A Letter to My Almost Grown Up Daughter: Love Lessons on Authenticity
The last few weeks have presented me with some of the scariest, and simultaneously most empowering, moments I’ve ever known as a parent. Forgive me for choosing a public forum to share this letter with you, but it felt like the right thing to do.
Once Upon a Time, I Yearned to Be 10
“10,” I thought. “I’ll be really big when I’m 10!” I was probably 7 when I stood there next to the stove in the kitchen pondering the possibility that I would one day hit the double digits!
In that same year I dressed up as a princess for Halloween (ate so much candy I threw up), got a Barbie camper for Christmas, slept in Strawberry Shortcake sheets (with matching wallpaper) and had my very first sleepover PJ party!
But of all the things I remember in the year I yearned to be 10, one thing stands out more than any other–a sun-bleached piece of paper stuck on the fridge.
“To My Grown-Up Son or Daughter”
by Alice E. Chase
My hands were busy through the day, I didn’t have much time to play The little games you asked me to, I didn’t have much time for you.
But when you’d bring your picture book I’d wash your clothes; I’d sew and cook, And ask me, please, to share your fun, I’d say, “A little later, hon.”
I’d tuck you in all safe at night, And hear your prayers, turn out the light, Then tiptoe softly to the door, I wish I’d stayed a minute more.
For life is short, and years rush past, A little child grows up so fast, No longer is he at your side, With precious secrets to confide.
The picture books are put away, There are no longer games to play, No goodnight kiss, no prayers to hear, That all belongs to yesteryear.
My hands once busy, now lie still, The days are long and hard to fill, I wish I might go back and do, The little things you asked me to.
Thank God for Fridge Magnets
I memorized that poem before I was old enough to reach my own cookies out of the cookie jar, but the fact that it was on the fridge in the first place is a beautiful testament to my mom. Consciously and unconsciously, this poem had a lot to do with my choice to organize my life and career to be there when you needed me. I didn’t know that would prove most valuable when you were already well skilled at wiping your own bottom and getting yourself dressed (though I think you still may need help making that a much faster process).
I’ve had my fair share of failures along the path of parenthood, Mika, but over the last 14 years, in spite of my shortcomings, I chose to wake up every morning and renew my commitment to be the best mom I could. Every day I got a little better than the day before, but that was enough to get us this far.
The last few weeks, watching you navigate your way through a world loaded with traps, I’ve never felt more challenged to believe in myself as a mom, to believe in us as a team, and to trust that you’d find your way.
But we’ve come a long way and tonight as I watched you, you were more beautiful than I can ever remember. It wasn’t your clothes (far too much cleavage for my taste!), it wasn’t your make-up (Maybelline is my archenemy), and it wasn’t your hair (though I did love the frizzy display of curls brought on by a humid summer day). Tonight you were honest, authentic and courageous enough to rise to the challenge of waking up with a renewed commitment to be the best person you could be.
That was my cue. Moved by your courage, I decided to sit down and write you a love letter with these three tips to turn to should you need them from here:
1. Trust yourself.
Through a parade of photoshop-cropped images and the obnoxious opinions of others, Life will do its very best to convince you you’re not smart enough, pretty enough, fast enough, skinny enough, rich enough, right enough, or tough enough to have and do and be whatever you want.
If you believe that, it will be true.
On days when the glossy posters and peanut gallery fall away, there will be moments when you recognize your enoughness. You’ll experience a flash of confidence that you can. You’ll feel yourself rise to the realization that you are enough—smart enough, fast enough, tough enough, tall enough, good enough, gorgeous enough to pursue your dreams and make them happen.
If you believe that, it will also be true.
2. You can hide a lie from everyone, but yourself.
In spite of your best efforts to stay on the straight and narrow, you will screw up, stumble and dip your toes in trouble. When it happens, you’ll be struck with the temptation to paint a less painful version of the story with white lies and little twists of truth hoping it might hurt less.
But truth hurts.
If you err on spitting out truth (no matter how uncomfortable) you will be rejected, piss people off, and lose “friends” because you chose to stand for things you believe in.
It’s never comfortable to confess to stupid mistakes or hold your chin high once harm has been caused. But better you sit in the fire of personal responsibility for a few moments of pain, than live a lifetime of regret, cowardice and lies.
While you may be able to twist truth without being discovered by others, you’ll never fool yourself with even the craftiest and most creative of lies. The degree of confidence, pleasure and success you will allow yourself to have in life has everything to do with how clean you keep your hands.
3. Your reward for courage is certainty.
When you say no to the boy that “doesn’t quite cut it” so you can keep hoping for one that does, you risk being alone for a while. When you speak your mind, your risk losing the favour of “friends” who don’t agree. When you avoid being like others and dare to stay true to your values, your goals and your dreams–your risk isolation.
But if you surrender the fire in your spirit to the status quo, life will become dull and sensations unfulfilling.
Never submit your heart for long to a love that doesn’t light you on fire. Expect your kisses to be electric. Never risk being “likeable” over being Mika. If you paint yourself to be a version of who you believe others want you to be, one day when the mask falls off you’ll find your surrounded by strangers and the biggest of them, will be you.
The reward for courage when you walk your own path is certainty–a sense of knowing who you are and believing in yourself, no matter what the rest of the world thinks.
Passing You Your Unicorn Horn
Few mothers will ever have the freedom or opportunity to spend the time I’ve been able to spend with you. Few people will ever had a full time cheerleader to help drag them up out of the mud when they fall down. You’re on your way up, the view looks good, and there’s a lot of road to travel from here.
I’ve watched you make bold and beautiful steps in the right direction. I’ve placed your foot many times on the trail that leads out of the mud. But I can’t walk this road for you. The only person who can take the next steps in the right direction, is you. Until the day you decide to step forward because you want to, as a result of your effort more than mine, you can never really say you’re walking your own path. (It would be more like I’m nudging you very convincingly down the one I think is best. ;-))
So from here on out, you’re on your own. I’ll still love you and feed you and be here when you need it, but it’s time for me to pass you your unicorn horn. The magic of an infinite universe of possibilities is yours for the taking, but the courage to take it needs to be yours. Not because I told you, not because I wanted it for you, not because I nudged, prodded or persuaded you to do it.
Because amidst a million temptations, distractions, diversions and invitations to otherwise, you chose to stay true to you.
Love and a glittery unicorn horn,