Friday, February 15, 2008
Letter to a 12 year old.
Over at Big Fat Blog, a 14 year old posted a question the essence of which was:

What’ll it take for me to love my reflection?
‘Cause everytime I say to myself “You’re beautiful” it feels like a lie…

How do you do it? How can you just totally accept yourself exactly the way you are! What your secret? Will you share it with me?

It got me thinking. A lot. What would I say to my sweet and rowdy niece if she asks a similar questions when she is 12 or 14? Here is what I came up with:

Dear Mia;

Your mom and dad think you are beautiful but I know that doesn't mean much because they're supposed to say that, they are your parents. Just so you know, not all parents think their children are beautiful and not all parents tell their children that.

Also, part of the reason that your parents think you are beautiful is because you are. I don't even know what you look like right now (it being 10.5 years until you are 12) but your beauty for them (and for me) doesn't just come from your skin or your hair or your size, whatever they may look like. Beauty comes from the person you are. Are you a good person? Do you care about people? Do you treat people with respect? Do you have fun? Do you make people laugh? These things make you beautiful.

You may say, well, Aunt Faith, that is all well and good, but I don't think I'm pretty. Or people at school make fun of me. Here are some things I wish someone had told me:
  • Jr. high school sucks. Don't let anyone tell you that it's the best time in your life because it isn't.
  • Kids can be really mean. I know it and your parents know it and if your teachers don't know it they're lying.
  • All kinds of shit is going on with your body and your hormones which makes it really hard to get any kind of a grip on your mood and your feelings.
  • Having a boyfriend isn't nearly as important as anyone makes it out to be. You're gonna get kissed. I have no worries about that but if you live your life to get some boy, you're not living life for yourself.
  • The beauty industry makes a ton of money off of you feeling bad about the way you look. Don't let them.
  • Be bold. Be brave. Try things just because. Get your mom to do something she'd never do. Get your dad to step out of his routine. Make noise, be dramatic, say what you think.
  • Earn respect and then expect respect. If you earn it, you have every right to it.
  • Focusing on yourself - on what you want in your life - will make you happier than any amount of popularity. If you love soccer and want to play professionally or if you love designing and want to be a designer or if you love writing or science or art or literature, focus on that. It will make you happier than anything else. Also, you'll find other people that love the same things you do and it won't matter to you what they look like and vice versa.
  • Read. Read a lot. Read all kinds of things. Ask me for some recommendations.
  • Ask questions. A lot of questions. Smart questions, stupid questions, just ask. Don't just accept the answers. Sometimes, the answer is wrong. Also, the more questions you ask, the more you'll realize that kids are sometimes smarter than adults and you'll learn answers to things you didn't even know there were questions for.
  • Being cute doesn't last forever, being smart or funny or witty lasts a long time and gets you a lot further in the end. Also, being cute is a lot of work.
  • You just need to make it through Jr. High and high school. That's all. Bonus points if you have some fun. The rest of your life starts after that. Get good grades, be an ethical person, find good friends, nothing else really matters.

I love you. I will never stop loving you. If you ask me questions I will always try to find the answers with you and if we can't find the answers together, we'll get someone else to help.

Love,

Aunt Faith

Man, I wish I'd had me when I was 12. Or the internet. That would have been good too.

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17 Comments:

Blogger Sara said...

I wish I had a you when I was 12, too. But I'm glad I have a you now. I hope Vivian has someone to tell her those things, too. I could tell her, but I'm just her mom, and when she's 12, she may not listen to me all that much.

Blogger Lynn said...

Faith, you're a rockin' aunt.

Blogger Allison said...

That is probably the most brilliant thing I've read in ages, because it's true! I am going to tell everyone I know (especially those with little girls) about this post. xo

Blogger Deborah said...

It makes me proud to say that most of that I have been pounding into my girls' heads since they were about 12. I think they believe(d) it for the most part.

Blogger Jackietex said...

Oh my gosh! I havea two daughters, 17 and 13, I just read it to one of them but I'm going to print it out and keep it for them to read again and again. I am going to pass it on to my friends with daughters and/or nieces. Thank you, thank you!

Blogger Viva Scrapper! said...

I wish someone had told me "Look, ones popularity in jr. high means absolutley Jack Squat in the real world so don't even worry what people think about you" when I was a child....oh well

Blogger Susan said...

I'm going to save this for my daughter (now 10) and share it with my son (12). There's great advice for boys in here too!

Blogger Marg B said...

Great post! You are the aunt every kid needs.

Blogger thepaintedsheep said...

That was perfect. I wish someone had told me those things when I was 12. I'm printing and saving it for my 22 month old niece. Thank you for your wise words!

Blogger Eileen said...

Lovely, just lovely.

Blogger Orangeblossoms said...

lucky girl, that Mia....

Blogger K8 said...

Really perfect. I wish things like that were said more to 12 year old girls than what they hear now.

Blogger Frank said...

Man, I wish I'd had you when I was 12 and then again when I was 14, and then again when I was 21!

Blogger Melissa said...

I just sent a link to this to my 14 year old, and told her this is what I'd be telling her if I was eloquent at all... this is lovely.

Blogger Susan said...

I want to remember that for my nieces and my daughter. My parents said a lot of that, but not all, and not in such a beautifully frank way. I love your writing, Faith. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Blogger shadylady1216 said...

I've only stumbled on you a couple of times from Crazy Aunt Purl, but I feel compelled to comment. I hope I can figure out how to do this! I have a teenaged girl,and to be a teenaged girl is, by definition, to be blind to your own beauty. Just because your parents tell you you're beautiful, doesn't mean that you're not. My children always discount my compliments, but I always tell them that "All mothers are biased, but some of us are right and I'm one of them."

Blogger Meghan said...

Brilliant. Truly.

I need to print that out to give to my daughter in 12 years (and a couple months). Because, you know, the internet might implode before then.

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