I have an amazing daughter. She is brilliantly smart, funny, and strong. She is quick-witted and confident. She got straight As her first semester of public high school, dazzling her teachers with her brainpower. She's a brown belt in karate and a voracious reader. Like I said, she is amazing.
She is also beautiful...like frighteningly beautiful...like I freak out as her mother and kinda sorta want to lock her in a tower Rapunzel-style.
Today is her fifteenth birthday, and as she teeters on the threshold of adulthood, I worry just a little about what thoughts she carries about herself into that often cruel world out there. So I made a list, a list of things I wish I could remember to remind her of everyday, a list I wish I had as a young teenager trying to figure out how to fit into this world that so often devalues women and sexualizes young girls.
Here it is, Baby. Let's print this one off so you can stick it to the bathroom mirror...or carry it in your pocket...maybe your shirt pocket so you can carry it close to your heart.
1) You Don't Need a Man. Period. Are they nice to have around? Absolutely.... especially when you have a bug you need squashed, but you do not NEED one. You should not measure your worth based on your relationship status...nor should your worth be all tied up in how sexually appealing you are. Do not waste your time foolishly chasing or attempting to attract a man. Instead, cultivate your own character and happiness with yourself. Your life will be more fulfilling I promise...and if a really awesome guy comes along while you're chasing your dreams and you decide to chase them together...well, that's nice, too.
2) Your Value Is Not Based On Your Appearance. We live in a culture that worships physical beauty, but you do not have to worship at that altar. Do not obsess over physical beauty. It is a fleeting thing, and there are much more valuable qualities to cultivate. Your appearance has little to nothing to do with true beauty, which is who you are as a human being, who you are inside. Beauty is about your values and principles and how you make life beautiful for others.
4) Do Not Change Who You Are For Anyone. You are wonderful. Not only that, but you are also amazing and marvelous and incredible. I could not be more proud to be your mother. There will be times that you might feel the need to prove your worth to others, both male and female, to do things just to fit in and be accepted. I hope it will help to know that you are already cherished and loved more than you could possibly understand....just for being utterly and completely you.
5) It's Okay To Be Strong. Women do not have to be submissive or meek or fragile. And they don't always have to "play nice". Be bold and courageous. Be confident. Be aggressive when you need to be. Kick butt if you have to. Do not be afraid to physically defend yourself should you need to, and do not be afraid to defend your opinions or your reputation or those weaker than you.
6) I Am Here. I've been here since the beginning. Before your heart thrummed out it's first fluttering beats, you rested under mine. I will be here no matter what the world throws at you, no matter what mistakes you think you've made, to provide a soft place to land and some comfort if I can. I'm here to celebrate your successes and wipe your tears. Please know that you can talk to me about anything...I mean ANYTHING, and I promise to do my best to never freak out or sit in self-righteous judgement, because there is nothing you could do to ever make me stop loving you.