While enjoying pedicures with my daughter and discussing kindergarten excitedly, I overheard a mom and daughter discussing the girl’s first year of college with the same excitement. The mom and I caught each other’s glance and in that moment I knew we were both seeing something unique; she was seeing a sweet memory and I was staring at a beautiful future. I can’t be certain, but I think we both had tears in our eyes.
I’m not someone who overuses phrases like “how time flies” or “where has the time gone” but there are moments when I wish I could freeze time just long enough to forever etch an image in my mind, like my daughter wearing her favorite rock star jeans, cowboy boots three sizes too big, and hair in pig tails pulling her wagon with one hand and making a dandelion wish with the other hand.
But time does move on and my daughter keeps growing and with every new milestone she reaches, I add to the mental list I am making of everything she needs to know…
1. Childhood is finite; treat it as such. This is where dreams take root and this is where imagination is nurtured. Play with your stuffed animals for as long as you want; believe in Santa Claus for as long as you can. You’re going to be in a hurry to try so many things, but trust me, you will have plenty of time for all of it.
2. Warning: I’m going to talk to you about some pretty embarrassing stuff. There will be diagrams, strange vocabulary, and blushing, lots of blushing. When you’re a lot older, I’ll tell you some jokes to go with this topic, jokes that will suddenly become funny when you’re in your twenties and on an elevator somewhere and you suddenly remember and start laughing uncontrollably, scaring everyone in the elevator. You will try to explain and pay homage to me by saying, “My mother is quite the craftswoman of a good penis joke.” Which will only frighten the elevator passengers even more but you won’t care because you will finally understand how important that really embarrassing talk was.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially from me. Tell me your joys and your fears; don’t put everything on your own shoulders. You’d be amazed how much I can carry. And know that there is never anything you can do that would make me stop loving you. Nothing.
4. All those things you’re going to be afraid to try? Try them. Let life lead you where it will; be open to change and new ideas.
5. Forgive. You must always forgive because not forgiving makes you ugly and I’m not talking about the kind of ugly you can see in a mirror. It’s the kind of ugly that twists you and changes your heart forever. Forgive and don’t lose faith in people, but temper this with the knowledge that letting go isn’t the same as giving up and sometimes it’s the wiser choice.
6. Be prepared; one day the world is going to break you into so many pieces you will think you’ll never be whole again. But believe me, you will heal and you will be better than before. Don’t let the moment destroy you; let your renewal define you.
7. The fairytale you grew up hearing about? Yes, it’s out there, only it doesn’t look like a pink sparkly gown and it doesn’t live in a castle. It’s respect and compromise and arguments and tears and laughter and love. Prince Charming has flaws and so do you, sweet princess; you will save each other over and over again and fight the dragons of this world together.
8. And for every time you’ve asked me, “Mommy, what do you want me to be when I grow up?” My answer has never changed: I want you to be confident and compassionate; everything else will follow.