The other day I was lamenting the whole 13 year old thing. It was before the recent post about Middle School Madness had been published, and a whole different entry had sat in its place as a draft article. It was full of frustrations and negativity regarding my daughter who just wasn’t getting it. I was at my wit’s end with her, and still had no idea how to get past the current wall that we were battling – let alone any of the next thousand battles we were bound to go through in her teenage years.
On this particular day, my son had baseball practice. This means my daughter and I have an hour and a half to kill before we have to pick him up again. As tradition has it, I drop my daughter off at the bookstore and I take advantage of the extra free time by going for a run before joining her. When I got back from my run, I looked all over the bookstore but couldn’t find her. I figured she was upstairs, and headed that way. But a book on display right next to the stairs made me stop in my tracks. It was the latest Chicken Soup book: “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School: 101 Stories of Life, Love, and Learning for Younger Teens”, by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Madeline Clapps, and Valerie Howlett.
The timing of this discovery was incredibly ironic.
I opened it up and read the first story, a letter by A.C. Gaughen to her younger self. She had just received a letter from her 13 year old self to her 23 year old self, and was struck by her innocence back then. And it also brought her back to all those memories of what it was like to be 13, and what she would have loved to have been able to tell her younger self – giving her encouragement that things really do get better.
And just reading that brought me out of my adult world and catapulted me into my daughter’s 13 year old world – and my own 13 year old world that seems just like yesterday while also feeling so very far away. It helped me to see things from my daughter’s perspective and gave a bit more peace where peace was drastically needed.
I was also inspired to dust off all those archives from my former self, and think about what I would have loved to have told my 13 year old self.
Here are a few of the shareable pieces of advice:
1. The hot pink lip gloss looks pretty and shiny in the bottle. It does not look good on your lips. But since you love it, carry on. And you might as well try out the blue eye shadow. When you’re an adult and know better, you’ll only be stuck with boring neutrals so you don’t scare your officemates.
2. That boy you have been in love with since the 4th grade? You know, the one that doesn’t notice you? He’s not the only boy in school. In fact, you’re missing out on all the boys who are noticing you – the ones who would actually be more interested in what you say than how many friends you have.
3. I know you feel lost right now since your best friend just moved away. You’ll still know her for the rest of your life. And you’re about to be opened up to a whole bunch of new friendships you may not have had otherwise, some of which will remain really good friends in your adult years.
4. The internet is going to keep you in contact with just about everyone you’ve ever met in your entire life. That is both a good thing and a bad thing.
5. Pearl Jam comes out with a bunch more albums. But they never do anything better than “Ten”. Carry on listening to it over and over.
6. Yeah, all that reading in your room isn’t quite making you the most popular girl right now. But it is giving you a love for writing. In high school you’ll really come to terms with that passion. And it definitely pays off in your adult years.
7. Everyone in school is too concerned about their own flaws to really notice yours.
8. There will come a day when you won’t be jealous of your middle sister, but simply appreciate her for who she is – and appreciate YOU for who you are in the process.
9. Your youngest sister won’t always be getting into your stuff. In fact, she will one day have cooler toys than you do. You’ll be tempted to thumb through every time you visit her. And she’ll be way cooler about it than you ever were to her.
10. You know how your mom is always telling you she hopes you have a daughter just like you? It’s both a curse AND a blessing. You do. She looks just like you. And she’s absolutely gorgeous.
11. I know you’re embarrassed about it, but it’s kind of cute that you were so nervous after your first Jr. High dance that you threw up afterwards. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.
12. YOU ARE NOT FAT.
13. Start getting rid of some of those “sentimental” items you have holed up in a box under your bed. If you don’t, I’m going to end up moving them from house to house in a box because I can’t bear to get rid of them. At the same time, do NOT burn your old diaries. You’ll miss hearing your 13 year old voice when you have a hard time understanding your own 13 year old daughter.
If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say?
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