There are so many things I want my daughter to know as she becomes a teenager.
Flea had her 13th birthday this week and please don’t think I’m unaware of the irony of this post. Because parents of teens know nothing. Or so our children would like to think.
Thirteen is weird.
Flea can sleep for 18 hours a day, needs to snack regularly, and often struggles to communicate.
She has much in common with a hibernating bear, in some ways. But she’s also unspeakably smart, unfailingly kind and more beautiful than she knows.
Being a parent to a thirteen year old is just as weird.
You know your child is on the cusp of some Big Stuff. There’s peer pressure and sexuality, exams and unavoidable conflict. And all this stuff is looming at a time when your child would rather die than hold your hand in public.
So on the basis I’m not there to hold Flea’s hand (literally or otherwise) here are the things I want my daughter to know at 13:
1. It’s okay not to fit in
When you’re 13, having the right shoes and watching the right TV shows matters. I get that. But fundamentally changing your beliefs and passions to fit in is exhausting. You’ll always be afraid of being discovered.
Or you’ll find yourself in a jazz club with a boy called Simon and his enormous quiff, wishing you could actually die from boredom.
2. Show up. Work hard.
One of the things I want my daughter to know is this: everything in life is more satisfying if you’ve worked hard for it. Don’t be a person who lives life half-hearted. Whatever you are passionate about – your job, a sport, your travels – give it your all.
Whether it goes your way or not, you’ll never regret giving something your best shot.
3. Choose great friends
During these years, you’re going to need great friends. Please pick loyalty and laughter over popularity. Find friends who celebrate your successes, forgive your idiot moments, and make you laugh.
Try to be a good friend. Don’t gossip, don’t manipulate, and never talk about friends behind their backs.
4. Get angry sometimes
Lots of people expect women to be compliant and agreeable. But you should definitely be disagreeable sometimes. Like if you’re being disrespected, or patronised, or when someone treats you carelessly. It’s okay to disagree with your parents. We raised you to have opinions. We don’t have to agree with you, to love you.
Don’t ever be scared to express your feelings. Especially if someone puts their hands on your body without your permission. Remember if the occasion demands it, there’s nothing wrong with telling someone to fuck off, very loudly.
5. Nobody remembers their GCSE grades
Seriously. I guess I got enough GCSEs to go to college. I remember getting an F in Art. Apart from that it’s all a bit of a blur. School and exams feel so big right now, but they’re not going to feel that way forever.
Nobody who matters will ever feel differently about you because of a test score. I promise.
6. Don’t let mistakes define you.
Everyone makes mistakes. Some of us make them multiple times a day. I once spent a whole year wearing parachute pants. I took jobs that didn’t pan out, I had relationships that hurt me, I was too afraid to tell people how I felt about them.
Pick yourself up, play some loud music, and remember you’ve learned what not to do next time. Just because you did something stupid one time doesn’t make you stupid for all time.
7. There’s no such thing as a “slut”
Thinking about, or wanting sex doesn’t make you a “slut”. It makes you a healthy human being with a sex drive.
Don’t spend time with people who shame you for your choices. You always have the right to choose to have sex, or not have sex. You have the right to change your mind. You can make any choice you like.
Just… don’t make choices lightly. The consequences of the decisions you make about sex can last a lifetime. Everyone’s heart and health deserve to be treated with respect.
8. You are amazing
Okay, I’m your Mum. I’m programmed to see your best qualities.
But try and remind yourself regularly that you are a good person. That you’re smart, and thoughtful. You have an amazing memory and a quick sense of humour. You’re kind to animals. You’re brave.
Tell yourself this sort of thing regularly. Don’t rely on someone else to give you your self-esteem.
9. You’re not me
I love that we have a close relationship. I adore spending time together, and that we laugh at so many of the same things.
But I understand that over the next few years, you’ll need to distance yourself from me. You need the space and independence to find out who YOU are. It’s so important that you do this. Don’t ever feel that you shouldn’t.
I might sometimes be sad when it feels that we’re distant, but I’m always excited to see the woman you’re growing into. I trust that the ties binding us will still be there in the years ahead. And I’m always here if you need me.
10. I’m always here
The last and most important of the 10 things I want my daughter to know? I’m always here.
Not in a creepy way, obvs.
I want you to know that no matter what the drama or emergency, there’s no mess so big that you can’t call me when you need help.
So you took drugs at a party? You got out of a car in the middle of nowhere and you’re stranded? You accidentally set fire to the school? You drank a whole bottle of vodka at a party and now you’re stuck in a hotel room with a gang of bikers … ? whatever. There’s nothing so bad that I won’t get out of bed at 3am to come and rescue you, or someone else’s child. It’s the Parent Code.
Please just don’t ever be too scared to ask for help when you need it.
I can’t promise there won’t be a lecture, but I do promise to save that part until (much) later when everyone’s safe and sound.
These are the things I want my daughter to know at 13 – how about you?