A Letter to My Daughter: 13 Years, 13 Things

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13 yearsHi Girl,

In a year with so much angst and turmoil, one positive thing was wrapping up the year with a milestone birthday for you! You turned 13! Three years ago, when your brother turned 13, I wrote him a letter. I couldn’t wait to do the same for you, and just like “THAT,” here we are. I’d love to share some thoughts and observations and maybe a little advice with you too.

1. This is new for both of us. 

Although I have been a 13-year-old girl before, I’ve never been you and I vow to remember this. On the flip side, I’ve never been the parent of a 13-year-old daughter before. Let’s make a deal to cut each other some slack here.  

2. You need space, privacy, and freedom.

You may need it much more than I did at your age. I’ve referred to you as “my magnet” for so long, so this change seems like it happened overnight! I’m in awe of your independent streak, of which you should be proud. That said, let’s not forget that you have a long way to go, and I’m going to barge in if I see something go awry.

3. I LOVE the 80s! 

I’d love to take the credit as the one who lured you into 80s music, but admittedly the bigger influence was Stranger Things. Thank you for tolerating my repetitive stories of certain songs, like Papa Don’t Preach, Born in the USA, and anything George Michael. I’m a little scared that you are working to dethrone my “guessing the song” title, but it is so much fun sharing this common love of music with you. If only Amazon Alexa knew as much as we do. 

4. There are a few reasons why I ask “so many” questions.

First, my most important role in this motherhood thing is to protect you. Second, I truly value your opinion. Lastly, I want to get to know “you” as “you,” not just as my daughter. 

5. Be careful of the quiet ones!

Meaningless chatter is certainly not your thing! Know that silence makes others feel uncomfortable, which is their issue, not yours. Hidden talents may go unnoticed because quieter folks fall under the radar. Because I’ve been penned as the “quiet one” myself, I will share that unfortunately there have been times when I have had to work a little harder to prove my value. But please, never change who you are for someone. You will do great things as “you” and if others cannot see your value, it is their loss. 

6. Never exclude others.

Some girls are natural includers. Those who are comfortable in different situations, new people, and easily bring others into their fold. You are not one of them. It’s just not who you are, and that is okay. Yet, I will preach to you to never be an excluder. There is a difference. Do not knowingly or purposely exclude others. You may never be the first to say, “let’s ask so-n-so,” but please never be the girl who says, “do not ask so-n-so.”  

7. Making good decisions is a skill that is never completely honed. 

It is often trial and error. The simple advice I can give is to think before you act and be careful. Some decisions can be fixed or overturned, whereas others cannot. Own up to any poor decisions, learn from them, and vow to do better next time. The adage of learning from mistakes is a good one!

8. The written word gets around.

Be careful of unfriendly documentation! What you put in writing, whether it is in text, email, social media, etc., can easily be shared with others. It has all the potential in the world to get back to someone, causing unnecessary hurt, gossip, and drama. 

9. As you progress into your teenage years, you will turn to friends more and more for advice.

It’s wonderful to have good friends and a solid support system. Alternatively, there are times when you will need an adult, whether it is your father or me, another relative, a teacher, etc., do not be hesitant to ask for help. Feelings can be icky. However, talking about them is quite freeing. Realize that you are never alone and never need to stay silent about anything on your mind. 

10. Confidence can be hard to come by, especially at this age.

The softball gods stripped you of some of your confidence. People think I’m crazy, but I will stand by this until I am blue in the face. I saw it happen with my own eyes, touched the tears with my hands, and listened to your words with my own ears. Their words and actions led you to believe that you are not good enough and I’m so sorry that I could not mend the situation. You went from a girl who excitedly watched the Women’s College Playoffs and World Series and one who wanted to purchase her own catcher’s equipment to someone on the verge of quitting the sport. I encourage you to get their voices out of your head. Of course, this advice goes well beyond the game. DO NOT let others dictate your wants and desires. It’s so easy to focus on weaknesses, especially those perceived by others. Flip that around and focus on your strengths, of which you have so many.  

11. Change is never easy, but sometimes necessary.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in changes, cancellations, and much flexibility. While not always easy, you adapted often and quickly to challenges beyond your control. Social interactions became limited, and even FaceTime and online gaming got old! Some friendships faded a bit, and I know this was hard for you. Google Meets are far from your fave, but I’m proud of how you’ve responded to this new way of learning. Even though I’m not a fan of being an on-call lunch and snack lady, I love having you here and am privileged to share some extra time with you.  

12. Mama Mia!

As you know, the name Mia first struck me as I was in a doctor’s office reception area. The receptionist was calling patients to confirm appointments. Her speech was “This is Mia calling to confirm your appointment at..,” over and over again. What a pretty name!  At that moment, I decided that if I were ever to be lucky enough to have a daughter, her name would be Mia. As it turns out, you are named after my grandfather whose first name started with an M. Lastly, is something I didn’t even realize until way after you were born. Your name is “in” mine. (Oh and a 3-letter first name meshes well with our 10-letter surname!).

13. Be more receptive to your grandparents and close family.

Trust me. It’s worth it. 

Plus one for good luck! I believe in you.

Even when you might not believe in yourself, it’s fascinating to observe who you are becoming, see you advocate for yourself, and learn life lessons. You don’t have to have all the answers now. Actually, let me clarify, “you shouldn’t” have all the answers now.  Always keep finding yourself. There’s no deadline. 

There is so much fun to be had and a sense of freedom, but teenagering can be a rough road. You’ll wonder why everyone else seems to be having it easier than you. I assure you they are not. The amount of insecurity at this age can be staggering. I wish I could take away all of the pain, awkwardness, and uncomfortable feelings. The best I can do is be here for you. And I will always be no matter what. No judgment.    

Every milestone you reach is a milestone for me too. If I get mushy or overexcited, it’s truly because I adore the heck out of you. As the saying goes, you’ll always be my baby; therefore, forgive me if you have to remind me now and again that you aren’t “a baby.”   

You never cease to bring love, laughter, and so many smiles into our lives. You have more strength than you know. Know when to accept a compliment or kudos for a job well done.  You deserve it. Always be true to yourself, and all the puzzle pieces will fall into the perfect places. I promise.  

Thirteen. 13.  The Big 1-3. Welcome to teenage-hood, my love. You got this—big time.

Love, Mom

PS – I love you more. I win.

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Melissa Jacobowitz is a Bronx native who moved to Westchester County after she and her high school sweetheart got hitched in 1997. She and her husband live in Mount Kisco with their son Corey (b 2004) and daughter Mia (b 2007). Melissa spent many years working in Human Resources and currently works in enrollment and marketing for a child care organization. Melissa is a two-time survivor of Postpartum OCD. Melissa initially became interested in writing to raise awareness for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but has discovered that writing is a newfound aspect of her life that she thoroughly enjoys. She was also a contributing writer with Suburban Misfit Mom and you can find her stories at http://suburbanmisfitmom.com/writer/melissa-jacobowitz/ Melissa is also a featured writer in the book “A Dark Secret,” which is a compilation of where 15 women share their stories of maternal mental illness from diagnosis to recovery. Melissa is excited to write with the Westchester County Mom team and hopes that you’ll enjoy her stories of the trials and tribulations of a born-n-raised city girl raising a teenagers growing up here in Westchester.