My eldest daughter is turning eleven years old tomorrow…eleven. I remarked the other day that she will no longer be able to hold up her fingers and show people how old she is. She needs an extra finger now. This year I will have to flash both of my hands 4 times to show people how old I am…we are growing up. Birthdays are the perfect time to get introspective and thoughtful. In case you didn’t know, being eleven is kind of a big deal. I can remember being eleven years old and looking back there are quite a few things I wish I knew when I was a tween. So, today I am sharing my decades of wisdom with my eleven year old daughter (even though I know she probably won’t listen).
Being Popular Doesn’t Mean You Are The Best – At a time when popularity contests turn “ordinary” people into instant “stars” this concept is going to be hard to understand. When I was a kid I was popular. My friends were the “cool” kids. We thought it meant we were the “best” and in turn that if you weren’t popular, you were the “worst”. We were wrong. It took time to figure this one out…but eventually I learned that popularity has nothing to do with ability. I was never better than anyone else. Whichever side of the popularity equation my daughter ends up on, I hope she understands that everyone is valuable.
What You Want Isn’t Always What You Need – Want versus need. Here is a lesson I try and teach my daughters every single day. The other day we were at a shopping mall and my daughters begged me for one of those super expensive dolls that are all the rage right now. When they finished making their arguments for why they wanted the doll, I asked if they actually needed the doll. Sure we could afford to buy the doll…it wasn’t about the money. The question is should we get everything we want, or should we stop and think about what we need. What is the value of having a adding one more doll to a room full of dolls? Are there better ways to spend our money?
Use Your Voice Wisely – Everyone has a voice…an opinion…a point of view. As a growing tween, my daughter is stepping out on her own more, without me around, I hope she finds her voice and uses it wisely. This is the time when social pressures start to have an impact on girls, and boys. Peer pressure is rearing it’s, sometimes, ugly head. I hope my daughter will listen to her inner voice and when she speaks out, her voice will be strong when it needs to be and kind when it needs to be.
You Are Beautiful – Okay, I don’t mean beautiful in the superficial way. I know that eleven year old girls start changing and developing into young women. Sometimes those changes aren’t very pretty…they can look weird…they can feel uncomfortable…they can make a little girl lose sight of her personal beauty. When I went through puberty I felt like a freak of nature. I was stinky, had super frizzy hair and my new found breasts got in the way of my ringette equipment. As her personal definition of beauty develops over the next few years, I hope my daughter knows that all of these changes are the caterpillar turning into the butterfly.
There is No Rush To Grow Up – Yep, this one is perhaps the hardest of all. This year my daughter will be in grade 6 and which means her class is the oldest class in the school. They will be the “big kids”. Eleven year olds start gaining more responsibility and more freedom, which I think is awesome. I’m ready to put my trust in my daughter and watch her succeed, or fail. My only hope is she remembers that she is still a little girl. In the grand scheme of things eleven is still a little girl and holding on to that spirit is an awesome thing.
I’m Right Here, Always – I cannot say this one enough to my girl…I’m right here, always. I have tucked her into bed almost every night of her life. In those quiet moments we chat about everything. I will continue to tuck my daughter in and hope that she understands that I am always ready to chat about anything and everything. As a mental health care professional, I saw what can happen when children lose touch with their parents, whether real or perceived. I may not always be her number one confidant but, I am always available, open and ready to listen.