16 Lessons for my 16-year-old Daughter

Originally published August 2017

My baby just turned 16.

It seems impossible that day has come and gone. After all, it was just yesterday she was toddling into her room, opening her dresser drawers and emptying them on to her bedroom floor. Repeatedly.

I had posted a traditional “Happy Birthday” message to her on Facebook, complete with the requisite photo collage, which will always mean more to me than anyone who clicked the “like” button. It’s my social media version of hanging on by a thread. There’s no way I am ready to let her go.

But I need to let her grow.

So with that in mind, I’ve got 16 pieces of advice. Little lessons I wish I would have embraced at 16. Wise counsel for a better life. Listen up, girl.

  1. Eat healthy, but my God, don’t pass up the ice cream. Yes, it’s a good idea to establish healthy eating habits. Broccoli is the bomb. But so is buttercream frosting. Don’t let models and pant sizes rule your life. You need to …
  2. Know that magazines and the internet lie. All the time. That thigh gap and perfect porcelain skin? Welcome to Photoshop. When it comes to things that make you pretty …
  3. Light blue eyeshadow is never going to be a “thing.” Put the Cover Girl down and slowly back away. C’mon, I’ll take you to Ulta. Actually, when it comes to makeup …
  4. You don’t need a boy to think you’re pretty to determine your worth. Even on your worst day, when the zits just won’t go away and your hair won’t behave, you are the most beautiful young woman I know. Have the confidence to know you don’t need anyone else but yourself to think you are worth it. And speaking of confidence ….
  5. Be brave. There’s no better time than your teens to try new experiences, eat different foods, read new genres, and explore different hobbies. The freedom that comes with fewer adult responsibilities is a gift not likely to come around again. And speaking of being brave …
  6. Take a chance to speak in public. Run for a class office. Take a leadership role in a club. You have great ideas, so share them. How many people out there maybe could have stopped travesties if they weren’t scared to speak up? Learning to speak well in front of others is a life skill that can take you far if you master it. Persuasive thinking will help you deal with the notion that …
  7. Mean girls never go away. The clique hierarchy established in your high school will likely be a junior version of the one you run up against at least once in your career. Choose your weapon and fight fair. Maybe it’s humor. Maybe it’s grace under fire. Maybe it’s just plain being smarter and making better choices. All I ask is that you don’t sink to their level and you never turn from kindness. In fact …
  8. Embrace gratitude now, not later. From here on out, life lessons just get harder. For all the dreams we have for ourselves, more often than not, we will fall short, or roadblocks will get in the way. Learning to deal with disappointment, or at least, learning perspective so that disappointment’s bitter pill isn’t as difficult to swallow, isn’t a lesson you need to wait until you are an adult to apply. In fact, there’s a lot teens can learn from embracing gratitude, and with practice, is certain to make you more resilient down the road. One way to practice gratitude? Try to …
  9. Write thank you notes. On paper. And put them in envelopes and mail them. It’s old school, but so much classier than a social media shout out. And while we’re talking about social media …
  10. Keep your tongue in your mouth when you are taking group pics or selfies. You will thank me in your 30s, I promise you. Also?
  11. Think twice about each and every post you make online. I know it’s hard to believe schools and potential employers care about your tongue hanging out at The Chainsmokers concert, but they DO. And don’t even get me started on what your older relatives think. In fact…
  12. Ask yourself, “Would grandma be cool with this?” It can’t hurt to picture Grandma when you are wondering if you need to check your behavior. I don’t expect you to live your life based on what Grandma would think every minute of every day. It’s simply an easy way to question a choice if you are thinking about driving a little recklessly or doing a handstand on a keg. And when it comes to drinking and other bad choices…
  13. Surround yourself with friends that have your back. Real friends aren’t going to pressure you to try or do something you don’t want to do. Real friends won’t call you a baby if you are not moving as fast as them up a social trend ladder. Real friends won’t ignore you or betray you. Real friends may challenge you — even irritate you. But that’s usually because you are together challenging and strengthening your value sets. Those are keepers. So …
  14. Respect and thank the people that love and support you. Behind every successful person is an army of friends and family that help you to achieve your goal. No one is in this alone. Which is why it’s important to …
  15. Remember the Golden Rule. This is a no-brainer. Treat people with the respect they deserve, and that respect is going to come back at you and lift you up.
  16. Fly that freak flag. Don’t let trends define you. Instead, you define the trend. Life is too short to keep your passions in the closet. Get busy, baby. Mama loves you.

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