Do as I say, not as I do.
I can feel the drama surrounding my 10-year-old daughter beginning to swirl, much in the same way tornadoes form in eyewitness videos. It starts as a funny -ooking cloud and before long, it's a funnel reaching to the ground tearing out anything and everything in its path. Addie's sensitive and highly emotional, both fantastic qualities to have in a human being, assuming they don't get trampled and used up in her younger years. I've always been convinced that she will do marvelous things with her life, simply by being her. But as more and more of the ugly outside world begins to crowd in around her, I find myself teaching her lessons I didn't learn until my thirties, most of which I still don't believe myself.
But what am I going to do? Tell her nothing? Tell her to just give up now because there will be assholes everywhere, in everything she does and that their words will eat at the very core of who she thought she was until one morning she physically can't get out of bed?
But no, my ultimate goal is to raise her to be resilient and understanding, two qualities that are not often mentioned as vital to surviving this world. Perhaps if I tell her these things enough - whether I truly believe them or not - she will grow up slightly stronger than I did. Words won't eat her alive they way they've eaten me. Cruel people will have no place in her life and she will be the person everyone wants to be friends with because she builds everyone up without even meaning to.
More than anything, I want to send a good person out into the world. One that can stand up for herself, fight for what she wants, be fair to those around her and understand that if she "works hard and is kind, amazing things will happen."
1. "You can't be friends with everyone." Trust me, I've tried. Either people will hate you for thinking you actually could be friends with everyone or people will hate you because they don't think you're a good enough friend to them. I try to follow up this lesson with a sturdy dose of "You can be kind to everyone. Never get caught up in spreading gossip about someone who doesn't like you. If you don't get along with someone, let it be. Don't tell the world."
2. "Not everyone is going to like you." I think this one is especially hard for kids who grow up in a house where they can seemingly do no wrong. Even if you were the best person in the world, there are people who are going to hate you for the stupidest reasons you can imagine. As long as you're not giving people a legitimate reason not to like you (like being an honest to goodness close-minded, loud-mouthed asshole) go about your business and accept that not everyone will like you, and that's okay.
3. "When someone is mean to you, it says more about them than it does about you." Oy. The eternal struggle. People can say and do some of the meanest things to others because they're hurting in their own silent way. If you're a generally nice person, think about what it would take for you to be downright cruel to another person. In my case, the only times I've come out and truly hurt someone else (or have been tempted to) are when I'm in my own little miserable world and am convinced no one else deserves to feel joy. (Which is why when I'm miserable, I keep to myself.)
4. "Looks aren't everything." When you start picking your friends based on what they look like, what they wear, or what they have — you narrow your opportunity for some amazing, life changing friendships. Sadly, this is one I didn't learn until I was in my late 20s and even then I could've been better at it. The friends I have now come in all different shapes, ages, sizes, colors, volumes, and lifestyles. I'm so grateful my girls get to grow up having this wildly vast array of my friends in their lives to show them that friends can come from anywhere and look like anything as long as they have your best interest at heart.
5. "Happiness is what makes a person truly beautiful." So that's a fun one to try and explain when I'm in the depths of depression and painting a mask of makeup on my face so I don't look like an unfeeling robot. I remember times when my own mom was happy, and it never mattered what she was wearing or what she looked like because I just remember how much fun she was to be around. In a world where Photoshop and vanity reign supreme, it's hard to convince a little girl that the very best thing she can be is happy and comfortable with herself. But I'm working on it. Beauty may only be skin-deep, but man if it doesn't have a huge effect on everything else.
6. "Money doesn't buy happiness." But it certainly doesn't hurt, let's be honest. For a number of reasons I grew up incredibly materialistic to the point it later caused problems in my marriage. I see my daughter tempted with the fleeting satisfaction that would come from spending money to buy some "toy" that wouldn't really solve anything. Gratitude for what we have, delayed gratification and service to others are all ways I hope to teach her that while money can buy you a day at the spa, it certainly won't buy you the kind of friends you need after a terrible, awful heartbreak.