Right now my daughter is sitting in her pajamas. It is 3:30 on a snowy March afternoon and all she cares about at this moment is snuggling with her brother. Their heads are pressed together as they’re playing on her Kindle. I am pretty sure she is caught up in the moment. Her thoughts are not drifting. She does not care about boys, the size of her thighs, or if she has said the wrong thing today.
I wish she could stay this innocent, this pure, forever, but she can’t. She won’t. At 10 years old, she is on the cusp of so much—drama, boys, comparisons, trust, embarrassment, pressure, and other tumultuous situations that are unavoidable. It will all become very real, very soon. There is so much I want to tell her, and I will when the time is right. Here is what I need her to know:
1. Say ‘fuck off’ when it needs to be said.
Say it with your eyes. Say it with your actions. Say it in your head, or say it out loud. Say it by walking away. Say it however you want—just make sure you say it. Say it when you are overlooked. Say it when you are being disrespected. Say it when you are being judged. Say it when someone doesn’t treat you the way you know you deserve. Say it when someone puts their hands on you in a way that you don’t like. Say it. Make sure the person you are saying it to hears you loud and clear.
2. Know the difference between desire and value.
When another person desires you, it does not always mean they value you. They may desire you so much you almost start to believe they value you, but these are two different things. If they value you, you will know it. If they don’t, you will know it.
Go ahead and kiss boys, but don’t kiss them if they are rude to you unless you want to kiss them. Never spend the night with someone who will not want you there in the morning unless you are fine with that arrangement as well.
Buy the shoes, drink the coffee, have the wine, eat the chocolate, get the massage, use the good dishes, light the candle. Even if you are the only one to enjoy it, do it. There is no point in saving these things just for other people.
4. Don’t worry about your thighs.
Be healthy, practice moderation, and explore different physical activities. Eat real food that makes you feel alive and makes you want to do things that make you feel alive. Donuts aren’t capable of doing that. However, if you enjoy them every once in awhile, and then say, “That was nice, and now I am done with you,” donuts are wonderful. The size of your thighs (or any other body part) is not what matters in this one life we have. What matters is how we feel when we are here and how we make others feel. Focus on that.
5. Don’t force it.
If a smoky eye makes you look like you got into a bar brawl, just let it go. If you have a friend who makes you feel like shit or betrays your trust, let her go, too. Nothing should feel forced ever—not a dress, not a relationship, not a hobby. Most importantly, don’t ever try to convince someone of your worth. If they aren’t convinced all on their own, refer to number No. 1.
6. It is okay to be vulnerable.
If someone breaks your heart or ends a relationship with you and you are crushed, let it out in front of them if you want to. Don’t hold back: cry, scream, tell them everything you are feeling. If you are crushed, say it. Leave it all out there, then go. Don’t tell them again; they heard you the first time. Don’t hit up their phone after too many drinks. You said what you needed to say. Move on. Confide in girlfriends. Talk to me. If they want to come into your life again, they will show up.
7. Don’t do anything with half your heart.
Sometimes we have to do things with half of our heart—things like folding laundry or shopping for a vacuum cleaner. I am not talking about those things. I am talking about the big things: your career, whom you marry, where you live, your style, your friends. Do the big things with your whole heart, your whole self.
8. Be responsible for your own validation.
You are amazing. Yes, you really are. I am your mother, so I will always believe this, but I want you to believe it too. Really believe it. Don’t wait for others to validate you. Even if they do but you don’t believe in your own awesomeness, it will never feel real to you.
9. Don’t compare yourself to others.
This is a hard one—maybe the hardest. The thing is, when we compare ourselves to others, more often than not, we are comparing our worst moments, our weaknesses, to their strengths. Remember that. Just because you have different strengths does not mean you are less-than.
10. Be gentle.
Be gentle on yourself. It can be very easy to believe something bad someone says about us—easier to believe than the compliments. Just remember what you believe is what you become. Love yourself enough to focus on your gifts, your strengths. Don’t beat yourself up just because you make a mistake. Instead, learn from it. Turn it into something positive.
Some of these things might only make sense to you after some hard lessons, and maybe some of these things you will just know. Either way, life is not easy. In my 40 years, I have found that when you get torn up a bit, when life isn’t cooperating, it is best to put on your favorite outfit, listen to some badass music, and fucking handle it.