My daughter is another year older and my “random thoughts” are a little longer, so here goes …
You’re a messy little smartass (and I love you).
I have a problem with the cleanliness of your bedroom, this is no secret. You tell me “mom, don’t freak out when you go in my room, there’s stuff on the floor,” and it always makes me laugh—right up until I actually go in your room. Having a clean house is important to me, but I’ve come to realize that you view cleanliness (or lack thereof) as a means of self-expression. You tell me, “this is who I am and that’s ok,” and I have to admit, you have a valid point. As much as I dislike the thought of having a totally unorganized human tornado for a child, I do want you to be exactly who you are. So yes, my sweet little smartass, I guess if “you doing you” means you’re messy, then yes, that’s ok with me—for now.
Replace the damn toilet paper.
Since we’re talking about messes … replacing the toilet paper roll isn’t hard and not everything has to be a long-winded, inspirational explanation. JUST DO IT.
Speak up, child!
When Maya Angelou was seven years old, she stopped talking after a traumatic incident. When she was 12 years old, she met a woman who taught her the power of the spoken word and the importance of education. Maya went on to become a gifted poet, author, activist AND a highly pragmatic inspirational speaker. Her voice is synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement AND the fight for women’s equality. (Not too shabby for a girl who spent five years with nothing to say.) … So, why am I telling you about Maya Angelou? Because right now you’re afraid to use your voice. But the time WILL come when you have something important to say. When it does, I hope you channel Maya Angelou. Choose your words carefully, speak with confidence and NEVER, be afraid to let your words be a light in someone else’s darkness … even if it’s just for your friends on Instagram, hell, we all have to start somewhere.
Take your passion and make it happen.
You love to dance and you’re an AMAZING dancer. When I watch you dancing it makes me think of the movie Flashdance. I haven’t forced you to sit through the genius of this 1983 cult-classic film just yet, but I assure you someday soon, I will. Why is Flashdance important? Because it’s an anthem for bad-assery and it’s the perfect way to remind yourself of how far you can go with a little hard work. Plus, you can’t beat Jennifer Beals playing a young stripper/welder living in a warehouse in Pittsburgh with a slobbery dog named Grunt while dreaming of becoming a professional ballerina (Beals wants to be the ballerina, not the slobbery dog) and guess what, she actually DOES IT! … Trust me, it’s fabulous, and we’ll watch it together soon. Afterwards we’ll throw on some leg warmers and jam out to “Manic.” (You won’t get this joke yet, but you’ll think it’s funny someday, I promise.)
When they go low, YOU go high.
During the 2016 Democratic National Convention Former First Lady Michelle Obama made her iconic “when they go low, we go high” speech. I would never attempt to sway your political beliefs in any way, and I won’t get into all the political mumbo jumbo that prompted the force behind Mrs. Obama’s words but the gist of what she meant is this—when faced with negativity, cheap shots, attempted moral degradation and downright verbal garbage, always remember to keep your cool and always take the high road whenever possible. It isn’t easy to take the high road and I assure you, it’s bumpy as shit, but the high road will always lead you to EXACTLY where you need to be. So, when you’re faced with middle-school bullshit, high-school nonsense, and general life-sucking ridiculousness, go high, kiddo, always, always, GO HIGH.
You have to wear a tank top because of Ted Bundy.
Crop tops are the bane of my (and all parents who have teenage daughters) existence. Yes, this means we don’t like them. And why don’t we like crop tops on our teenage daughters? Because they show too much skin. Recently I’ve made you sit through several documentaries about Ted Bundy. In my opinion, Bundy is one of the most terrifying serial killers because he was highly intellectual and he seemed normal (for the most part), yet he managed to murder and rape more than 30 young, pretty women. Maybe some of these girls were wearing crop tops and maybe they weren’t, but either way, when I ask you to wear a tank top under your crop top, it isn’t because I’m trying to ruin your life or make you look uncool. I do it because there’s weirdos out there so please cover your abdomen at all times.
I’m not “The Google.”
You ask me A LOT of questions. I’ll admit, there is a fair amount of semi-useless knowledge and facts floating around inside this head of mine, but I’m here to tell you, kid, I’m not The Google. The Google is powered by algorithms and good old artificial intelligence and I grew up in an era where neither of those things existed. You’re rolling your eyes right now, I know, but back in dark ages if you had a hankering to the know how gum was made you could ask your mom or dad, but dad would probably just blink at you and take another sip of his Budweiser. If his pessimism didn’t stop your craving for gum-making knowledge you’d probably get on your bike (that’s the two-wheeled apparatus in the garage that you never use) and ride to this building called “the library” where you’d walk inside and either open a drawer called “the card catalog” or go to the shelf containing these heavy, dusty things called “encyclopedias” where you would flip through the pages until you found a paragraph (or two if you’re lucky) about the miracle that is gum—unless you lost interest along the way, then you’d probably just stop at the store and buy 25 cent gum instead. So, yes, I appreciate your faith in the ability of my prefrontal cortex and the depth of my hippocampus, but they’ll never compare to the power of Siri, Alexa or The Google. (And if you want to know what the hippocampus is, just ask Alexa if she has one. If she says yes, please unplug her and run away swiftly and with much vigor.)
Use colorful language—the right way.
Fuck is a word I’m not ready to hear you use, but I know you probably say it when I’m not around, and that’s perfectly ok. I’m a big advocate of dropping the mother of all swearwords when necessary because it’s a very expressive word and, let’s face it, some conversations just need more expression. The key to proper swearing is all in the timing and connotation. For example, if you’ve just been pulled over for speeding make sure you drop that F bomb BEFORE the officer reaches your window. And, if you just aced that math test, don’t be afraid to say “yeah, bitch, I aced that motherfucker,” but do it AFTER you’ve left the classroom. See how it works?
Hold that fucking door.
Your dad and I raised you to be polite. I’m not sure how we did it, but you really are one of the politest people I know. You leave me in awe when I see you hold the door for other people and what I find even more amazing is that you have zero prejudice for those you hold it for. Not all people will say thank you or appreciate your kindness, and that sucks but there’s also an important lesson there. People can be assholes, but don’t let that stop you from being a good person. Keep smiling and keep holding that fucking door—in spite of the assholes.
Arrange whatever pieces come your way.
My friend Virginia Woolf wrote those words in her diary on September 5, 1925. She had just fallen ill (again) and she was irritated over her inability to continue working on her latest book, To The Lighthouse. As a very literal woman who didn’t often speak in metaphors, Woolf wasn’t comparing her life to a puzzle, at least, not entirely. What she really meant is that sometimes shit is just out of our control and we have to roll with the punches. Life is a series of mishaps and general screw ups, but if we’re lucky we learn from those twists and turns. So, when you find yourself looking at all the different fragments and pieces of your life and you’re furiously trying to fit everything together in a nice, neat picture, please, just stop. Things don’t always need to “fit.” Some things in your life will have weird shapes you didn’t expect, jagged lines you need to sand down, and sharp corners that are super tough to navigate, but as long as you arrange your pieces the way you think they should be, that’s all that matters. It’s your puzzle and your life—the picture you create is entirely up to you.
Anger is self-defeating.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Notorious RBG. She was the second female appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court and she’s a tiny spitfire of a woman who works tirelessly for and with the underdog. I could go on and on and on about our friend RBG, but I won’t because at the end of the day RBG just says it like it is. There’s a lot to be angry about in the world, and it’s easy to get frustrated with things like math, homework, the dog eating your shoe, or even me telling you what to do, but getting mad helps no one—especially you. When RBG was a young girl her mother gave her a very sweet and simple piece of advice—never respond to anger with anger, because that is self-defeating. When you give in to anger, anger will slap you back like a mean little bitch. Be like RGB. Don’t be a mean little bitch.
Yup, you’re still going to college.
This list is getting long, and I’m getting tired, so yes, you’re going to college. Study. Party. Find your friends. Find yourself. Have fun. It’s worth it.
The story has nothing to do with a dead bird.
Harper Lee needs no introduction in our house and it was no accident that I waited until the cusp of your 13th birthday to take you to New York to see To Kill a Mockingbird performed live on stage (and I forgive you for not reading the book first like I asked you to). You probably didn’t notice the look on my face or the tears in my eyes, and yes, that story gets me every time, but mainly my eyes were misty because I was looking at you. The underlying metaphor of the mockingbird isn’t really about guns or shooting birds or trying to properly decipher a strong southern accent—it’s about innocence lost and justice unserved. There’s a lot of that in the world these days and I wish I could shield you from it all, but I can’t. Becoming a teenager is scary and it comes with lots of expectations and more responsibilities, but I want you to know one very important thing—YOU WILL BE OK. You are smart, talented, funny and weird and these are all amazing things, but above all else, you are irrevocably kind and that is one of the many gifts you give back to this world. You’re a whole lot of Scout, a little bit of Boo and you even have sprinkles of Atticus, Jem, and Dill. Remember those names and remember the lessons in that story because this year, that was my gift to you. … I hope you don’t forget the dumb selfies I made you take on the sidewalk in front of the theater, or the way you laid your head on my shoulder before the show. For me those memories are simple and they’re precious, and I hope you take them with you on the journey of becoming the phenomenal woman I know you’re meant to be.
Happy 13th birthday, kiddo, I love you so much and I am so very proud to be your mom.