In an effort to encourage open dialogue between teens and their parents, my 14-year-old daughter and I are beginning a blog series called, "Mom Said, Teen Said," whereby we will reply honestly and openheartedly to each others' posts. All comments from teens, parents and everyone else are greatly appreciated.
They told me this day would come. But for some reason, I didn't believe it. I couldn't believe it. My frenzied days were interminable -- defined by dirty diapers, dinosaur chicken nuggets and Barney. And the sleepless nights spent consoling night-crawling toddlers brought no relief from the daytime merry-go-round.
Yet here it is before me, rearing its overwrought head. That's right. I'm talking about a new chapter of parenting -- the Teen Chapter. So this open letter is for you, dear daughter, in case you're interested in what your been-there, done-that Gen Xer mom has to say.
Dear Teenage Daughter,
I know you're going through a hard time. Everything you thought you knew about yourself is changing before your eyes -- your friendships, relationships with family, interests, needs and desires. It's all so cloudy. Who am I now? you ask yourself constantly. You're uncertain where you stand on many issues, and swing wildly between two extremes: clinging to your fleeting childhood and growing up fast so you can do whatever the heck you want.
Your body is unrecognizable to you and because it's still a work-in-progress. You feel awkward and self-conscious. Although I assure you, everyone else feels equally uncomfortable and definitely is not noticing you so much. They're far more worried about their own reflection.
Daughter, you may not fully comprehend what all this means right now -- I surely didn't till I was deep into my twenties -- but the sooner in life you learn these invaluable lessons, the better your life will be.
Here are 14 life lessons I learned from falling down, getting back up and wandering aimlessly searching for answers:
1. Only you can make yourself happy. And only you can figure out the strategies needed to do that. Yes, you'll read some enlightening books and meet some wildly inspirational people -- some of whom may come to mentor you. But ultimately, it all boils down to you finding the happiness formula that best fits you.
2. Unless you're engrossed in the writing of a novel, screenplay or dissertation in psychology, don't spend too much time stuck inside your own head. Keep things light and breezy. Enjoy your time interacting with others.
3. Progress is made with small, incremental and deliberate steps in the direction you want to go. Consistency and discipline matter. No shortcuts. No such thing as overnight success.
4. Yes, a good night's sleep is that important. Go research why. It's all true.
5. Life itself is not complicated. Life happens and situations are only as easy or complicated as you choose to make them. Trust me. It's that simple.
6. You don't need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. Just follow your passions and interests, and aim to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
7. Believe only the actions of others -- not in the words they say -- and you will forever be a good judge of character.
8. Respect yourself always -- no matter what. Never compromise your ethics, principles or values. This alone will earn you the respect of many.
9. Exercise daily. Drink water. Spend time in nature. Do yoga. Listen to music. Trust your instincts. Have faith in G-d.
10. Embrace the confusion and laugh at yourself. It's all temporary, anyway.
11. Be a good friend and listener. Recognize your mistakes, then be quick to apologize and move on.
12. Leave your comfort zone. See the world. Learn other languages. Rewards come from taking risks. So does self-confidence and self-esteem.
13. Keep your family close to you. We always have your back and love you unconditionally.
14. Not until you accept and love yourself the way you are will you be free.
Always on my mind and in my heart,
Your Loving Mom, DZ