25 Lessons for my Daughter

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Two years ago, I wrote a list of 25 Rules for Moms of Sons.  It was a list for myself; first time mom to a boy, but also a list that through the magic of the internet - made its way around to boymoms everywhere through pinterest and re-posts.  Since then, we have also added a daughter to our family and so now we're figuring our way through parenthood raising both a boy and a girl.

I haven't felt compelled to write a list for Rules for Moms of Daughters (although, you can find a beautiful list here written by my friend Sarah over at Sarah Driscoll), but, I have been feeling this hope and desire to pass on to my girl the lessons that I have learned as a girl myself navigating this world.

As a Mum to two daughters now too, already I can see how different they and I are; how much they remind me of my husband and how their own personalities shine out so brightly that it's sometimes blinding.  I have no doubts that we will twirl around to that dance of Mother&Daughters as they grow up - the one that's choreographed in a way that each partner struggles to lead.  But underneath all the differences, somehow there is already a deep connection between us, maybe one that comes from the sole fact that we share womanhood in common with each other.

So for them, my Gemma and Violet; my sweet girls - here is a list of 25 Lessons that I hope to relay to you over the course of your life as your Mum.  I hope they will make your days happier, simpler, and easier to navigate as you grow through this life as a girl.

1. Learn to adjust.
I can promise only a few things in your life, darling.  One of those things is that life will almost never turn out like you imagine it will.  To keep smiling and enjoying it, no matter what obstacles may come your way, you'll need to learn to adjust to unexpected changes and Plan B's (and C's, and D's sometimes).  You'll need to be able to envision new ideal versions of life again and again.  Because, even though it can be hard and completely unlike what you hoped, somehow life is still brilliantly beautiful when you learn to just go with it.

2. Make some mistakes
Mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of - they help you grow and learn and become a better version of you.  Declare, 'oops!', laugh it off, and roll with it.  There are very few mistakes that are not fixable; so don't get too upset; you'll usually be able to make it right again.  Just try not to keep making the same mistakes again and again.  That's not learning or becoming better, baby, that's just lazy.

3. Make peace with your body
No matter what messages you might receive on what you and your body should look like, I hope you always look in the mirror and recognize a friend.

4. Know the best gift you have to give to someone is yourself
your smile, your time, your touch, your love.  These are all things you cannot take back once you give them.  They are all priceless; so treat them as such, my dear.  Give them away freely and frequently but only to those that deserve them.  

5. Keep your nose clean
Both literally and figuratively.

6. Be grateful.
Learn this equation:  Gratefulness = Happiness.  It does not go the other way around.  If you want to be happy everyday, you need to be grateful everyday.  Even on your worst days, when you look really closely, you will find that there is something to be grateful for.  Find out what that thing is and cling to it.  Happiness will take root and flourish when you look at your life through a gracious lens.

7. How you feel should not be solely dependent on how you look
Most of my favorite, most fun memories happened when I was sweaty, dirty, bundled head to toe in snow clothes, or in the middle of the night with mismatch pajamas and my hair in a side pony giggling.  Don't miss out on joy and new experiences simply because you might not be perfectly polished at the moment.

8. Your heart will love who it wants to love.
If something is drawing  you to someone, listen to it.  Maybe it's not someone you expected, or someone that anyone else expected for you.  The heart wants what the heart wants.  Don't be afraid to follow it.  But this comes with a warning, sweet girl, because sometimes your heart can be fooled by fast cars or expensive gifts or a beautiful face or a whisper in your ear.  That's not your heart talking - that's a trick.  And if you ever find yourself looking in the mirror and unable to recognize yourself - well then, your heart has been tricked.  Because your heart truly wants to love someone who makes you more you - not someone who makes you want to be more like them.

9.  Trust Adele when she says, "Sometimes it lasts in love and sometimes it hurts instead."
Oh sweet girl, does it ever hurt.  It sears and cuts deep and leaves you feeling tore open right down the middle.  Let it hurt for a moment or two because this is the kind of pain that reminds you just how strong you are.  That you can take a punch to the gut like a champ and hold your ground.  Go ahead and cry or scream or eat three pints of ice cream.  And then turn that hurt into energy to go do something.  Run, write a poem, call your best friend and go see a movie - whatever it is do something; get moving!  Because, yes, sometimes it does hurt but then it also makes room for the next someone, and maybe that will be the time it lasts.

10.  Learn new words
There are so many beautiful and interesting ways to describe what you want to say.  Learn and regularly use language to speak and write.  Slang and current hip ways of speaking (#ageofhashtags) can be cute and funny but don't miss out on the range of language so sweeping and beautiful that its enough to make a grown man blush or an old lady smile wistfully.  Need help?  READ MORE.

11. There is never a situation- do you hear me, NEVER!! - when it is 'good idea' for you to send a nude picture of yourself via phone or internet.  Never.
It will always come back to bite you in the behind, my darling.  Maybe not tomorrow or next week, maybe not until you are fully grown with your own kids.  But whenever it comes back to find you, I can promise you that it will be painfully embarrassing.  If anyone says they need it, I can promise you that they don't deserve it (re-read #4).

12.  Trust Billy Joel when he says, "Slow down you crazy child. Take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile"
Life is demanding, honey.  It's the way of the world.  The are expectations to meet and RSVPs to respond to, deadlines to make, and chores to be done.  Meetings, cleaning, cooking, traveling, tests, reading requirements - even pop culture to keep up with (!)  So give yourself permission to take a break.  Figure out what it is that calms your soul and do that.  Maybe it's reading romance novels, or a bubble bath, or yoga, or browsing pinterest.  Do whatever recharges your batteries to come back into the hectic of life ready and swinging.

13. Recognize the magic in the tiny details of everyday
the first sip of a warm drink in the morning, the feel of a hot shower over your shoulders, making momentary eye contact with a stranger, green lights when you're in a hurry, the way the sunlight steams down in beams from clouds sometimes. Please try to recognize all the ordinary magic, because it's that sort of stuff that will get you through the trudge of life.

14. Trust that feeling in your gut.
There is a tiny voice inside all of us that whispers to us in certain situations.  Please take heed.  Sometimes that voice will tell you that you are putting yourself in a dangerous situation - then please stop and get somewhere that you feel more safe.  Sometimes your gut will tell you that something is just not right - then speak up and ask questions.  Sometimes your gut will tell you that you can help - then help, baby, even if it seems awkward.  It takes only one person to stand up for the helpless - be that person.

15. Keep a journal
It's beneficial to write down your feelings because when they are bottled up inside of you they can cloud perspective.  Write it down and then re-read it a little later.  I guarantee it will sound a lot less dramatic than it felt at first.  I also like to write when I'm feeling particularly happy so that I can go back and hold onto those feelings of elation on days that I'm not feeling particularly happy.  It's good to have a way to converse with yourself to learn more about who you are and what makes you tick.

16. Believe.
Whatever it might be, sweetheart, I hope you'll believe.  Believe there are bigger things out there in the universe than you and me, believe in magic, believe in miracles, and things that have never been discovered yet.  Believe in the kindness of strangers, the feeling you get in your bones from music, and the mystic of nature.  If in nothing else, my girl, believe in the power of hope.

17.  Remember you are just a very, very small part of this great big world
It's a harsh reality, sweetheart, but nearly everything that happens to you in your life has also happened to someone else.  Yes, you are unique and wonderful and completely you - but this world and her history is so great and big that you are really only a teeny, tiny piece of a vast puzzle.  You fit just right into the picture that we all make together, but keep an anchor in knowing that you are but one small part.  When you forget this fact, it's easy to believe that your own problems are all-encompassing and more important than everyone else's.  Sorry baby, but they aren't.  Time marches on, my girl, no matter what happens to any of us.

18.  Remember, too though, that your actions have never-ending ripples that will go on to affect people that you may never meet.
Even though we are each a very small part of this great big world, every action we extend to another person leaves an imprint.  Try to choose kindness to which you react and distribute to others.  It's no easy task to choose patience and kindness when others are not doing the same, but remember that you are in charge of your own ripples that will make their way out into the world.  Make it so that when people think of their experience with you - it is with a smile and gratitude for getting to have crossed their path with yours.

19. Don't be afraid to be uncomfortable for a little while.
It's okay to be a little too hot or a little too cold for a bit.  It's okay for something to take longer than you expected or to have to wait in line until it's your turn.  Life is like that quite often; uncomfortable.  Some people have the notion that "comfort" is the same as "best" - but that's not really true.  There are people that surround themselves with so much comfort, they never want to do or try anything new!  If you're really living life with gusto, you'll find yourself in conversations, situations, and experiences where you are uncomfortable.  Well, at least it starts out that way, until you learn better and relax.  And then, as nearly all things in life are, it's fleeting and then over, and you realize it actually wasn't that bad at all.

20. Fake it till you make it.
Here's the big secret:  almost no one knows what they're doing.  We're all just kind of learning as we go, re-calibrating after our mistakes and marching on after our successes.  We are all tripping over our own feet and grabbing at things before they crash.  Sort of being our very own Wizards behind the green curtain.  So, don't be afraid to try something new - because honestly, that's the fastest way to learn; trial by fire.  Just keep reading and seeking out knowledge and trying your best; it's all any of the rest of us are doing.

21.  Set some goals for yourself
Think about what you'd like to do and who you hope to become and then make a plan.  If you want to be an astronaut, it's not enough to just announce you want to be an astronaut.  You have to study and learn about the stars and go to space camp.  Maybe that means raising money at a lemonade stand for the cost, but you'll darn well do what it takes to get there!  Make your goals as silly (grow Mermaid-length hair) or as ambitious (publish a book) as you can dream up.  Set some goals and then see them through.  Take ownership to build the life you fantasize about.

22.  Let your emotions show
Go ahead and cry about it, or go ahead and belly laugh about it.  Or whatever it is that you are moved to feel about something, go ahead and feel it.  Keep in mind that emotions are impermanent.  If you are washed over in anger, feel that heat inside of you and then remind yourself it's just passing through you - it's not a state of being.  So what if you have a cheesy grin on your face from that youtube 'best kisses' compilation video - that's how you feel!  But if you don't feel overwhelmed with an emotion, don't pretend either; it's easy to tell when someone is being genuine or not.

23.  Surround yourself with good girl friends
There is something powerful about spending time with other women.  Girls can be mean and judgmental - but not all girls are - so don't write us all off if you meet a few of the mean ones.  Find the women that laugh at the same jokes as you do and who help you even when it's boring.  The ones that call you when no one else knows you're feeling sad.  If you need examples of what these kinds of girls act like, then look to your aunts and my best friends.  I chose them to walk this life with me - and by extension,  you - because they are the ones left standing when everyone else has fallen away.  It has been their company that has carried me through some of my best and worst times.  They've cheered me on and told me when I was making mistake.  If for whatever reason you cannot talk to me about something, let my girl friends (or your own versions of the same) be the ones you go to help you figure it out.

24.  Look to the strong men in your life
My darling, the thing about the men we have positioned in your life is that they will fight to their death for your happiness.  Your dad, grandfathers, brother, and uncles have flames in their hearts with your name written on it.  For you, my girl, they will move mountains.  For you, they will lay down their life.  Do not abuse this, now or ever if you find men willing to do this for you later in your life.  There is a strong, aching, beautiful love that a man can have for a woman he cares about in any capacity.  Recognize that it is a privilege to be considered worthy to be on this pedestal to him, and it is never your right to take advantage of that spot.

25. Know this one truth:  I am here for you.
I think after all my time here living my own life, I have come to see the point of it all - the point of me.  It has always been about becoming your mother.  So when I say I am here for you, I mean in all the ways someone can be there for someone else-spiritually, physically, emotionally...  But most literally - I was put here [on Earth] for you.  No matter what happens, I am here for you.  It's as basic as that.

Love you forever,
even when you get so big
and maybe you won't follow a single lesson, my darling,
even then - I will love you,


  1. Oh Tab, once again you inspire me. Gemma is so lucky to have you as her Momma.

    <3 to you!

  2. So proud of you Tabitha! Thank you for being a great Mother and daughter as well! Love you more! Your Mumma

  3. Totally amazing. Gemma is one lucky princess to have a mother like you! :)