Today you are 10. Or as your beloved fourth grade teacher Mrs. Jarrett would say, today you are officially a ten-ager. I know you have big plans for today. Like your mother, birthdays are a big deal to you … meant to be planned carefully and enjoyed thoroghly, with ample opportunities for those around you to generally treat you like royalty. However, before we get too far into this monumental day, I’d like to take a few minutes to share with you (and other mothers of ten-aged girls) 10 things I really want you to know.
1. I don’t always know what I’m doing.
I know you are slowly starting to realize this on your own. You’ve seen me at a loss for words. You’ve seen me mad or frustrated, too emotional to think of a solution. You’ve heard me say, “Because i said so!” because I couldn’t come up with any better reason. Moms and dads don’t always know what to do. They especially don’t always know what to do when it comes to your type – the oldest child. Sometimes you’re the guinea pig of the family. I know it stinks sometimes. But someday maybe you’ll be a mom and you’ll be totally baffled by your kid and I’ll say, “We didn’t always know, either, and look how well things turned out.” In the meantime, let’s all be patient with each other on this journey.
2. Siblings aren’t always easy to deal with.
I get it. Eli can be both the best and worst thing that ever happened to you. If he ever gets to be too much for you, try talking to your aunts and uncle. Can you imagine your mom at 5, annoying your teenaged aunts and uncle to no end? Well, I did. Now watch us today. Do you see how much we enjoy each other’s company? We don’t always have to like each other every minute of the day, but we do always have to love each other.
3. Don’t give up just because it doesn’t come easily or naturally to you.
You’re a smart girl. You know it, and people are always telling you so. Still, even smart people have things that challenge them, or that they can’t figure out right away. Don’t be scared to try to figure those things out for fear that you might just fail at something. Failure is okay. It’s more than okay – sometimes it’s great! Some things will give you fits and you’ll keep at it and eventually get it. Some things you’ll try and just never understand or be good at. Just because you don’t get first place or the best grade or any recognition at all doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the effort. The process always teaches us something of value.
4. You’re beautiful. You won’t always think so.
I love seeing you strut your stuff in front of a mirror. Right now you like your body. You’re confident in your style. Even if nothing about your physical self changes, your perception of yourself will be a rollercoaster as a teenager and young woman. During that time I’m going to annoy the crap out of you, reminding you that you’re beautiful and that you are enough. You can roll your eyes all you want. My job is to help you get through the other side, where you can appreciate your wonderful, lovely self again.
5. Friendships, even the best ones, don’t always last.
If you are very, very lucky, at least one of your best friends today will still be a good friend when you’re an adult. Most likely, though, your friends will change many times in the coming years. Hold on and take care of the good ones. Don’t be afraid to let the not-so-good ones go. Sometimes we outgrow our friends. Sometimes our friends hurt us ways we can’t ever understand. Sometimes we fail our friends. It’s all a part of growing up and learning how to be a friend. My wish for you is that you’ll always have those few amazing girlfriends who you can count on no matter what.
6. You’re still a kid. It’s not a bad thing.
You want so badly to have a cell phone, Facebook, eye shadow, and whatever else comes with being a teenager. You’re almost there. But to give you those things now would be to rob you of the joy you have waiting for you in the future. Patience, grasshopper. Enjoy some of the perks of being a kid that won’t be around much longer. Summers without a part-time job. Still being able to trick-or-treat. Mad Libs. Suckers at the bank. Less responsibility. All that stuff you long for (and even more that you can’t even imagine yet) will still be there in a few years.
7. Be kind even when it isn’t cool.
You know how we always talk about doing the right thing when no one is watching? This is the same idea. You’re going to meet some really mean people. You probably already have. Don’t be one of them. Your heart is too kind for it and there are already more than enough mean people in the world.
8. Never order the salad.
Okay, sometimes order the salad if that’s what you really want. But I know you and I know you love your bloody steaks and your giant burgers. If that’s what you want, do it and enjoy every single bite. Life’s too short to waste your time eating (or drinking, wearing, reading, watching, doing things) that other people think you should enjoy. In fact, order that burger on a first date and if his eyes light up you know he’s a keeper.
9. Words will always have the power to make things better.
You’re surrounded by screens and media now, I can’t imagine what it will be like in a few years. Don’t forget the soothing benefits of an actual book with pages in your hand, or the release you feel you when you put a pen to paper. These things will never be outdated.
10. I’m always here for you and you’ll always be my baby.
No matter how old you are, I always want you to feel that you can count on me for the love and guidance you seek as a child. I’m loosening the reigns on you because that’s what good parents must do – let you learn to be independent and eventually leave us. But I will never love you less fiercely than I do right now, and have since the first time I held you in my arms.
Elena’s official birthday shirt. Subtlety is not her strong suit.
If you think ten years of awesomeness describes your life so far, imagine how ten years of getting to be your mom feels? It’s more like awesome to the power of 10. Happy birthday, Elena.