I am suddenly overwhelmed and feeling woefully ill-equipped to be your mother, sweet girl.
I feel now much like I felt when you were a newborn and we were leaving the hospital: When I looked around at all the nurses who were actually letting me walk out of the hospital with you, and wondered who was going to teach me how to do this.
Now you’re 13 years old, and I am looking around again. I’m still wondering who is going to teach me how to do this.
You are so intelligent, with such a good head on your shoulders. We have already had multiple conversations about difficult things happening with girls we know.
Equally intelligent girls. Who also have good heads on their shoulders. And loving, supportive, involved parents. Our friends.
And they’ve made mistakes.
Potentially devastating mistakes.
And I look at you and I know that they are you—and you are them. You could have just as easily been the one: The one who sent the photo. The one who made a video. The one who was cutting herself. The one who thought about hurting herself.
And I feel enveloped in overwhelm.
Because these are not stories we heard on the news. These are our friends. Our loved ones. And my heart is hurting for them as much as it is for us—and this world we find ourselves in.
I’ve been afraid since November about the world we are handing to you. But here, in our own little part of the world, I am even more afraid.
I’m afraid that you won’t know how to tell the boy asking you for pictures, “Hell, no!”
I’m afraid that the pressure you feel might become too much for you to bear, and that you might not tell me.
I’m afraid that I haven’t taught you all I need to so that you feel enough self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth to not do anything that you know in your heart you don’t want to do.
So this is what I promise you, sweet girl:
1. Hard things are going to happen.
Hard, messy, uncomfortable, sucky things will happen. Even at 13 years old. Even to us. Not just our friends. But we will pull together as friends and family and hold each other up when the sucky stuff happens. And we will be the most supportive, loving village we can be for each other until those really sucky times have passed and we have helped each other move on.
2. I always want you to talk to me.
About all of the things. Not just the hard things. I want you to talk to me about anything and everything you want to talk to me about—the bath bombs you like at the mall, what frustrates you at school, how much you love to dance, and how stressed you’re feeling about your tests. And then I want you to talk to me about the hard things, too.
I promise to make it as easy as I can for you to approach me. You can talk to me quietly in the moment before going to school, in the evening after your brother has gone to bed, or even by text if you don’t know how to say it face-to-face. Or, if you need to, you can talk to one of our mom friends whom we trust. It doesn’t matter to me how you do it, only that you actually feel comfortable enough and safe enough to do it in the first place. Because I am your safe place, your home base. And nothing will ever change that.
3. I am doing the best I know how, in each and every moment.
Please know this from the bottom of my heart. Because even though I trust you implicitly, I will absolutely put a million controls and apps on your phone that help me protect you if I feel like I need to. And I will ask my mom friends to tell me if they ever hear that you aren’t making safe or smart choices. And I will, without blinking, put your safety and well-being above any desire I have for you to like me or the choices I am making in order to protect you. It’s my job as your mom.
4. I trust you implicitly.
Yes, I’m saying it again, because it bears repeating. Because it’s the rest of the world that scares the crap out of me.
5. And even though I trust you implicitly, you will make mistakes.
But we will also figure out how to get through them, what consequences there will be, and then how to move on from there. And I will love your guts through each and every moment of it.
Because nothing—nothing you ever tell me and no mistake you ever make—will ever change how much I love you, how proud I am of you, or the fact that I will always be in your corner.
And I hope you can say the same for me.
No matter how badly I screw up this motherhood thing.
Author: Christy Williams
Image: Carolynn Primeau/Flickr
Editor: Travis May