To my girls,
You’re growing up so quickly it’s scary.
As your mum, I feel like it’s my responsibility do the best job I can to provide you with the tools to prepare you for the most fulfilled life you can possibly have.
When I was a child, I enjoyed living in the moment and didn’t think about the future. In my teens, I started to think about what job I’d do and what my husband might be like. But it’s only in the last few years that I’ve thought about how much the decisions I make affect my life – things I wish I’d thought about more when I was younger, in hindsight.
I’ve learned some lessons and had experiences growing up that I want to share with you when you are able to understand. I hope they help you in some way to develop into the wonderful women I know you’ll become.
So here goes:
Discover your passions and pursue them. My hope for you is that you end up with a job you enjoy, one that fulfills you. Think carefully in school about what you would like to do. You may want to be anything from a lawyer to an air hostess or a counselor. Weigh all your options and ask questions.
Think of others. Wonder why someone acts a certain way and try not to judge him or her for it. If you can, try to be there for that person. Everyone – and I mean everyone – faces a private battle you will know nothing about.
Count to 10
I’ll never forget hearing your gran say this to herself when things got tough. It allows you to take a moment before you react to something, and in many cases, it can stop you from saying something you might regret.
Be proud of your body
It is unique. No one body is the same as another, so please don’t compare yourself with others. Look after your body. Don’t look at it in the mirror and pick fault. It’s so much more important to be strong and healthy. Eating well and exercising are the most important things you can do to achieve this. You may have flaws and imperfections, but they make you you. Your body shape does not define you.
Don’t follow the crowd
As a schoolgirl, I found there were so many little cliques. Popular, geeky, clever, or sporty. You may feel you need to try and fit into one of these to be accepted. Choose friends who accept you for being you. Develop your own sense of style.
Peer pressure is a tough one to deal with. I remember quite a few friends trying smoking and drugs. I flat refused, knowing these things were wrong for me. Even though it made me feel like I didn’t fit in as well, those friends later said they admired me for standing my ground. And I was healthier for it. Do what you know is right for you and not because everyone else is doing it.
Be a good friend
Friends will come and go throughout your life. Don’t lose touch with the ones that matter. Just because they may be experiencing different things from you, it doesn’t mean you can’t be there for each other. Take time to really listen to them. They may need a good friend to support their decisions.
Look out for your sibling
You may not remember, but, Millie, you were an amazing sister when Eve was born. You’ll find your sister annoying at times, but when you’re older, I hope you’ll be best friends, like me and your aunties. There’s nothing that can compare with the experiences you share with each other. Family is important. Be there for them. Don’t let arguments or misunderstandings cause divisions. Life’s too short not to spend with those you love.
Don’t bottle things up
Cry if you need to. You will experience highs and lows. You need to share these with someone, good and bad. Talking is the best thing you can do. It can help you work things through and decide your next action. Don’t ever be ashamed of what you have to say, even if you feel vulnerable. You should always feel you can talk about anything with people you trust.
Don’t judge or hate others
The world can be a cruel place. It starts in school. Kids can be mean. You may experience it yourself or see it happening to your friends. People do things for a reason. They will pick on others or start wars because they are scared and insecure or jealous. Feel sad for them. If you find yourself caught up in the middle of anything, tell someone. Don’t let others make you feel inadequate, and don’t retaliate.
Love yourself and find those who love who you are
You need to be happy with who you are. Be proud and surround yourself with people who accept you. You will meet the right partner in time. You are unique and wonderful. Don’t ever pretend to be someone you’re not.
Go with your gut feeling
Sometimes in life you need to make tough decisions. Weigh your options, but in the end, go with what you feel is the right thing to do.
Don’t over-pluck your eyebrows or bleach your hair
Both fairly permanent disasters. I should know! In particular, steer clear of Sun In. I had to have my hair dyed for years until it finally grew out. It’s good to try different things to see what suits you, but I promise, these won’t.
Look around and above
Look at the stars. Always wonder. The world is so much bigger than us. Take time to appreciate it. If you ever feel down or need space to think, take time for yourself and enjoy your own company. Go for a walk in a park or the countryside. Surround yourself with nature. It gives you the time and space you need to reflect.
Open your heart
Don’t be afraid to put your feelings out there, whether for a friend or partner. You may get hurt, but it’s all a journey in helping you find the right people in your life.
Get off your phone and talk
There is nothing better than a good chat. Seriously, texting and emailing can be quick and easy, but so much less personal. Don’t lose that face-to-face contact. It allows you to truly see how someone is feeling.
Maintain a good work/life balance
Join a club, take up a sport, learn a different language, have fun with friends. Whatever you choose, do something that makes you feel happy.
Enjoy time at home with your family
You’ll soon leave on your adventures, and I hope you have plenty. (Unless you choose to stick with us, in which case, be prepared to pitch in!) I know we’re not as cool as your friends, but don’t forget, we know you well and will always be here for you, no matter what. Home is the place you should feel safest.
Never stop learning
At school, you’re made to learn. Once you leave, you can choose to keep your mind open or let it close. You could learn anything – a new language or painting or drawing or learning about the past. Keep your brain active.
Pick your battles
There will be times when you should stand up and say something. There will also be times when you shouldn’t. Have faith that you’ll know the difference.
It’s easy when you’re young not to think about your future and spend your money on the moment. There are so many things you will have to pay for…a car, a house, holidays. Don’t get caught out. (And don’t want be like your mum and spend loads on clothes just because they’re discounted!) It only makes you feel good temporarily.
If you experience unrequited love, you’ll be okay
If you’re like me, you’ll probably have a crush or two in school (and after). Unfortunately, your crushes may not feel the same way. It will feel like the end of the world (I feel your pain!), but don’t feel too sad about this. You will meet the boy, and then the man, who deserves you. It’s all part of growing up and discovering who and what you like, which is never a waste of time.
Have no regrets
Better to do something you reget than regret something you didn’t do. Take chances and seize moments. It doesn’t matter if things don’t work out. At least you tried. Be proud of that. Look forward, not back.
Have children when and if you feel ready
Enjoy your life before you have kids. Being a mum is a game changer. It can be pretty exhausting (way beyond the pregnancy and newborn days), and you’ll experience lots of challenges. But your kids will be the most precious people in your life. Treasure the wonderful times, and don’t feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed. It’s perfectly normal. Anyway, you can always ask grandma for help!
Always be honest
Tell the truth about what you are doing or how you feel. Lying and covering things up will catch up with you eventually.
Enjoy your life
We only get to live it once. Just remember that. Go out there and make your mark on it. I know you’ll make us proud.
My hope is that you can talk to me and your dad about anything. We’ve gone through so many happy and sad times, individually and together. We understand what it’s like to grow up. We’ll never judge and always be there for you, no matter what.
Most of all, though, I want you to be happy and feel loved. I can already see the amazing adults you’ll become and can’t wait to follow, love, and support you on your journey.
This piece originally appeared on the author’s blog.