The list below is no doubt one of those "crazy mom" type things I swore I would never do. But I decided to start this list now, while my daughter, Celeste, is still an angelic toddler, so I have a reminder of how I want to raise her and what I need to remember about the mother/daughter dynamic.
One day, I will create a list for her twin brother that will be very much shaped by the notes below, but it was important for me to tackle a list for my daughter now because I feel our female bond getting so close. The lines blur at times because she is so dear to me and at this age needs me so much and wants to be like me (which is an aspect of parenting I never expected and am, to be frank, a bit uncomfortable with). I must remind myself that this is fleeting and that the bigger picture is guiding this teeny tiny little girl into a wonderful, responsible, and caring young woman.
1. We can't be best friends. We can be thick as thieves, but, no matter how badly I want it, it is important for both of our characters that I remain as the mom and you as my daughter. That hierarchy must be respected. Love and amazing memories together can and will be a part of our relationship, but a healthy respect for boundaries is critical.
2. You can do anything you put your mind to. As a female raising a female, I recognize the importance of this mission. I promise to help you push yourself and never doubt your capabilities. I won't let you sell yourself short. At times in my life I dumbed myself down a bit, and I regret it today. After you and your brother were born, I had an "aha" moment about this when I realized all of the infinite possibilities ahead of you and in the same moment thought about the proud history of my past—the varied and noble successes of my parents and grandparents. Those successes are threaded into your very fiber and are a reminder of all that you can do.
3. Manners matter. In order to raise you to be a polite young lady, I will try to lead by example every day—by the way I treat not only the people we meet but also the members of our family.
4. Your dreams should be just that—your dreams. I should never push my dreams onto a girl whose world is just beginning to open. You should discover your dreams on your own. I can coach and help you reach those dreams, but I shouldn't push my desires onto you.
5. Having responsibilities is important. Whether it's keeping your room organized and clean or doing homework, sometimes the most important lessons in life come from simply doing things independently and discovering that there are consequences for one's actions or inactions.
6. Turning 10 is a big deal. At the ripe old age of 10, memories are rich and the world is a vast wonder. If at all possible, I want to do something huge, like take you to New York City for your birthday. Whether you're a tomboy who will want to see the Yankees play or a princess who would melt for a fine tea at The Plaza, I want to take you to honor your first decade of life and show you the vastness and opportunity of the world before you.
7. Puberty is not easy. I will never forget the day a boy named Gabe made fun of me in class because of my hairy legs. I was so mortified. As your mother, I must be watchful of those awkward years, and guide and coach you through difficult situations whenever possible. I will try to do this in the least embarrassing way possible—quietly and privately.
8. Gossip is never okay. Remove yourself from cattiness whenever possible. Gossip will get you nowhere. It almost always leads to hurt feelings, and it will earn you a reputation as someone who cannot be trusted.
9. Music, art, and film are worth learning about. It is important that you not only appreciate pop culture but also have a rich knowledge of those who came before, from The Fab Four to The Beastie Boys and from Matisse to Basquiat. Knowing more than just a bit about the arts never hurt anyone.
10. I will trust you. It may seem odd and a bit negative to express this, but I know that this won't always be easy—especially during the teenage years. Nevertheless, until the trust is broken, I can't assume that things are going to go wrong. You will have the chance to make good choices, and I know that you will. For those times that you don't make the best decisions, I hope that you will be able to appreciate and learn from your mistakes. I will be there for you through thick and thin, but my role in these situations will be not just coach but also disciplinarian.
11. Poor grades mean no driving. This is an unbreakable rule that your dad and I agreed upon before you were born. You must be on the honor roll to drive in our household.
12. Kindness counts. Being a good, kind person and a loving friend who stays above the fray is always the best path. You must do your best not to lower yourself to anger or hate. If you feel those emotions coming on, it's time to exit the situation or friendship; walk away and be proud of your self-control and ability to make a good decision. (This might be the wisest lesson my mother ever taught me.)
13. I am focused on being your mom, not on being a "good mom" in others' eyes. When it comes to parenting, it is easy to make comparisons at basically every turn—comparing children to children, husband to husband, choices in mothering to others' choices. I imagine that to be infinitely exhausting and stressful. So, my darling, my focus is on you and your brother and how your dad and I can help you become the most fulfilled people you can be, unconditionally. Period.
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