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Advice for My Daughter on Her 10th Birthday

This "deodorant effect" applies to life in general: Anytime you can do something simple to ward off a problem down the road, do it. It gives you the best chance to come out smelling like roses... or at least not like body odor.
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Dear Daughter,

Welcome to double digits. Turning 10 is considered a milestone, as it's a time to celebrate the first decade of your life. But becoming the mother of a 10-year-old for the first time, well, is kind of terrifying for me. And not just because finding a gift for you is a real bitch... since you feel you are too old for toys, and I feel you are too young for just about everything else. (You also likely know the word bitch and how to properly use it. Thankfully, age 10 does not seem to come with the courage to say it in front of me, only the eye rolls that imply it.)

The simple addition of an extra digit to your age has suddenly made me feel like I am intensely under the gun. It is as if turning 10 is the gateway to adulthood. I know that in most respects, you are still a child. But you don't feel like a child anymore, which is evident in your refusal to order off the kids' menu and your desire to steal my shoes (which actually fit you) and wear them out instead of to merely play dress up. This means my window for helping you cram for the exam that is your whole life ahead of you is closing. And my syllabus is full of lesson plans still untaught. Sadly, you are already beginning to doubt that I know anything at all.

My friend Emily of The Waiting recently wrote an achingly beautiful post about how we mothers are continuously pushing, in the sense that we give birth to our children all over again each time they move onto something new. Well, now that you have turned 10, my instinct is to stop pushing, for you are officially on the downhill side of your journey here with me as your guide. Any push I might give will only send you careening to the bottom even faster.

But you are going down this hill one way or another whether I like it or not, mostly due to physics. Don't ask me to explain. All I remember from my Physics class is that you will stay warmer if you towel off inside the shower with the curtain closed than outside on the bath mat. Again, don't ask me why, but I've tried it. And it's a sound theory. Yet, I will leave those types of lessons to your teachers and professors. I have my own wisdom to share, and I feel as if I need to catch you now, before the momentum of your descent becomes so forceful that my voice simply sounds like a fleeting distraction.

1. Buy Into "The Deodorant Effect." We have already talked about the whole "your body will be going through a lot of changes" thing. But it really does creep up on you. And you just can't predict anymore when you're going to smell and when you won't. I'm not saying it would be right for other kids to shun you if your armpits were ripe, but there is no point in giving them ammunition on a silver platter. So, just do that quick preemptive measure every morning. This "deodorant effect" applies to life in general: Anytime you can do something simple to ward off a problem down the road, do it. It gives you the best chance to come out smelling like roses... or at least not like body odor.

2. Speaking of Your Body, You're Going to Hate It. Everyone is going to tell you not to, while simultaneously sending you unspoken messages that you should look differently than you do. So then you get to feel bad about your body AND feel bad about feeling bad about it. Welcome to being a woman. What I can tell you is that you will likely be your body's worst critic, so try to remind yourself that no one else is scrutinizing you as much as you do to yourself. And your body doesn't have to be perfect to be amazing... or lovable. As far as I'm concerned, no one can hold a candle to your body, because it is the vehicle through which God sent me the daughter I had always dreamed of. I have never wanted you to look any other way... except for when you let your hair hang in your face like a crazy-cat lady and wear leggings with a shirt not long enough to cover your butt. Comb it and cover it, kid. There is nothing wrong with putting your best self forward.

3. And Speaking of Hating Things, You're Going to Hate Me. I am pretty sure you have already had experience with this one. It is probably going to be a more frequent feeling in the next few years to come. I won't lie; it is going to crush my heart every time we are at odds. But I am stubborn, as are you, so we WILL fight. Yet I am not stubborn enough to let you think I don't love you. If you only remember one thing, let it be this: My love for you can never be wiped away by any words or actions. But damn it, I'm going to prove I'm right sometimes.

4. You Know Best, Except When You Don't. Trust your gut. In most situations, it will lead you to the right decision. I know this because I have witnessed what a good, decent heart and perceptive, intelligent brain you have. But your gut can't exist in a vacuum. Make sure to listen to what others have to say, because it is impossible for you to be the utmost authority on everything. By the same token, you should never consider yourself an expert on anything, for somewhere in the universe there always exists knowledge you haven't yet learned. No one has a monopoly on good ideas... except for your mother. (I said you'd hate me. See, I'm AM right sometimes.)

5. The Only Name That Matters Is Yours. People are going to try to convince you that it matters which name is on your college diploma... or the label of your athletic gear... or the street sign where you live... or the building where you work. And yes, some people are going to judge you on those names. But those names do not really say anything about you, at least, not anything important. The thing that matters most is what comes to mind when people hear your name. What do you want to be the first thing to fall from others' lips when you are mentioned? If you place too much importance on associating yourself with certain names to create an image, those names may just end up defining you to the world. But if you simply live your life in a way that does justice to your own name, THAT becomes who you are to others. When someone hears your name, would you rather them think Harvard grad with a high-powered job who is always in the top fashions and lives in that exclusive neighborhood or kind, generous, compassionate and sincere? I already know how you will answer that question, so just make sure to be true to it.

My sweet girl, you have one decade down and so many more to go. I don't know if I made the most of our past 10 years together, but I can tell you they were better than I could have ever imagined. I have a suspicion the next ten will be the hardest on you and me. They usually are for mothers and daughters. But I have faith we can weather the stormy attitudes in the forecast, and I will love you fiercely through it all. I am in this for the long haul.

And I have a stockpile of deodorant.



This post was originally published on Kelly's blog, Are You Finished Yet? Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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