OK, dear daughter. Bring it in. Time for a halftime pep talk.

Soon, you’ll be turning 9. I know. I can’t believe it either, but your birth certificate doesn’t lie even if I haven’t aged a day past 35.

We are at the halfway point of this “raising” you thing. We’ve been pretty focused on just keeping you alive up until now, teaching you the basics of how to get through this thing called life.

You’ve learned some pretty important stuff in the process. Like how you smell is important, so take a shower at least every other day — and always assume you have morning breath. Or eating a rainbow does not necessarily mean a pack of skittles, although sometimes that is an acceptable lunch alternative. Or nothing good ever comes from sticking anything up your nose…or your sisters’ noses. Or in their ears.

You’ve also learned some pretty important life skills, such as learning to help your friends who struggle in the classroom. Playing on a team can be fun even if you sometimes lose. And perseverance and hard work pay off, especially when trying to learn the elusive cartwheel that took years for you to master.

We’ve made a great team and rocked this first half of your life, but we only have nine short years left before I’m no longer your coach, before you take this game on all on your own. I’ll always be there for you, but before you know it, you’ll be flying out of the nest just like those other baby birds.

In this next half, you’ll have to make more play calls by yourself, and there are going to be a lot of distractions. Girlfriends, boyfriends (ack!), cell phones, social media, hormones and so many other things will ring loudly in your ears. It is going to be tough to hear me — and sometimes you’re not going to listen — but I’ll never stop trying.

Although other moms have warned me that the second half is hard — perhaps the hardest — part of having a daughter, I think we’re ready to tackle it. Like any good coach, I’ve got a game plan, and I know what worked in the first half — no matter how great we did together — probably won’t work in the next.

So, as we move into this second half, here’s what I want you to know:

1. Your decisions are important. One decision can change the trajectory of your life. It takes courage to decide you are not ready for something, and courage to decide to make yourself vulnerable and try something new. Always be courageous.

2. Maintain your digital privacy. If you would not walk into the lunchroom and shout it out, don’t ever text or share it on social media. Your “friends” list will not adhere to the same standards of discretion about your life as you expect, particularly when hitting the forward button is so simple. And never hit send on an email before double checking who is in the “to” field. Trust me.

3. Use the right measurements. Life is not measured in the amount of likes you get on Instagram, numbers on a scale or even your GPA. And there isn’t a “thing” you can buy with the money you make that can fill a void in your soul. Always remember that life is about the impact you have on others, so work on building your brain and growing your heart, and the rest will fall into place.

4. Always believe the best in people. Girls can be mean. Well, really, people can be mean. There will be a million times when someone says something or does something or you are told about something that rips your heart to shreds. Give that person the benefit of the doubt, and then offer them grace — because when this stuff happens, it is not about you, sweet girl. It says infinitely more about them.

5. Use your voice. Never sit idly by while someone else is being treated poorly. Period.

6. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. I often feel that all those cheesy sitcoms on the Disney channel have watered down your brain cells, but this is one lesson they constantly show that I hope has resonated with you. It feels good to fit in and it feels good to be liked, but you will find that being accepted only when you are pretending to be something you’re not is an exhausting, unfulfilling experience. And if I ever catch you acting dumb or helpless to attract a boy, I will ground you. Just kidding (not kidding.)

7. Take charge of your own happiness. No one can make you happy. It is a choice you have to make and it is hard. Trying to fill a void in your life with a person — or with another tangible such as food, alcohol, drugs, etc. is a lost cause. Find out what makes you the happiest, and then do that. A lot.

8. Never diss your sisters or your girlfriends. You need them more than you know.

9. You are enough, exactly as you are. At a minimum of 50 times each day, you will be told you are inadequate, and Photoshop will change what you think is normal. You will feel that your teeth are not white enough. Your hair is too flat. Your boots are cheap. Your thighs touch. Your makeup is wrong. Your voice is too high. Your face is too thin. Your boobs are too big. I wish I could say it gets better, but it doesn’t. Do not let these feelings break your spirit and fight against the urge to conform. Love yourself for who you are in this exact moment, because you are perfect. This is a lesson that most of us learn after having kids, but I’m letting you in on it now. You are a gift to this world, and if you ever forget, just ask. I know I’m just your mom, but I have a long list of compelling reasons why you are awesome.

10. The best is yet to come. The next nine years will have a lot of highs and lows, but rest assured that no one wants to peak in high school, and you have the best that life has to offer sitting before you. And as it becomes less often that you reach back to grab my hand or beg me to lay with you for just five more minutes, or think I’m the smartest person in the whole wide world, I’ll always be there for you — even when I let you fall before raising you back up.

Happy 9th birthday to my baby. Thanks for bringing out the best in me.

This article originally appeared at Huff Post.

You may also like: She’s Slipping Through My Fingers

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Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site parentingteensandtweens.com You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.

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