An Open Letter To My Teenaged Stepdaughter
First off, I just want you to know how much I love you. It’s hard to explain to anyone who has never had a kid, what the love of a child feels like. Further, some people can’t really understand how a mom can love someone else’s child like their own. When I first met you, I admit, I didn’t understand it either. But here I am, your proud stepmom, and I love you more than I can put into words. I have a pretty good explanation for it now, though. It’s quite simple: you’re amazing.
You pick up things on the computer that elude me even though I’ve been fooling around with them since the mid-nineties. You breeze through a book faster than most adults I know, and you pick up on the things going on around you even when no one has explained them to you. One of the biggest signs of intelligence is a quick wit, and you know how hard you’ve made us laugh with some of the things you’ve said. You are one of the brightest kids I’ve ever known.
Not just outside, but in. You care for animals and you’re always up for a good cuddle on the couch. You feel intensely (remember the cabbie in Mexico?) and pick up on the emotions of everyone else around you. Truly empathetic, I think you were built to help people and I hope that you do one day.
Your Youtube videos are beyond even what I can do. Your drawings and your eye for colour, your personal style and the way you do your makeup. It’s all a sign that you not only have great taste, but you’ll be a trendsetter one day if you’re not already.
You’re gentle. You’re funny. You’re fun. You’re adventurous and you’re so great with your little brother. You don’t judge the differences in people: skin colour, sexuality, gender, nationality. You just see everyone as equal.
I could go on forever about the things I love about you. They are the things that make me miss you every day, as well. You are a special girl, who is going to turn into a stunning and brilliant woman and I am honoured to have been a part of that.
Now that you’re a teenager, I wanted to tell you some things that I wish I had known when I was your age. I know you probably won’t take them seriously, as I most likely would not have. I urge you to try, though. They are all truths for every single one of us.
1. School ends.
I hated school. I hated the people. I hated being around such empty-headed, shallow people who only cared about their clothes or the boy they were dating. I hated the teachers and the classes. I hated doing homework and presentations and group projects. I hated it all. I experienced bullying. I was the nerdy girl that was too shy to make very many friends. I wish I could go back to that girl and tell her: it ends. School ends and it’s only one small, tiny, sliver of your life. In the moment, it feels like it will take forever to end but eventually it does. Eventually, you look back and realize that the things that go on in middle school and high school are not going to matter in just a few short years, and worrying about them is nothing but a big waste of time. School ends and you get to make your life what you want it to be.
2. Worrying what other people think of you is a waste of time.
Check this out:
No matter how perfect your hair is, or how many professional makeup artists make you look perfect, or how talented you are, how much money you have, how beautiful you are in your photos, how fashionable your clothes are or how sweet you smell, you’re still going to get people who don’t like you. It happens to Katy Perry. It happens to Miley Cyrus. It happens to every single person on the entire planet. There is nothing you can do to avoid this. There will always be haters but the best revenge against them, honey, is not caring about what they think and loving who you are in spite of them.
3. People who hate are unhappy with themselves.
The smarter, more beautiful and more talented you are, the more you’re going to attract people who like to hate on you. It’s got nothing to do with you though, even when they say things that are so personal and hurt so much. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Sweetheart, I am not just saying this because I love you, but you are absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous. You’re gonna have some haters in your life and there is nothing you can do about it. They’re going to hate on you because they’re jealous. They’re going to hate on you because you’re tall and they are short. They’re going to hate on you because clothes look better on you than them. They’re going to hate on you because they wish they had your hair colour, or your eye colour or your skin tone. They’re going to hate on you because you’re clever, funny and your smile could bring down a stadium. They will hate on you for all the best things about you. They hate those things because it makes them think about how they don’t have them. They see something in you that they wish they had and it makes them upset that they don’t have it. That’s why they hate; that’s why they lash out. It’s not you. The best way to deal with these people is to take it as a compliment and ignore them.
5. Boys are also dominated by hormones.
It’s kinda like there’s an evil version of the boy, who has taken over control of his body without him knowing. He will act nice, and give you lots of compliments and tell you how much he cares for you, but sometimes they are not telling the truth. Sometimes, they are lying to you so that they can get more out of you. The best way to know whether or not he’s telling you the truth is to spend time with him just being friends, for a long time. If he really does care about you, he will stick around and be happy to just be your friend. Trust me, these types of boys are worth waiting for. They can light up your whole life.
6. You are still young, and you have your whole life ahead of you, but what you do now can affect how the rest of your life turns out.
Start to think about what you might be interested in after high school. You don’t have to make any decisions now, but if you have some kind of idea, you can make sure you’re getting what you need out of middle and high school while you’re still there. Your father, myself and many of my friends had to go back and take high school courses again to do the things we wanted to do – but when you go back to do it in college, you have to pay for it. It’s not free anymore. So, try to keep in mind what you might want to do when you leave school, find out what the requirements are and make sure you’re meeting those while you’re still in middle and high school so you don’t have to go back and pay for it a second time around.
7. Don’t believe anyone on the internet unless you have met them in person.
Don’t let them phone you or text you – not even with Kik. Don’t meet them anywhere. I’m not stupid enough to believe that you’re going to stay away from talking to people online. I know that me, your mom, your dad and your aunt can all tell you not to chat with strangers but the likelihood is that you may. So, if that happens and you meet someone on the internet who you have been talking to for a very long time and who you feel you have a connection with, let an adult know. I promise you I will be reasonable and listen to you, but I will also get all Nev Schulman on their asses and ask to video chat – with an adult present. When we determine that the person you’ve been speaking with is in fact a kid around your age, we’ll let you have your time with him or her.
8. Don’t post questionable pictures of yourself online.
Once something is on the internet, it’s impossible to take down. One day, you’re going to be an adult and you’re going to be looking for a job. When your dad gets resumes, the very first thing he does is Google the person. If there are pictures of that applicant doing things that are questionable, your dad throws the resume away. I have always done the same when I have been in hiring positions. You also know the story of Amanda Todd. I know it has stayed with you for a while and it matters to you. While the things that happened to her are not her fault, you can be sure to avoid stuff like that by just not sending anyone pictures of yourself that you don’t want the entire world to see.
9. Don’t believe everything you hear or read.
Consider the source of what you’re reading or hearing. Does the person telling you this stuff have something to gain if lots of people believe them? Especially money? Fame? Power? Some people do a really great job of fooling the world, but they are still liars. Here’s just one example:
Sometimes, people like this hurt others. There was a psychic once, Sylvia Brown, who told the mother and father of a missing boy that their son was dead. So, they stopped looking for him. A long time later, he was found alive with the man who abducted him. If they had kept looking, would they have found him sooner? And what if the abductor had killed him after they stopped looking? Sylvia Brown had offered the family some help finding their son’s body who wasn’t even dead, so long as they paid her money. Here’s a little clip about it:
Protect yourself from being hurt by people like this by questioning everything everyone tells you. Even me.
10. Stand up for the things you want.
You’re not going to be 13 forever and you’re not going to be a teenager forever. It goes by really quickly – if you don’t stand up for the things you want now, you might not be able to have them ever. Don’t let other people tell you what you should want. Don’t let other people change your mind when it’s something really important to you. Even if other people don’t think it should be important to you, that’s simply not for them to decide. You are the only one who gets to decide who you are and what is important to you and there are zero wrong answers to that.
11. Stay close to those who will go to bat for you.
The people who will step into the ring and take a punch for you (me, your dad, your mom, your aunt, your sister, your brother, your dog) are the people who will be around the longest. They will be there when you need help. They will cheer you on when you’re accomplishing things. This is your support group; the people who are your biggest fans. Friends come and go (even best friends), boyfriends come and go, neighbours come and go… but your family will always be there. Stay close. We got your back.
12. Talk to us.
There is literally nothing you could tell us that would shock us or that would make us love you any less. I was once a teenager and I would be willing to bet that I’ve done just about every stupid thing you can think of. No matter what you say, we are on your side. We will listen, and we will not judge. This is a lifelong promise.
13. Never, ever let yourself be too afraid to say no.
Not saying no when you want to can lead to some very scary, very real situations that you can’t reverse. If someone stops liking you or stops wanting to be your friend because you’ve said no to doing something that makes you uncomfortable, they were never your real friend in the first place. A real friend will want you to be happy. A real friend would never pressure you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. A person worth keeping in your life will respect the fact that you’ve said no and love you just the same.
I know life is weird right now. Everyone around you is changing and you’re being given more responsibility and expected to understand more. I know that for some teens, the changes you’re experiencing are exciting, but for others, leaving childhood behind is sad and emotional. Both experiences are just as valid as the other and you have every right to feel unsure, worried, excited, optimistic or even scared. There is no wrong way to grow up. Just be true to yourself even if it means cutting some people loose along the way.
I just want you to remember one thing that’s kinda cool about a stepmom: I chose you. I chose to be part of your life. I did not have to be. I chose to get involved and to spend time with you and get to know you. I didn’t have to do that. I chose to throw you birthday parties and take you shopping and stay up until 3 in the morning watching crappy movies with you. I have chosen all of this, and I chose it not just because I love your dad, but also because I love you. I knew there was something special about you the moment I met you and I knew I wanted to be part of it. I’m so glad I did, my favourite girl in the world, I am so effing glad I did. You have changed me and helped me grow and added immense meaning to my life. If there is just one thing that you take away from this today, it’s that you’re worth more than anything on earth. You’re worth fighting for, you’re worth protecting, you’re worth loving. Especially, and I cannot emphasize this enough, especially by you. Love yourself. Protect yourself. Stand up for yourself. You are worth it.
All my love, forever,