(The following is an open letter to my eldest daughter today on her 18th birthday. It is unedited and stands as is…a testament of a mother’s love for her child.)
Today, you turn 18 years old. You have reached a major pinnacle in your life, but it has only just begun. I eagerly wait with anticipation to see what your life has in store for you. Of all the things I am capable of giving you today, I feel my words are the most valuable.
These are exciting times for you: finishing high school, going to college, moving out on your own, starting a career, paying your own way, dating, marriage, having kids. The possibilities are endless. But, I’m not going to lie. At times, life is going to get rough. It’s inevitable; however, it’s all in how you handle the stress of life that determines whether or not you will succeed. Having a negative attitude toward the stress and being pessimistic will not, I promise you, resolve anything. Taking deep breaths, keeping an optimistic attitude and developing a character that doesn’t quit will take you much further in life than anyone tells you.
I remember back 18 years ago to the day you were born and smile as I recall my first words upon your arrival. “She’s beautiful! She looks like a troll doll!” (I blame the drugs, but who could blame with that little tuft of hair sticking straight up like that!) From that moment on, my life evolved around you. There was nothing I wouldn’t do to keep you safe. I know I’ve told you this before, but being adopted myself I looked at you as my first real blood relative. That moment of your birth was the day I realized I wasn’t alone in the universe. I had you.
When I look at you, I see my own eyes looking back at me. They are thoughtful, ambitious, spontaneous and quick to find the good in others. I can only hope you learn to find the good in yourself. People will disappoint you. It’s in their nature. It’s the ones who disappoint you, own up to it, apologize and never do it again that are worth keeping around. At the same time, be careful with whom you choose to associate and don’t be so naïve to believe that you can trust just anyone. Make others prove their worthiness to be trusted as anyone of sound mind will ask of you. Be someone people can rely on, but don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of either. Stand up for yourself and for those who cannot stand up for themselves.
Love yourself and don’t allow anyone to make you feel less of a person through their words or actions. You, and you alone, are in control of your emotions and well-being. By allowing someone else to taint your self-worth, you give them power over you.
Choose your battles. Life is too short to be arguing with someone all the time about everything. This goes for friends and family as well as any future romantic relationships. Be empathetic and put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective. You will be rewarded in ways that you have yet to understand.
Don’t be a bystander…ever. Get involved.
A smile at the right time will always go a long way.
When you find the love of you life and eventually get married, let go of the little things. The toilet seat doesn’t matter. Who forgot to unload the dishwasher means nothing. Whose turn it is to change the baby’s diaper isn’t worth the argument. Most things in life are “little things”. By learning to go with the flow and learning to laugh at the appropriate moments, your marriage will be successful.
You have potential for great things. Your love of children and kids with special needs is one of the things that make you amazing. Remembering that they are the reason you have a purpose in life will take you far…farther than I think you realize.
Marry your best friend. Don’t settle. He should make you laugh. Whatever you do, don’t allow him to place you on a pedestal to be worshipped, because when valuables fall, they break. Make sure he sees you as an equal and is willing to walk beside you and not force you to the rear. Make your marriage first and your children second. By doing so, your children will see what a real, loving marriage is and will be all the better for it.
If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If you know it’s wrong, don’t go along with it.
Be a leader, not a follower.
Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. Yes, you’re now officially an adult, but that definition goes far beyond just being a number. Being an adult means being responsible with all aspects of your life. There is plenty of time to move out and live on your own. Other than your current job after school, your only other job for the next few years should be discovering who you are as a person, going to school, and learning from the mistakes of the adults around you. There are many of us who came before you that have made plenty of mistakes, me included. Don’t make the same ones just because you want to be treated as an adult.
Think long-term and not short-term. The mistakes you make now can haunt you forever. You don’t want to live with that kind of guilt.
Ask for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness…instead, it is a sign of maturity that shows you know the depth of your limitations.
If someone gives you constructive criticism, don’t assume they’re being critical. Take it for what it is and smile. It may be the best advice you ever receive.
Above all else, remember you are loved. Even though we can’t be together today, a huge milestone in your life, you are surrounded by people who would each give their own lives to protect you and keep you safe. None of us want to see you fall, fail or get hurt. Your family is forever.
Follow your dreams. Never give up on something you desperately want. Ever.
Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made in life.
You are my first-born. You are love and all things good in my heart. When you hurt, I hurt. When you have joy, I have joy.
Happy birthday baby. I love you…forever.