By: Shannon Ralph
My daughter is eight years old. Eight is a tough age. Our days consist of equal parts unabashed adoration and seething contempt. Sometimes I know everything. Some days I am supermom. Those are the good days. Those are the days when my Sophie feels like the baby girl I fell in love with so many years ago. We shop. We cuddle. We giggle. We read stories. We whisper secrets under the covers. I am mommy.
Other days, I am the biggest idiot ever to grace this Earth with my presence. Any clothes I pick out for her are lame. Any suggestion I make about her hair is ludicrous. Any opinion I voice is immediately disregarded. On those days, I am not mommy. I am mo-om (two syllables, accompanied by a hand on the hip and a snotty snarl).
Some days it takes nothing more than the mere sound of my voice to activate knee-jerk eye rolling of the snottiest degree.
I know this is all normal. Really, I do. At some point, every girl must distance herself from her mother to figure out who she is. Who she wants to be. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, but I know it is a necessary transition.
And I see the transition happening every day. Every minute. Before my very eyes, she is morphing from a precocious little girl to a headstrong tween. I am not ready. There is no way she is ready. There are so many things I want to tell her. Teach her. Guide her through. If she would only listen, I would tell her:
- Be nice to the geeks and nerds of the world. One day you will realize that the weirdos of this world make the best friends, confidantes, husbands, and wives around.
- You are not a tree. If you do not like where you are in life, move. Move often. Move until you see the world. Move until the world sees you. Move until you find your place.
- You will never look like the girl in the magazine. The girl in the magazine doesn’t even look like the girl in the magazine. Save yourself years of agony and stop comparing yourself to others right now.
- It’s okay to be gay. Or not. At eight years old, I have no inkling of whether you will be gay, straight, or somewhere in between. I only want you to know that wherever you land has absolutely zero effect—not even a teensy tiny infinitesimal iota of an affect—on my love for you. Nothing you do—nothing you are—will ever change how much I love you.
- Let go. There are things in life that are beyond your control. Trying to control them weighs you down. It’s heavy. It makes you tired. And old. And angry. You will never be happier in your life than that moment when you let go of the things you cannot change.
- Don’t try to make people like you. Some people will love you. Some people will despise you. And none of it has anything to do with you. So don’t spend a single second of your life trying to convince someone to like you. If they do not see the incredible person you are, it’s their loss.
- Be kind. Being gentle is not weakness. Being considerate is not feeble. It takes real guts to be kind in an unkind world. Have the guts.
- If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room. In other words, surround yourself with people who will challenge you. Who will make you smarter. And braver. And kinder. People who will make you see and be your best self. You deserve no one less.
- Make choices out of hope, not fear. Make choices based on who you want to be. What you want to do. Where you want to go. Do not be afraid. You can do anything if you believe in yourself. You can go anywhere with enough nerve.
- Your body is incredible. It will do amazing things in your lifetime. It is healthy and strong and worthy of respect—your respect and the respect of people you choose to let into your life.
One day my Sophie may listen to me. Or, if she is the mini-me I suspect she is, she will likely learn life’s lessons the hard way. Either way, I will always be here to pick up the pieces and cheer her on. She is my baby girl—the love of my life—and no amount of snippy eye rolling will ever change that.