My niece turned 13 today. She is not the first niece that I’ve had to turn 13, and I don’t love her any greater than I love my other nieces and nephews. But from the moment of her birth, she has caused me to take pause. Her name is Alexandra Kathleen, Allie Kat- named Kathleen for her grandmother and myself. Having a child named after me forced me to reflect. For her entire existence, she would associate her name, at least partially, with me. Was I a person worthy of being linked to? That is a whole other blog, but suffice to say, her birth initiated some thinking that led to changes.
On this day, Allie Kat is far away. I find myself wanting to talk to her, tell her things. Thirteen is a defining age- a space lingering between child and adult. What do I wish someone had told me at 13?
Here is my advice, good, bad and otherwise, for a girl about to become a woman. I hope most of it is rubbish and beyond consideration. My fear is that it’s not.
1. There are worse things in life than making a fool of yourself. I have no idea how many girls I have seen on the sidelines, cheering their boyfriends on as they participated in something. Which would be fine if these girls were going after their own dreams with equal intensity. But, in my case, I lived vicariously through boys. I wanted to be in a band, so I dated musicians. I dreamed of being an artist, so I went out with painters. Be your own hero. It can be terrifying to put yourself out into the public, naked for everyone to judge. But, when you get past the fear, you learn you can fall flat on your face, be laughed at, and live to tell the tale. Better yet, if you keep at it, you stop falling down, and start standing tall.
2. You are more than how you look. My niece is gorgeous. Not in the way that an aunt thinks her niece is gorgeous, but truly beautiful. Being pretty can be a lot of fun, but it doesn’t last- for anyone. We all get old, our bodies change, our faces wrinkle. When you are able to garner the attention of a boy you like, the thrill can be intoxicating, even powerful. But just as easily, a guy can look the other direction, and his lack of interest can devastate. Don’t bank on a guy, or on being pretty- put your money on YOU. Believe in your skills, creativity, and ingenuity. Pour your heart into interests that can last a lifetime and fulfill you on many levels.
3. Its ok to fall in love more than once. You can fall in love with a person, you can fall in love with an activity. Many of us hold on to love for longer than we should, feeling a duty to not give up on something or someone. While perseverance is noble, there comes a time to let go and challenge yourself in new ways. It’s ok to love and let go.
3. Surround yourself with people who challenge you to be your best. One of the things women talk about is “not settling,” which makes it sound like there is some perfect person out there and you just have to find him. There is no perfect person- everyone has flaws. But your partner and friends should help you achieve your dreams and assist you in being the best version of yourself.
4. Be protective of your mind and body. Some might think this advice is too abrupt, but I’m the aunt. It is my job to tell it like it is. While I hope sex is far down the road, you can never approach the subject too soon. When it comes to sex, there are no good girls or bad girls. Sluts and prudes are stupid labels thought up by stupid people. It doesn’t matter how many people you have sex with. But, know that every time you have sex with someone, you are taking someone inside of you- not just your body, but your spirit and your mind. That is a huge gift. Make sure the recipient is worthy.
5. As long as you have breath in your body, you can change. Thirteen is the very cusp of adulthood. You have so much life ahead of you. Thousands of mistakes are sure to line your path. There is no crisis you can face that you can not bounce back from, no error you can make that will cause your family stop loving you.
6. You are smart, beautiful, a wonder to behold, and a pleasure to watch grow up. If ever you feel less than that, read these words and know you are loved. Call me, write me, text me. I am always here for you.
To all of my nieces and nephews, I love you. You are the children who made me want to become a mother. Knowing you introduced me to the wonder of experiencing life through the eyes of a child. Thank you for that gifts and all the others you have brought to my life.