Recently, I read Things I Want My Daughters to Know. It was an inspiring read, but only in a general sense. It didn't give me any concrete "takeaways" on what I do want my daughter to grow up knowing. I've read some great blog posts and articles on this topic, too. Things I want my daughter to know. How to raise a confident girl. How to raise a strong girl. All of them had great underlying value, but none of them fit ME.
So, I decided to write down my own list of things I want K to know as she grows up. Things that I want to instill in her. Things that I have learned in my own life or watched others learn that I want her to understand. Something more personal than just phrases out of a book or another person's blog post. Here is that list:
Life isn't fair - and it's okay to be upset about it. People always said to me, "Life's not fair. Deal with it." And it's true. Life isn't fair. Shit happens. You can throw all sorts of cliches out there. But it doesn't mean that it's okay. It doesn't mean that you can't be disappointed. Always give yourself time to mourn whatever it is that was unfair. Giving yourself time to be upset about something puts you in a better position to move forward and "deal with it."
Men will never think like you do. Men are a different breed. Their thought processes are completely opposite of yours. Expect it and accept it. And don't worry if you never understand it, because odds are, they will always tell you exactly what they are thinking. And it's just that - nothing more, nothing less. They don't overanalyze like we do. Lucky bastards.
You can never change someone else, not matter how hard you try. The only person you can change in this life is you, and even that's hard. If you don't like someone for who they are, tough luck. Either embrace that person with all of their quirks and faults or move on. And remember that everyone has quirks and faults - even you. No one is perfect.
Chocolate and wine cure almost anything. This one doesn't need much further explanation. Just know that there will be days when you want to curl up on the couch, turn on a chick flick, and indulge in chocolate and wine. And that's okay. You'll feel better in the morning. I promise.
You are your biggest cheerleader. Aside from your dad and I, of course. Always believe in yourself. Always advocate for yourself. Because your dad and I won't always be around, and you won't always be a kid. You have to learn to stand up for you, even in the toughest of situations. If you have confidence and the ability to stick up for yourself, you can make it through absolutely anything life throws your way.
Friendship isn't about quantity. It's about quality. Your dad and I never had a lot of friends. We were never the popular kids in school. Even now, we have very few friends who we would consider close. Yet, at the end of the day, when something happens, we know we can count on these people. These are the people who have been there through the good days and the horrible days - the ones when we needed all the love and support we could get. Keep a small circle of close friends, and don't worry about choosing them. Life and its tough situations will choose them for you. At the end of the day, when you've made it through "the suck," these are the people who will still be around to hold your hand.
Never drink a bottle of vodka before noon. It might sound like a good idea at the time, but I promise it's not. It's not going to make game day any more interesting. And yes - you will get sick. Stay in control. Drink in moderation. Always, but especially on a 95-degree day before a noon kickoff.
Live outside of the box. Don't be a wallflower. Travel. Move to a different city. Try crazy foods. Take risks. Make mistakes. You only get one shot at this life. Make the most of it.
Live life without regret. To follow up on the last point, making mistakes is good. Don't ever say you regret anything. A mistake in the moment feels like the end of the world, but you will learn from that mistake. You'll grow from it. You'll be a better you because of it. One of my favorite quotes (I have it tattooed on my back) is, "The mistakes I've made are dead to me, but I can't take back the things I never did." Take the chance. If it works out in your favor, great. If not, you'll know for next time.
Speak your mind. But don't be surprised when people disagree. Be proud of what you believe in. Stand up for what is right. There will always be naysayers. There will always be people who don't understand your point of view. (And remember, you can't change those people.) That's okay, though. You have your opinion and they have theirs. The important thing is that you stood up for what you felt was right. Stand up for the good. Stand up for others who are less fortunate than you. Stand up for the people who don't have a voice. Even though people won't always agree, they will admire you for your passion and your conviction.
Forgive. But never forget. People screw up. People will break your heart and your trust. It's okay to be mad at someone who does this, but don't stay mad at that person forever. Move forward. Mend the bridges. Forgive them, even if they don't take responsibility for what they've done. Never forget, though. By this, I don't mean hold a grudge. I simply mean: learn from it. It's a chance to understand that person better, your relationship better. It's also a chance to better protect yourself in the future. Balance is key. Try not to be too trusting, but try not to be too protective, either. This is one of the greatest challenges in life. You can't protect yourself from getting hurt in every situation. But you can give yourself to tools to handle it in the best possible way.
Take the hard route. It's, well, EASY to take the easy route. But the easy route never tests you. It never teaches you. It doesn't make you stronger or prepare you for anything. Take "the road not taken." You'll be a better person for it.
It's okay to change your mind. I changed my major three times in college, and then I ended up going back to school again to get a master's degree in a different subject. Your dad has changed careers more than one. It's okay to change course - whether it's with your career or with your general way of life. If you feel the calling, take a different path. The only exception to this is when you make a commitment or promise to someone or something. In these instances, you made a vow and you must stick to that vow. Be respectful to others by being true to your word.
Have the strength to say no. You can't do everything for everyone, as much as you would like to. You can't go to every social event. You can't take on every extra project at work. Push yourself, but don't overextend yourself.
You can always turn to me. I'm not going to guarantee I won't get upset about things you might share with me (especially during your teenage years). What I can tell you is that I will try my hardest to help you work through whatever the problem is without reacting in anger - even if that means I need to take some time to think through my response. I will always be honest with you, and I hope that by treating you with this respect, you will always be honest with me.
Strive to be the best version of yourself at all times. In dress. In attitude. In work ethic. Don't wear a low-cut shirt when you meet your boyfriend or girlfriend's parents for the first time. Always do your job at 110%, even if you hate it. Treat others with respect and dignity, even if they don't do the same for you. Be the best YOU that you can be. Sometimes this seems impossible, especially during tough times, but the way you present yourself will make a lasting impression on everyone around you. Don't let those bad days or bad feelings wear down on others if you can avoid it. And if you can't avoid it? Take a day off. Take some alone time. Give yourself a chance to get through whatever you're feeling. The storm will always pass.
Adopt a dog. Or a cat. Or a bunny. Adopt some kind of animal. At the end of those bad days, when you are home watching TV, eating chocolate, and drinking wine, you'll want a pet to curl up next to and love you unconditionally. Notice I said adopt, not buy. The puppy in the window of the pet store might be adorable, but nothing compares to the heart of a shelter or rescue dog. It's because they need your love just as much as you need theirs.
Take photos of everything. Your dad makes fun of me because I take hundreds of photos a month. Yet I often catch him looking at all of the photos I've taken of you, from the beginning. It's the only way we can visualize how much you've grown, because - unfortunately - we can't bottle up these moments with you and save them forever. Photos help us remember. Photos will help you remember, too. Savor those memories.
I will always think you are the smartest, most beautiful girl on the planet. So will your dad. We promise to love you unconditionally. We promise to provide you with a place that is safe and filled with family, friends, and laughter. We promise to encourage learning and creativity, and to support every dream, goal, and passion you wish to pursue. We will love you and encourage you, no matter what path you take, and we will always be "there" - even when we are long gone.
Find a partner who feels the same way. If you decide to marry, marry someone who sees all the wonderful things in you that we do. Marry someone who will always support you and who will stick by your side through the good and the bad. Marry a person for love and not money. Marry a person because he or she brings out the best in you - and treat that person with the same love and respect that he or she gives you.