Wednesday, July 27, 2016

To My Girls: Some Advice for the Journey

I wrote this letter to my oldest daughter three years ago when she was about to begin middle school. Now, we sit a week away from her first day of high school. We are also just a few weeks away from my second daughter's first day of sixth grade and my youngest daughters last first day of elementary school.  

Time flies. Don't blink. 

As I pondered what I might say to my girls as all three of them look ahead to a new school year and new stages of adolescence, I remembered this letter and thought that, really, there isn't much more I can say than this. It's advice for middle school, high school, college, and life I think, so I decided to share it again with a few minor tweaks. 

I love you, girls. I love your uniqueness, your individuality, and your beauty - inside and out. I hope you never lose what makes you purely and precisely YOU.

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Dear Sweet Daughter,

Next week, you start middle high school. Since you are the oldest, this is uncharted territory for all of us. Right now, you are excited about meeting new people, having new experiences, and gaining more independence. I am excited, too. It will be a new adventure and I am looking forward to watching you grow and bloom.

I will admit, though, that I am also more than a little scared. You see, I have heard lots of stories about kids - adolescents - making bad decisions, succumbing to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriate purposes, and trying to do grown up things like sexting and drugs before they are old enough to comprehend the consequences. I'm sure you have heard some of these stories, too.  

Part of me wants to hold on to the little girl version of you and believe wholeheartedly you are too smart and too good to fall into those traps peer pressure and innocence lost.  However, there is another part of me that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

We've been on a journey that began the day I found out you were growing in side of me. Now, that journey has brought us here. We are standing at the bottom of a mountain - a mountain called adolescence and puberty and middle school and high school. We are preparing for a climb that won't be easy but will lead us to a peak with the most wonderful views and a fantastic sense of accomplishment. On our way there, though, as we climb to the top, I want you to remember these pieces of advice. I will do all that I can to remember them as well.
  1. Work hard. Remember that school work comes first and everything else is secondary. That includes sports and friends and other hobbies. I don't expect you to be perfect, but I do expect you to try your hardest every time. If you do, I will be proud, but you will be prouder.
  2. Be brave. You are going to have so many new experiences. Some will be good.  Some will not. When you face these challenges, be brave. Stand up for what you believe even if it makes you "uncool." That will fade, but your courage will make a lasting impression.
  3. Be yourself. You are unique and wonderful and just the way God intended you to be. Don't ever change in an effort to "fit in." If others cannot see how fantastic and remarkable you are, that is their loss - not yours.
  4. Do what you know is right. When others are pressuring you to do something and your gut tells you not to - LISTEN! We have tried our best to teach you what is right and what is wrong. You will know it in your heart. You just have to follow your instincts.
  5. Get organized. School and life are only going to get harder and busier and more complicated from here on out. Get organized now. Learn how to manage your time.  Don't procrastinate. These are habits that will help you in middle school, in high school, in whatever career you choose, and in life for a long time to come.
  6. Be kind. Adolescence can be tough and awkward and uncomfortable. Remember that everyone is struggling with something, though their struggle may be just beneath the surface where it is hidden from you. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Even when it's not popular, be compassionate and courteous.
  7. Be confident. You are awesome. Don't ever forget that. You amaze me every single day and I know you can do anything you set your mind to. Stand up tall and walk with pride knowing that you are defined for greatness. You will change the world - I'm sure of it.
  8. Surround yourself with the right kind of people. There is an old saying (that I heard many times from Memaw and Paw) that says something like "you are no better than the company you keep." If others are mean or deceitful or immoral or if they try to change you, then they are not the kind of people with whom you should spend your time. Rise above them. Surround yourself with kind, supportive people who see how wonderful you are, honor your differences, and respect your choices.  
  9. Remember that we will always love you. Daddy and I are here for you any time you need us and there is nothing you can say or do that will make us stop loving you. If you have questions, we will find answers. If you are unsure how to handle a situation, we will gladly give you guidance. If your heart is breaking, we will dry your tears. If you have made a mistake, we will help you amend it. If you are about to explode with joy, we will share your happiness. All you have to do is come to us.  We are NEVER too busy for you and your "problems" are NEVER too small or too big.  All you have to do is talk. We will listen. I promise. 
  10. Have fun. You are on the brink of learning so much and experiencing so much. It won't all be easy going - there will be bumps in the road. But, despite the bumps, there will also be lots to enjoy. Smile. Laugh. Make new friends. Soak it in. Enjoy this stage in your life. Believe me, it will go by faster than you can believe!

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