Our middle child turned 9 this week. A good friend, while wishing her a happy birthday, called her “Miss Smack in the Middle.”
She’s got two older siblings and two younger ones. She’s the glue holding them all together.
Smack in the middle of it all.
Nine years old now, entering her 10th year of life, here are 9 things I want her to know:
1. Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Feelings – It’s OK to cry, it’s OK to be afraid, it’s OK to be embarrassed. It’s not OK to bottle up your emotions and pretend you’re OK all the time. Don’t view sharing your feelings as weak, it’s the opposite in fact.
2. Effort Matters More Than Performance –You can fool a lot of people on talent alone, at least for a while. But hard work and consistent effort develop character that lasts.
3. Your Tribe is Critical – A wiser person than me said, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Being surrounded by thoughtful, encouraging, have-your-back friends is a game-changer.
4. Mom and Dad Screw Up. Lots. – Our hope is we’re a good model for you, but sharing a roof with us, you see how often we fall short of perfection. Consider this your blanket offer to forgive us when we let you down. Allow our imperfections to shape you for the better.
5. Have Role Models but Be You – It’s fantastic to have older influences in your life. Take what you learn from them, but don’t try and be them. There is already one of those. We need you.
6. Befriend the Lonely – Someone near you is having a dark, hard, lonely day. Find them, seek them out, give them a hug or a high five, befriend them. Because you’ll have one of those days too.
7. Listen Twice as Much as You Speak – Most people get this backwards and talk twice as much as they listen. That’s normal. But watch what happens when you start to listen more. You’ll display how much you care and people will develop great trust in you.
8. Be Weird – Rule-following, fitting-in and not rocking the boat have their time and place. For sure. But the world-changing adults have allowed themselves to be kids again. They ask questions, they laugh, they’re curious and they use their weirdness as an advantage. Not as something to be hidden.
9. Solve Problems and Learn to Lead – I stole this directly from Seth Godin, he argues it’s the two most important things to learn how to do in school. You can do anything you want if you learn how to help people solve problems and be a leader worth following.
10. Love Wins – I couldn’t stop at 9. In fact, I could have given you 99. But none of them matter if you don’t possess love. Our world is messed up. There are deep, ugly, tough, complex problems happening in your neighborhood, your city, your country and across the globe. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I know it starts with loving your neighbor. And in the end, I’m betting love will win.