I thought I’d write a letter to my 23 year old daughter on International Women’s Day to offer her some sage advice from an older, wiser woman who has been round the block a few times and got the scars, the wrinkly skin and the snaggle-teeth to prove it.
That was until she told me to stop talking with my mouth full (TWICE!) last night after I had bothered to cook her supper. She even noted that it was something I had told all three of my children not to do whilst growing up, so how could I possibly be doing it myself now?
How the roles have reversed.
To be honest, I’m not sure I have anything to offer her that I wouldn’t say to my two boys as well…but I guess the difference is that they will turn to other women in their lives for advice and support and love – the WAGS and of course the other difference is that it’s not International Men’s Day so I’ll save my proferred wisdom to them for then (which they of course won’t read).
Despite being painfully aware that children don’t generally listen to their mother’s advice and that in general us oldies don’t have that much to offer the Millennials and Noughties in terms of how they should live their lives because things are moving on apace and we can barely keep up, I’m still going to give it a go….
Thanks to my parents for giving me a horrendous haircut and putting me in awful clothes – my daughter is an improvement I feel, but here we both are at around the same age:-
First of all, it goes without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) that you have already turned out to be an incredible young woman with so much to offer the world. I am very proud of your take on the world and the loyalty you offer to your friends and family. Holding your friends close is an important part of being a woman. You will need each other on your life journey, so don’t let them go too far. They will fly in and out of your life at various times depending on what else is going on for them. That’s fine. You will do the same.
“Live, Laugh, Love” has always been my motto and it applies to your life too.
You will need to forge your own pathways that are rarely straight, but the key thing is to stay alive, be safe, stop worrying me when you’re on a night out, don’t injure yourself again when you are skiing next week, laugh a lot and love life and everything and everyone in it (well maybe not everyone, but a choice few as well as all the strangers you meet on the train and along the street too – walk in their shoes as often as you can and be generous of spirit on a Monday morning). Try not to judge. Everyone is doing things for a reason if you bother to find out what they are.
Remain true to yourself, but be flexible sometimes so that you can bend a little in the wind, like bamboo when required.
Be happy and enjoy the ride, whether it’s a rollercoaster moment or a roundabout moment – you need to have a bit of both.
Find out what it is that you love and do more of it.
Don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t worry too much, life can be messy, so go with the flow (although it might be good to occasionally tidy your room).
Stay relaxed and never stop believing in truth, grace and kindness. Even when sometimes you might be let down by other people.
Find a way to keep some independence even when you decide you want to share everything with someone else. But fear not, I will keep a running away fund for you all, if and when you need it.
Keep doing stuff and hanging out with friends. Be interested in everyone and everything. Expand your mind. Keep learning. READ. Try and have close male and female friends of all ages, young and old. Age is so irrelevant in life, it’s an open mind and humour that keeps you ageless.
Be brave. Stand up for what you believe in. Stick to your morals. Listen to your heart. Be a racing driver if you still want to be (although, maybe not, it’s too dangerous and I’d be forever worried about you):-
Or maybe you could try and sort the horrendous knife crime out that we are currently dealing with, that would be an urgent thing to do.
It’s OK to make mistakes, it’s how you deal with them that matters.
It is entirely possible to have it all if that’s what you want, but don’t expect to enjoy it all as well because that’s asking too much….maybe you need to choose what’s best for you, find a job you can put on hold for a few years down the line so that you can focus on the bits you want to if necessary. If you want children, don’t take getting pregnant for granted and leave it too late. If you have children enjoy spending time with them because they grow up in a split second and then cost you a lot of money in wine.
Don’t always take the easy path in life, very often it’s the more difficult road that’s the one you should attempt to walk, skip, jump, fly, stumble, fall, get back up along.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Touch. Feel. Reveal. Be vulnerable and scared sometimes. That’s fine too.
Learn to sit with yourself and be comfortable in your own beautiful skin. Enjoy your own company. When you know yourself well it’s a good time to find someone to share your life with who you love and who loves you, understands you and compliments you. It takes a lot to know a person. To understand the man and at the same time the boy he once was, who still needs to be held sometimes. The father and the son. Help men understand you too. The woman and the girl. Say what you think. Communicate. Discuss. Argue. Make up. Be totally honest with yourself and then find a way to gently impart that information. It’s the only way to move forward in a relationship and avoid losing your own voice. Learn to compromise when required. Yes, I am also talking about the sex. It’s really time they added “It’s All About The Clitoris” to the sex education classes in schools (ask me privately if you need to know more!) Ultimately look for the one who makes you laugh and holds your hair up when you are sick.
Failure is part of life’s rich tapestry and dealing with it by picking yourself up and dusting yourself off helps you grow into a more rounded person. It also invariably ends up looking more like success than failure over time.
Enjoy life’s pleasures; food, wine, sex – but not to excess and generally the key is to allow it all to feel good, but not out of your control. Don’t think too much about it all – your body is good at telling you when it doesn’t like something. Don’t mix your drinks on a night out or drink too much wine in the pub (I really should follow my own advice sometimes). I don’t even know what to say about the drug culture we now live in. I don’t understand it and it scares me. It would be naive to simply say “don’t do drugs” because they are a major part of how some people socialise and play an important role at mass cultural moments like festivals and you can’t put a price on connection and bonding, BUT don’t just follow the crowd, be realistic and obviously avoid if possible and keep your wits about you. Despite the world being a generally friendly place, when you’re out at night, the same walking in everyone’s shoes that I mentioned early DOES NOT apply and should not be taken literally (like your uncle sometimes does). Don’t go off with strangers, keep the rule “no one gets left behind” with your friends and always be careful getting home (and don’t forget to text your mum if you decide to stay at a friend’s house at the last minute).
Avoid the idea that the elixir of youth is something to be chased. It’s not. You have the ideal body for your own dance. Don’t mess with it. Exercise it obviously. Find stuff you enjoy that strengthens the body and don’t forget to do your pelvic floor exercises. You will thank me for that reminder when you’re old. Money spent on moisturiser is good, but money spent on surgery is not required. No one cares. Then again, if there’s something, just one thing that can be changed, then maybe it’s worth it – because choosing to have my ears pinned back when I was 16 made all the difference to my confidence (and hair styles) – just don’t let it become an obsession.
The same applies to social media. Enjoy the benefits of the connections you can now make, but don’t get carried away. Non-verbal communication and being in the moment is essential. Selfies are boring after a while. In the long run, who is going to care about all that effort required for the perfect photograph? Time can be better spent elsewhere.
Stop stealing my clothes. Although I know that when you finally move out of home I will miss knowing where my jumpers can be found and that the mascara is still in the same place.
Know that you are truly loved and that I will always be here for you and I will carry you on my shoulders whenever you need me to.
Big love on International Women’s Day to you and every other woman out there and for all the amazing men in their lives too.
Life is quite simple really.
Just be kind to each other and the rest will hopefully work itself out along the messy old way.