Eighteen years ago, a doctor handed me a 6lb 13oz baby girl and said, “Congratulations, it’s a girl.”
Though my parents weren’t in the room with me at the time, I’m sure they would have added, “Don’t screw this up.”
So, I didn’t. I hope. At 25 years old, I could barely take care of myself and there I was suddenly in charge of raising a child. It was scary at first because I didn’t know what I was doing. Then it became scarier because I realized that I would never know what I’m doing and I won’t be able to control every situation.
I hugged, hovered and smothered her so much, against the sage advice of older, more experienced mothers. But I have no regrets.
Because then I blinked and all those years passed – now she is not a little girl anymore. In two months, my daughter will be 18 years old.
I’m sad that she is an adult and will soon be moving on to college and the rest of her life. But I’m also happy and proud that (a) I was able to keep her alive longer than most of my plants, the hermit cab and hamster; and (b) she’s grown into a smart, talented, caring, capable and beautiful young lady. I couldn’t have asked for a better kid.
Although … I could ask for more time. As a mother, a parent, I would say there is never an amount of time short of forever that would be adequate. Eventually, all children have to grow up.
I’m learning to let go a little more everyday, even though I know I will never let go all the way. As she makes her way out into her life, I just hope I was able to impart the things I think she needs to know:
1. You can talk to your mom about everything. Chances are, if you’re going through it, I did, too. You can also talk to your dad, as long as NC State isn’t playing, and not too soon after they lose.
2. Learn to say NO. And don’t apologize for it. Say it to boys, teachers, bosses, and friends. Say it to yourself. Own it.
3. Family and friends are more important than things.
4. Don’t waste time and energy stressing over situations you can’t control. Instead, use your time and energy finding a solution to the situation, or not doing anything at all if there’s nothing to be done. Just move on.
5. Don’t be afraid to fail. Sometimes failure is the best teacher. And never be afraid to get up and try again.
6. One day, some idiot boy is going to break your heart. I will bury him. Kidding. You will think the hurt won’t end and you will never feel the same for another boy, but it will and you will, I promise. I’ll show you how.
7. You will meet a lot of douchebags before you find your Prince Charming. But it will be because of those douchebags that you will be able to recognize your Prince when he shows up.
8. Marry the man who is good to you. But make sure I like him first.
9. It’s okay to break up with a good guy if you don’t feel the same. It’s not okay to string him along.
10. Tweezers. Because nose hairs.
11. Wash your face every morning and night. Use a natural cream or lotion that doesn’t have any added chemicals. Wrinkles are inevitable, but you don’t have to get them prematurely.
12. You’re never too young to start taking care of your body from the inside out. Eat right, take vitamins and supplement the minerals you’re not getting from foods you refuse to eat, like fish and vegetables. Broccoli is not the only vegetable, by the way.
13. Find some form of fitness you like and do it.
14. Read books.
15. Giving is always better than receiving. Hopefully you haven’t inherited my knack for awkward gift buying.
16. Don’t let yourself be jaded by life.
17. Never take yourself too seriously. Keep your sense of humor and sarcasm.
18. Procrastination will catch up with you, so choose wisely what you would put off for tomorrow.
19. Don’t put conditions on the right time to do something. It will never be the perfect time and as you wait, your life will pass you by as well as the opportunity for that experience.
20. Get unplugged. It’s liberating.
21. Call your parents, just to say hi. We love that…ish.
22. Some girls can be mean. They will judge you and try to break you. Ignore them.
23. Always look your best, even when you don’t feel your best.
24. Less is more: less make-up, less skin … less over-sharing on social media.
25. Do what makes you happy.
26. It’s okay to cry.
27. Don’t wait for the things you want to come to you – go out and get them.
28. No matter what you think you are going through, there is always someone going through worse.
29. Be comfortable in your own skin.
30. Never live up to someone else’s standards of what’s socially acceptable. Be your own person. Live for yourself. Why would you want to be one of the many when you can just be the only you?
31. Love yourself. Never compare yourself to others. See above.
32. Take time for and treat yourself – to that trip to the beach, a mani-pedi, ice cream sundae or new shirt … a visit to your mom …
33. Know your worth. Never settle for friends, boyfriends or jobs.
34. Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. If in doubt, call me.
35. Find your voice and don’t be afraid to use it.
36. Try not to judge, but know that you will be judged.
37. If someone is willing to lie about the little things, they will lie about the big things. Trust wisely.
38. Second chances are earned, not given.
39. Don’t be afraid to cut your losses, but don’t burn bridges.
40. It’s not the quantity of friends that matter. It’s the quality.
41. Remember, there is only one person you can tell your business to that won’t turn it into gossip one day – me.
42. That said, don’t gossip, unless it’s to me. I love that stuff.
43. Don’t wear shoes that hurt your feet. You’re welcome.
44. Be strong, kind, compassionate and do good things.
45. Say what you mean, mean what you say and do what you say you will do. Be honest and don’t lie. Trust is hard to get back once it’s lost.
46. You can make your dreams come true. Never lose that focus. It might take longer than you planned, but it will happen. You can accomplish anything.
47. Don’t ever stop daydreaming.
48. Try new things often.
49. Live alone; know what it is to be independent before you have roommates or get married. It’s nice to have your own space.
50. Travel. Go see places. Get your mom a t-shirt.
51. Rules are more like guidelines. So don’t be afraid to bend them … unless they are my rules. Bend or break them at your own risk.
52. It’s okay to not have a plan, as long as you have a goal. How you get there depends on you.
53. Don’t ever worry about your parents. We can take care of ourselves. And if you need us, we have your back.
54. It’s going to be okay.
In the end, she will have to live her own life and make her own mistakes and learn her own lessons. I just hope she remembers the ideals I tried to instill in her as she deals with the realities and practicalities of being an adult and finding herself in the real world.
And I hope she knows that no matter where she is and what she is doing, she carries all of my heart with her. Because even though she is grown, I will never stop being a mom.