Dear Daughter,

Happy Sweet 16!

My sweet girl, you’ve just reached a milestone in the midst of a pandemic and you’re holding strong. This is your first week back in the school building full-time since March. It’s a difficult adjustment and I get it. I don’t know how you are wearing that mask all day, but I commend you for it. Please know that I am so proud of you. You and your friends have adapted well. You are strong and resilient. I see how it has stressed you, but soon it will be better.

Among bright balloons, a dreamy pink cake, and pizza for just three lay a scribbled list of suggestions for you to navigate these formative high school years. Sweet 16 should be a glittery themed bash with all your girlfriends, loud, crazy, and fun. Some Sweet 16 parties surpass wedding and shower ideas. I didn’t need to throw you a party so excessive, but I did always have a party planned for you. I’m sorry, sweet girl. Sharing this birthday with your two besties was probably more of a treat anyway.

There have been many cancellations, postponements, and missed events lately. But this won’t be forever.

You’re doing a great job! You have already done more than most. I want you to know that these years are for learning about yourself, discovering what you like, finding what your skills and interests are, and learning what direction you think you want to go. My hope is for these years, despite the pandemic, to be enlightening and purposeful, but most importantly, I hope they still create memories full of learning, laughter, and fun.

Here is my motherly advice for you:

Smile Often

Even with your mask on, a smile can be detected. Your eyes will scrunch and twinkle. Be conscious of this. Without a soft smile, we all look unapproachable.

Be Kind Always

High school is the arena of cliques and can be really scary. You will find your people. You will naturally gravitate to girls who are just like you, with interests, ideas, goals, and dreams similar to yours. You don’t have to be friends with every group, but do be kind to everyone. Be kind to classmates outside of your group.

Get Involved

Be a part of something. Join a club, play a sport, lead a  committee, sing, cheer, play an instrument. You will never regret being a part of something. You will learn skills applicable to life and gain experiences that may direct you toward a career.

Study Hard

Academics come first. Before any game, party, social dance, date, or job, school work and grades take priority. It is your one focus at this time in your life. Study hard, do your best, sit in the front, participate, ask questions. Let your teachers know who you are and that you care. And ALWAYS do the extra credit!

Learn To Multitask

Your studies are the priority and should be taken seriously, but not too seriously. You will do your best in the most challenging classes for you. You will learn responsibility, organization, priorities, and deadlines, as well as communication skills. Learn to juggle. Time for homework, sports, clubs, and friends must be managed. You will be juggling things for the rest of your life. Learn how in high school.

Expect Adversity

It is the first of many permanent records. Your demeanor, behavior, GPA, attendance, truancy, and effort all matter. You will be challenged and disappointed many times. Friends will disappoint you. You will have to learn from rap these setbacks. How you handle them defines your character. You can build courage, confidence, and resilience by learning how to handle challenges.

Follow Your Heart

Make happy memories my sweet girl. Follow your heart and engage, discover, laugh, and learn; and remember, there are many remarkable, extraordinary, crazy, zany, earth-shattering, themed celebrations and parties to come.

Elizabeth Dardes

Elizabeth is a college writing instructor and freelance writer living near the beach in South Carolina. She is mom to two young adult sons and a teenage daughter. You can find her on FB and Instagram.