I am writing this on the eve of my daughter's second birthday. Current mood: #allthefeels.
Becoming a mother has changed my life in ways I never imagined. I spawned a tiny human with the same infectious laugh as my husband, the same perfectly round cheeks as my sister-in-law and the same beautiful blue eyes that I see every time I look in a mirror.
Watching my daughter grow is a beautiful, magical thing, but I can't help but worry because I want the world that she lives in to be one where she is loved, and above all, safe.
With this ridiculous circus of an election, rape being at the forefront of the 24-hour news cycle and a seemingly unending string of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news, I feel like the future is so precarious.
As a mother, that is downright terrifying.
Of course, at 2 years old, the bulk of the conversations I have with my daughter are “Purple marker,” “Momma sit” and “Mac and cheese, please.”
Still, I've spent many a sleepless night contemplating the things I will tell her when she is older. The things I will say to let her know she is loved.
The things I will say when she is feeling down. The things I will say when she wants to know why the world we live in is the way it is.
Obviously, I don't have all of the answers. Who does, really?
Here are five things I do know and I can tell her with confidence:
1. You are awesome, and don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
You, my love, are an awesome human being. There will be times in your life where people will try to bring you down. These are people who could also be awesome deep down, but are likely struggling with their own issues.
Being a teenager is tough. It's so tough that nearly 50 percent of high school students use addictive substances.
Drugs are so often a coping mechanism, but there are other ways to cope. I know this because believe it or not, I was a teenager once, and I know how hard it can be. I know how mean people can be.
You will never know or understand why they are mean, but do not let them steal your joy. Do not let them steal your spark. Let no one break you with their words.
Instead, remind yourself every day that you are awesome.
2. Earn it and own it, babydoll.
Just because I want to give you the world doesn't mean I can or will. It's important in life to understand the joy that is getting something you actually work hard for. Like really, crazy hard.
Mommy and Daddy don't even own a silver platter, so we won't be handing anything to you on it. I want you to know that feeling of being an independent woman who can make her way on her own, and also know I will be there every step of the way to support you.
3. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
There is nothing worse than fighting with your friends or your SO, especially as a teen. Still, it's pretty much inevitable.
Use your words carefully, my love, for they hurt more than any physical violence can. Words like “hate” and “disgust” should be reserved for things like mayonnaise or pickles, and never the people you surround yourself with.
4. “No” is the most important word you will ever know.
It is absolutely, positively, unequivocally OK to say “no.”
To your girlfriends who think it'd be fun to cut your bangs for you (no thanks, I like my forehead). To the friend outside the cafeteria offering you a hit off their joint in between classes (nah, I'm good, thanks).
To the boy who's just oh-so-dreamy, but wants to go all the way before you think you're ready (no, I'd rather not. Let's make out some more, instead). And maybe even to me, your mother, who undoubtedly will want you to wear something I may think is adorable, but you are not comfortable in (just no).
Just. Say. No. It's OK, I promise.
Though some may lead you to believe that being a people pleaser will get your further in life, you will get much further doing things you want to do. The things you value. And the things that, above all else, make you feel happy with your decision.
5. Know you are still just beginning your journey.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
It's not often that your mother will quote Shakespeare (this will probably be it), but this one struck a chord with me from the moment I first read it in "Hamlet" my sophomore year of high school.
Why is this relevant? While I understand that right now in your life, you may feel like everything that goes wrong is the end of world, it's actually not. I promise.
The world is a vast and incredible place. High school and college, while important, are but a tiny blip in time in the grand scheme of your life.
Enjoy every moment you can, don't dwell on the things you cannot change and always keep moving forward in the present moment, even when it's hard. Even when you feel like you can't, know you can. And know I will always be there whenever you may need me.
You may be wondering why I seem so confident. How do I know these to be truths? The answer, of course, is you.
Because being your mother has allowed me to see clearly the things that I couldn't see 10 years ago.
It's allowed me to determine what I really value in life. It's made me realize I'm awesome because I made you, that I can say no to people and it's OK and that our journey is just beginning.