I lost my wedding ring a few weeks ago. After 11 years of careful handling and protection, just like that... it's gone. While I've been tearing the house apart and racked with guilt, my husband has been ridiculously understanding. I have faith that it will turn up one day, when I least expect it, but it's made me think about what's really important to hold on to.
And it makes me think of my daughter.
She's 9, just gearing up for tween attitude and angst, and I'm desperately clinging to the last bits of little girl I can still see in her. The snuggling and requests for family game night are soon to be replaced by texting and pretending not to be related to me. I know in the not too distant future, she will change in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways, but I also know there will be those who will ask her to change, in all the wrong ones. I know there will be times when she'll falter, and fall -- hard -- and I won't always be there to help her up. And there will be a lot for her to lose.
So for those times when she's tested, when she's standing face-to-face with fear, these are the things I'd like to tell my girl to not only hold on to, but to OWN:
1. Your light. This is your greatest gift -- the reason you're here, and there will be days when you'll want to tuck it away safely in your pocket. Take it out. Share it. Don't be afraid to shine, and certainly, don't shrink in order to make others feel more worthwhile.
2. Your God-given nature. No matter what others might say or lead you to believe, your "girly" side is not a handicap, or a sign of weakness. You are, in fact, a girl. It's a blessing and a privilege -- treat it as such, and never apologize for it. Ever.
3. Your sense of adventure. Yes, you have this, too. Did you know not every adventurer is out there bungee jumping or zip lining through the rainforest (though I can see you doing this one day)? You'll try any new food put in front of you. You'll be the first to present a book report to your class. Yes, this is adventure. It takes courage, and you have loads of it.
4. Your individual style. It's there, I still see it, but it has tempered over the years now that you're aware of what your friends, and Taylor Swift, are wearing. God, I hope I didn't squelch it when I made you wear the matching toddler sets and fancy shoes that we paid way too much for and couldn't return. Embrace your unique style and the freedom to wear what moves you.
5. Your mistakes. You are not designed to be perfect, and everyone is vulnerable (more than most would like to admit). When you mess up, own it. It's the brave and right thing to do. And it will move you forward.
6. Your voice. Ask the "dumb" question. Speak up when you have something to say (especially if the word is "NO"). When you don't, or it's purely for gossip or snark factor, by all means, bite your tongue.
7. Your face-scrunching, body-shaking, full-on laugh. I could listen to it all day long, oh, if only I could. Please, silly girl, don't save it, or take yourself too seriously, too often. Laugh it off, let it out. As much as you possibly can.
8. Your competitive streak. You are as bright, as talented, as capable as any individual, male or female, you may come up against. I know this now, and I know it will be true 20 years from now. You can take on anything and should be equally respected -- and paid -- to do so. Even so, don't abuse this recognition, or your talent. Be fierce, but be gracious, in your climb to the top.
9. Your sensitivity/strength. This is a two-for-one. Maya Angelou said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Being sensitive, compassionate, aware of your feelings and recognizing those in others ... this is where real power comes from. It's what the world is lacking, and you have the ability, and the responsibility, to put it out there. Do it. It will take you far, and it will fill you up.