In just a few weeks my daughter will celebrate her 18th birthday. In the eyes of the world she will officially be an adult, even though she will always be my child. I have had 18 years to raise her and I think I did a pretty good job.
Lessons for my daughter’s 18th birthday
But as the days tick down until she’s all grown up, I’ve started to wonder if I really have instilled the life lessons she needs to be successful. My dear daughter, here are the 18 things I hope I’ve taught you in your 18 years of childhood.
I will probably be the last person on Earth to still own and use a pen. Hopefully, you will be the second-to-last. Handwritten notes may be so 1900s but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for them in the world.
If you have to send a text or email or want to call, fine, but a handwritten note is always preferred. The rule is, don’t use a gift until you have thanked the receiver.
2 | Laughter is the best medicine
If you can, laugh every day because it feels good. Hold onto friends who understand your sense of humor and can make you laugh so hard you think you might wet yourself (this will get easier after childbirth and the mild incontinence sets in).
Remember, everyone does some stupid, embarrassing things – you need to be able to laugh at yourself.
3 | Chicken soup is a close second
Never underestimate the healing powers a nice warm bowl of chicken noodle soup. It warms you up from the inside out. It has the power to heal a cold and calm a cough. It reminds you of being a kid even when you’re a grown up – especially if you get your mom to make it for you.
4 | “Please” and “thank you” really are magic words
Barney the Big Purple Dinosaur told you this at age two and it still holds true today. If you ask for something, say please, even if it is something small.
When someone does you a solid, say thank you and mean it. That goes for everyone from your friends to your parents to the waitress that refills your water cup. Everyone wants to feel appreciated.
5 | Opportunity does not knock if it doesn’t have your address
You cannot sit in your room and expect things to come you way. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and go after things you really want. It is hard to put yourself out there and sometimes you will fail, but that’s okay. Your odds of achieving your goals are much better if you go after them.
6 | Don’t double dip
It’s gross and it’s unsanitary and it’s just unnecessary unless you are snacking alone.
7 | Never leave the house without brushing your teeth
Or without washing your face or combing your hair, because if you do, you are 100% guaranteed to run into someone you don’t want to see in your unwashed state. Put a bra on for the same reason, and because you want to keep them in that nice high place on your chest for as long as possible.
8 | Use moisturizer and sunscreen every day
When I was 10 years old a friend of my aunt’s told me I needed to start using moisturizer. I had no idea what she was talking about but she said it in such a stern, scary tone that I took my allowance to the drugstore the next day and bought a $2.99 bottle of Oil of Olay.
I credit this woman – and spending the last 20 years dousing myself in SPF 40 before I vacate the house – with a fairly wrinkle-free complexion for my age. Today the ozone is way worse than it was when I was a kid, so lather on the sunscreen even when the weather says rain all day.
9 | If you have something nice to say, say it
The saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But the reverse is true, too. Everyone loves a genuine compliment. Too many times we are quick to say the bad stuff but forget to mention the positives. If you think someone has a great smile or is wearing a cool shirt, say so.
10 | Never stop learning
Once you finish attending school, the exams may be over but the learning never is. Never stop adding to your skills, be it work-related or just for fun. Do a lot of reading on topics that interest you. Keep informed on current events. Remember – knowledge is power.
11 | Alone is better than not at all
I know last week when I went to the movies alone you thought that was just so sad. But it wasn’t – it felt good to do something I wanted to do and not let the fact that no one else wanted to go stop me. Took me 40-plus years to learn that lesson, hopefully I have taught it to you in half that time.
12 | Life isn’t fair
As I said in lesson 5, sometimes you don’t get something you want or deserve. Life isn’t fair but it doesn’t mean you can stomp your feet, whine, or malign other people. No need to check your navigation system – in this case, the high road is the right road.
13 | Be present
The way to stop the F in FOMO is to stop checking the phone-o! If you’re hanging out with friends, hang out with them. If you’re at a concert, listen to the music and don’t video record the whole damn thing so you can post it later. If you’re sitting in the kitchen with your mom who is giving you her undivided attention, stop Snapchatting your friends.
14 | Don’t text and drive
Just don’t do it – ever. Put your phone in the glove compartment if you think you will be tempted. I don’t even like you talking on a hands-free device when you drive.
15 | Change can be good
Just because the chicken parmigiana is always good, doesn’t mean there aren’t other delicious items on the menu that you might enjoy. Don’t be afraid to try something new – not just on a menu but in life, too. If you want to change jobs or move to another city, you should. We will be there to support you.
16 | When you’re wrong, apologize
We all make mistakes. If you make one, apologize and make amends. The people who care about you will forgive you. And when someone hurts your feelings and offers a heartfelt apology – accept it. Life is too short for grudges.
17 | Don’t text angry
I know talking on the phone is so over but this is the updated version of the very wise 80s advice: “Don’t drunk dial!” Mad at a friend, colleague, boyfriend, teacher, or boss? Take a few deep breaths and tie your hands behind your back.
Do not text, email, post, snap, insta-anything when you are angry. Most things pass but once you put it in writing, it’s forever.
18 | Be you
You are truly amazing! On your 18th birthday and everyday, embrace everything about yourself and know that the world is very lucky to have you in it – especially your family and friends.
19 | Family is forever
Okay, so this is 19 and I said I’d end at 18. Still there is one more thing I hope I’ve taught yo. We, your family, may sometimes may be THE most annoying people on the planet and SO uncool, and REALLY not understand, but we will love you unconditionally forever and ever.
Even if the law says you’re all grown up, in my heart you will always be my baby. That doesn’t mean I’m going to throw you in the stroller and give you a binky; it just means that when I look at those gorgeous brown eyes I fall in love again, just like the day they put you in my arms at the hospital. And yes, you can have the keys to the car tonight.
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