04/13/2015 04:43 pm ET Updated Jun 13, 2015

A Birthday Letter to My Almost 12-Year-old Daughter

Amy Arndt

Dear almost 12-year-old,

Yesterday, you and a friend decided to clean your room and record the events on the time lapse setting on your phone. When you finished, your friend proudly showed me the video as I marveled at the technology I wasn't aware existed on our phones.

There you were, zipping around, folding t-shirts and laughing and making cleaning a room entirely more fun than it actually is, and I saw before me a mere snapshot of what's been taking place for the past 12 years. I do my best to savor every moment, yet somehow, your childhood has played on time lapse.

Before I know it, you'll think everything I have to say is corny and annoying. Half of what I say is already corny and annoying, anyway. For now, while you're still willing to hug me like you mean it, here are 12 tidbits of advice for your 12th birthday:

  1. You can always talk to us. Now, let's be realistic; you may not always want to come to your dad and me with your problems. We are lucky to have incredible friends and family members who love you, and they will be there for you if you need a fresh perspective.
  2. Nothing on social media is private. We've been talking about this for years now, but it bears repeating: Before you post it, imagine it plastered across an interstate billboard. In every state.
  3. Drug use can have scary, lasting consequences. Let's keep having open talks about drugs, and let's not be naive so we can have realistic conversations. I need you around when I'm old and super wrinkly because I plan on being a very fun old woman.
  4. Love who you are, just as you are. You've always been one of the tallest girls in your grade, and up until this year, you've been OK with that. We've worked out different ways you can respond to the, "Wow, you are so tall!" comments you get from almost everyone we see. Some of the responses are wickedly sarcastic. Use those sparingly.
  5. Be firm in setting boundaries when it comes to your body. Because you're tall, you look older, and when you look older, some people will treat you like you're much older than you are. Be cautious about the kinds of compliments you receive, and what you choose to do with them.
  6. For the people you trust to hug, and for those deserving of your hugs, hug like you mean it. The only thing worse than a dead fish handshake is a dead fish hug.
  7. You don't need a significant other to be significant. I wish I'd spent less time as a teenager thinking I "needed" a boyfriend. Enjoy friendships. They usually last longer, anyway.
  8. Be courteous and kind. We share a little "inside joke" about people who hold open gates. We like the people who hold open gates. We like the people who are courteous and kind. When I see you hold open a gate or a door, I am always proud because you are thoughtful. I'm also proud because it reminds me that you are your father's daughter.
  9. Be in the world. It's another one of our unique phrases, and boy, do we mean it! In a world where we gadget constantly, boredom is a luxury. Lately, I've grown especially fond of the friends you have who come over and don't use their gadgets. I love seeing you and a friend jumping on the trampoline, tech-free except for the old radio outside. (But the time lapse video was really cool.)
  10. Rejection is part of life, and sometimes it's a really good thing. How you handle rejection is the important part. (See #8).
  11. Never stop being silly. Enjoy every silly moment you can embrace.
  12. You don't need mascara and eyeliner. On this, we disagree. Please trust me. You are stunning just as you are. Let's save a few things for when you're actually a teenager.