13 Thoughts for Ellie
13 is a big year. On this fact parents and children agree.
Thirteen is when every category of life is thrown into the Vitamix for a strong dose of change. Whether it's physical, emotional, or social turmoil, everyone needs to brace themselves up for the upheaval.
If you haven't been a helicopter parent, Year 13 is when you wonder if you made a mistake by not being ever-present; if you did enough to prepare your kid for their entrance into independence; if you should have used a stronger hand.
If you're like me, Year 13 is when you wonder if you'll lose your magic touch. Today my first-born, Ellie, makes the leap to Year 13, and I am thrilled about her character. Actually, what is BEYOND thrilled? Because that's more like what I am.
In fact, all of the good in her I wish were a more accessible part of myself.
She puts others first.
She's witty in ways I only dream about.
She has a natural sense of rhythm and mad skills for memorizing lyrics.
She is a pleaser who notices what makes others happy and seems to know the correct response instinctively.
She accepts people as she finds them and forgives easily.
In fact, she's so great I pray I won't screw her up. Seriously. I definitely have the capacity to screw her up and we can't have that.
I want to get out of the way of Ellie becoming her own person. To give her space to become exactly who she is meant to be.
I don't want to squash her spirit by over-managing her decisions, but I also don't want to turn her loose to a pack of wolves.
I know mean girls. I have a little insight into the minds of boys.
I KNOW the world is not safe for wandering middle-schoolers, and yet that's where she's heading.
Year 13 is bringing out the hyperbole in me.
But (you knew there was a "but" coming...), I think I have a few more days where she might appreciate some of my thoughts, so I offer them here hoping she can some day do an internet search for my wisdom. I know she won't ask me directly, which could break the code of teenagers universally ignoring their parents.
So I'll talk directly to my sweet Ellie at this point. Read along if you're interested, but know this is for her. Here's my swing at what to remember going into Year 13:
Few decisions you make will disappoint me, but if for some reason your food choices are comparable to what an average four-year-old eats, I will consider part of my parenting a failure.
Please, for the sake of my legacy, enjoy a variety of food.
While you're at it, read a variety of books, listen to an assortment of music, and watch a wide array of films. Try vacationing in new spots and have adventures in places you haven't heard of.
Do it for my sake.
Whatever you're facing is going to change.
You will face disappointments and heartaches which will feel overwhelming. Maybe not today, tomorrow, or this year, but soon. Whatever the hurt or challenge, it won't last. Listen to Taylor Swift's 15 again. This is the idea she's getting at. If you don't believe me, believe her (at least in this instance!).
Don't make other people's issue, your issue.
Remember that mean man at the gym who barked at you saying kids shouldn't be allowed on the expensive equipment? He was acting like a mean, angry, old man. Maybe he was having a bad day or maybe life has made him bitter. The temptation is to let people like that turn us into bitter, angry people. Don't give him, or anyone else that power.
When people are mean, don't respond in the way they deserve. When people are angry, don't respond in anger. When they are rude, don't be rude. Don't let others decide who you are going to be by giving them back what they deserve. You don't have to sink to that level.
You may hear someone say they are going to "give someone a taste of their own medicine." Well, unless that medicine is kindness, this is terrible advice. You are a kind, gentle soul with a huge heart. Guard your heart.
Practice your guitar.
You're doing so well kiddo!! Stick with it.
Cultivate relationships with grownups you trust and respect.
I know you're not always going to want to talk to me or Dad. I get that. But your peer group isn't going to be the best place for advice. You need to have friendships with adults whom you can trust. For us, this is why we value your small group leaders so much. Lean into those relationships. Take advantage of the fact that Ms. Sue loves shopping with you and Ms. Jessica loves to Just Dance with you. Embrace the friendships you develop with our friends.
If you can't (or won't) ask us for advice, tap into them.
Date and marry someone like your Dad.
I know you know this. We talk about how great Daddy is, but I want you to notice specific qualities and make sure you never settle for less. Pay attention to the way he treats me. Notice how he orders his priorities around his faith and his family. Do you see how he makes decisions which reflect his values? Of course you know he's fun, but he's also faithful, honest, and kind.
He is always, always kind.
Remember that when you date and marry.
Prioritize experiences over things.
Chances are you will always need less than you have. Don't collect stuff which needs to live in a home, be organized and maintained. Instead, create memories through experiences. We don't model this as much as we probably should, but you have an opportunity to show US how it's done!
Your money and your heart are linked. Wherever you spend your money, your affection follows. If you want to live a life without money worries, live generously. Prioritize your finances so you give first, save second, and then live on the rest. If you practice this habit, you'll avoid debt and live below your means and this, my dear, is freedom!
Rest & Play.
Life doesn't go well if you work all the time.
You will remember how I left A+E because I needed more "normal" and more margin. However, you'll probably be an adult before you realize exactly how radical it was to restructure my career at such a stage in my life. I hope you'll find courage in the experience and know how much better our life became when I started living from a place of rest and how I thrived when play was part of the routine.
Remember you are loved.
You are the daughter of a King. You are loved beyond measure. There is nothing you can do that will make you unworthy of love.
Period. Hard Stop.
Sure, there will be days you'll feel unlovable. There will be times you'll battle shame, but those times are passing. (Remember what I said above? Whatever you are facing is going to change.)
God has made only ONE you. You have a purpose in life which only you can fill. I can't wait to see what it is.
The safest place in the world to be is loving and following God. You consistently see evidence of this and already you understand; He loved you first and your best response is simply to reciprocate that love.
Just as important as loving God is loving others. You were not made to judge others. You are not responsible for anything other than how you respond to people. This means loving the unlovely and those who dislike you.
For a 13-year-old this may be the biggest challenge of all, but it's the marker of your heart.
Put down your phone.
THIS is the biggest challenge of all!
Don't spend your life with your face in the screen. Pay attention to people around you. Be engaged and present to those in front of you, in 3 dimensions... Right. Now.
I don't know how to tell you ways to manage your phone effectively, but I think it's purely a measure of practice and discipline. I'll be here to remind you :)
Happy Birthday, sweet one.