there for you. True friends that genuinely care about you will not ask you to do bad things like drinking, drugs, stealing, vandalizing…anything that is wrong. And be a good friend too…that’s just as important.
Be a girl’s girl! Say what? What’s that? A girl’s girl is a girl that encourages and supports other girls. Instead of being jealous , mean, petty, and gossipy – – you raise other girls up. You give compliments, you offer support, you smile (instead of giving a dirty look), you don’t call them names, you get to know them and give them a fair chance before you decide you don’t like them. You don’t start mean rumors and you don’t do shady things like steal another girl’s boyfriend (that’s such a no no!). It’s not that hard or complicated – basically just treat others how you want to be treated.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Oh my goodness – – it is so easy to think, “I wish I was Alexis. She’s so pretty. Her hair is gorgeous. She has flawless skin. She’s popular. She’s perfect” – – she’s not perfect; nobody is. Every single girl has insecurities – – even Alexis. Some girls might act like their life is fabulous every single day, but it’s not. Every person experiences good and bad days. You might think Alexis is pretty as a princess, but Alexis might not feel the same about herself (even if she acts like she does and even if she posts countless “happy” selfies). Every girl struggles at times – – this I know for sure. Even Kate Middleton and Meghan Markel struggle although they always look perfectly put together on TV and online.
I know there are times that you feel ugly because of acne or frizzy hair that won’t cooperate. Please believe that it is normal to feel that way; it is a part of growing up. You are not the only girl that gets pimples (even though it SUCKS), you are not the only girl that screams and cries on occasion because her hair is wildly out of control, you are not the only girl that has a closet full of clothes but can’t find anything cute to wear. It’s normal. But also…I hope you look in the mirror and see what I see: A beautiful girl with gorgeous eyes, long lashes, cute cheeks, and a smile that lights up a room.
There are many things that will always be more important than your looks, such as: your personality, your attitude, your character, your heart, how you treat other people, and your work ethic. A pretty face can’t make someone laugh and it can’t be there for someone that is going through a rough time. Although some people are absolutely stunning in the looks department, they have personalities that are so awful that you want to run away from them. Your character – which is who you are…things like your integrity, your morals and your values (the things you know are right and wrong) those will forever be more important than things like how clear your skin is, how white your teeth are, and how shiny your hair is. I love and admire elderly people, but with age their skin wrinkles and their physical beauty often begins to fade. Does that make them worthless…quite the opposite! Their life experiences make them incredibly knowledgeable and absolutely cherished.
I can’t say enough about work ethic. The harder you work, the bigger the pay off – this is true for school, athletics, music, dance, art, and any future job or career that you might have. Always strive for your best in everything that you do, but realize you are going to make mistakes (everybody does) and that you don’t have to be perfect. When you do make mistakes, especially big mistakes – learn from them! Learn what you did wrong, think about what you could have done differently, and don’t repeat those mistakes again. If you do something wrong or do something that hurts someone else, always offer a sincere apology. And when you’ve been wronged, it’s important to forgive people. Holding grudges and staying angry and bitter is such a waste of your energy – – it really is (I know, I’ve done it). It’s better to just let things go and move on with your life.
When it comes to things that are kind of difficult for you, like math (oh how I relate) don’t allow it to make you feel bad about yourself. Just because you struggle to solve some math equation doesn’t mean you are dumb. I remember how much math used to stress me out in school and honestly it wasn’t worth it. You have made leaps and bounds in not giving up and at least trying and that’s what matters! If you get a math problem wrong or you fail a math quiz…so what. All I ask (and all that your teachers ask) is that you genuinely try. I’ll always be proud of that type of effort.
God created us and gave each of us unique talents. While math might not be a strong skill for you, look at the talents he gave you! You have excellent handwriting, you excel in spelling, you have an expansive vocabulary, you’re a strong reader and an outstanding writer, you are extremely talented in art, and you can play the clarinet. I couldn’t even read music notes at your age…true story (and I was in band too!). While good grades are important, they aren’t everything! How you treat others at school (including the adults that are in charge) and your character are far more important.
Since we’re on the subject of school, let’s talk bullying. I know how difficult 5th grade was for you due to bullying – by both a boy and girl. You have to understand that the awful things said to you were completely false – – unfortunately you were just the kid they targeted. Kids often bully because they are looking for any kind of attention, even negative attention. Kids that bully have a poor self-esteem. Somehow making others feel bad makes the bully feel…stronger, smarter or better than the person they are bullying. That’s some warped thinking! I can’t understand how making another human being feel completely sad and awful could make anyone feel good, but it happens.
We’ve talked about bullying, read books, and watched movies about this subject. We can’t understand how some of the characters in the movies can be so incredibly cold-hearted and mean to both Auggie and Clarissa. It hurt our hearts to learn that people called Lizzie Velasquez, “the ugliest person in the world” – – how cruel!!! She was born with a genetic condition that she has absolutely no control over and yet people just continue to hate on her. That’s horrible and there is no excuse or justification for ever talking to someone like that. I hope you know that just because someone says something degrading (like you’re ugly or stupid) it does NOT mean it’s true. I also hope that if you see someone being picked on, continually teased and made fun of, that you will do something different – – that you will support the targeted person. Stand up and say/do something. It’s NEVER okay to laugh at or make fun of another person for looking different or having a disability. Be a good example and don’t engage in behavior that is hurtful and hateful. Instead offer kindness, compassion, and understanding – – do the loving thing.
When you are going through a hard time, I would encourage you to find healthy outlets. Those are positive things that you can do to help relieve stress, make yourself more relaxed, lessen anxiety, and improve your mood. Some ideas are: listening to music, journaling, reading, art, doing hair, taking a bath, exercise…anything that helps to calm you down and makes you feel better. Praying and talking to God are also extremely helpful. Sometimes things seem so overwhelmingly bad and stressful that you can start to feel like it will never get better, but I promise…it will get better! Sometimes it takes a lot of time and a lot of patience, but eventually better and brighten days will appear. It’s so important to remember that and to always remain hopeful.
Be grateful for the things that you have. You might not live in the biggest, fanciest house. You might not have the most expensive clothes and shoes or the latest iphone, but…realize and be thankful for what you do have. Not everyone has a roof over their head. Not everyone has plenty of food to eat. Not everyone has lots of clothes to wear. Not everyone has a warm, comfortable bed to sleep in at night. Not everyone has a family that loves them. You are very blessed; always be appreciative for the things that you have and the people who love and support you.
I would encourage you to try new things – from food to music to sports and new activities – – step out of your comfort zone! How will you know if you don’t like something unless you try it? You loved being in the Wizard of Oz and you love being in band. If you wouldn’t have had the courage to try those new things you would have missed out on things that you really enjoyed. Life is an adventure so go for it!
Try not to worry so much. Sometimes we spend so much time worrying about and stressing over things that we think might happen, but they never actually happen. What a waste of our time and energy! There are so many things we can’t control – – things like other people, the weather, traffic, and the long line at the store…the list could go on and on. All we can control is ourselves. It’s better to just do our best each day and trust that things will work out the way they are supposed to – worrying will not change anything – – a more helpful and productive option is praying about something that worries you.
I think it’s important to get outside and enjoy nature; it’s refreshing and rejuvenating – – watch the sunset, smell a flower, put your toes in the sand, go for a walk in the woods, look up at the stars. There is something so wonderful and peaceful about nature.
On occasion junk food, fast food, sweets, and candy are all okay and you should treat yourself every once in a while, but it’s important to eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis. You will have more energy and feel better about yourself. Working out is such a mood booster! Make exercise fun. If you hate doing something it will be very difficult to find the motivation to do it. Find an exercise or physical activity that you enjoy; something that you actually look forward to doing.
There is so much I more I could say, but this is enough for now. Let me wrap it up!
I love you little lady. I’m proud of you and your accomplishments. As you continue to grow up, I hope you will always remember who you are and what’s important to you – – always stay true to yourself. I hope you will listen to your gut – – if something doesn’t feel right – – don’t do it! I hope you will have a big, loving heart and do nice, helpful, and thoughtful things for others. I hope you will stand up for yourself and others, especially those that are picked on. I hope you push yourself and work hard and don’t give up when things seem too hard in the beginning. I hope you will do your best to have a positive attitude and to remain both optimistic and hopeful even when life gets tough. I hope you will think about the potential consequences of your actions before you do something that might get you in trouble. I hope you will never look to a boy to bring you happiness – – find that in yourself and the things that you love! I hope you will believe in yourself and all that you can achieve. I hope you will grow in your confidence, acceptance, and love for yourself. And I hope that no matter how uncomfortable, awkward, difficult, scary, nerve-wracking, or maybe even embarrassing something might be – – if you want to talk or need advice…please come to me. I will always listen.
Thank you for being my sunshine no matter how dark and gloomy things have been. I love you.