We have 4 kids, but only one of them is a girl. As I’m watching my oldest coast through his days of early high school, I can’t help by wonder how my daughter (now 8) is going to handle things. My sweet girl who will get so upset at seemingly tiny inconveniences that she completely shuts down, who can deliver a perfectly-timed insult more skillfully than most adults I know, who still refuses to eat “broken food” (or 90% of the the food I cook anyway), who screams like someone is sawing off a limb if any of her brothers crosses the threshold of her room or bathroom (neither of which she actually uses herself by the way), and who will shamelessly proclaim her daddy to be her favorite parent. I love her more than life itself but I can’t help but wonder how her personality will react once a barrage of hormones enters into the equation.
Well, considering I’m the “OG” of big feelings in our family, I imagine it will be something like the dumpster fire that was my early teenage experience. But I’m determined to make this transition as smooth as possible (for us all) so that got me thinking: if I could go back in time and give my high school self any advice, what would it be?
1. DON’T PICK AT ZITS. I was the picking queen in high school! My particular skill set included: finding a tiny area of skin that may or may not be slightly raised. It could be a tiny scratch or even a bug bite, but I would convince myself it was a microscopic pimple in its embryonic stage that had to be destroyed. I would try to pop it over the course of several days, although nothing would come out. After enough time had passed, the bacteria from my hands would turn it into a real life zit. Suddenly horrified at my misfortune to have such bad skin, I would carefully apply concealer until I had formed the perfect little clay volcano on my forehead. Then I would dab at the clear fluid that would slowly erupt, and when it was finally dry enough I would top it off with some powder and pray that somehow no one would notice my new friend. Then I would take a solemn vow to myself to never ever pick at my face again! But sure enough, a few days later, I would make the mistake of looking in my mom’s magnifying mirror and the vicious cycle would begin again.
2. DON’T DYE YOUR HAIR OUT OF A BOX. My hair in high school looked like I dipped my head in a container of bleach and let it soak there for a few days. On top of that, my skin had a natural translucent quality that made me look like a vampire. It’s not a good look when people can’t tell where your skin ends and your hair begins! On that fateful summer day when I thought it would be a great idea to put “sun in” in my hair, I had no idea that I was committing to a life of coloring my hair. Even when I got smart and started having it professionally done, it took years to get all the box color out. So stick to non-permanent hair changes like butterfly clips, zig zag parts, and crimpers (I was a teenager in the early 90s, ok??).
3. DON’T LET TEENAGE BOYS DEFINE YOUR WORTH. This was a tough one that honestly took years for me to understand. If a boy I liked didn’t like me back, if a boy said something cruel about me, if I got dumped, etc. it would crush me. But the reality is, you’re not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s alright! If you are waiting by the phone for someone to call you or sulking in your room when he doesn’t, you are missing out on those that really matter: friends and family. One day, you’ll meet someone who makes you laugh, accepts your quirks, and doesn’t mind the fact that you dress like a total hippie and it will be amazing!
4. APPRECIATE YOUR TEENAGE BODY. I remember standing in front of a mirror, picking apart every little detail I didn’t like on my body, and that was long before cellulite, sun spots, and varicose veins entered the picture. And don’t just appreciate looking younger, but enjoy the fact that every joint in your body doesn’t crack when you walk and that you can do a tough workout and not wake up the next day feeling like you were hit by a truck!
5. BE KIND TO EVERYONE. High school is a tough place when you are different. Add in the fact that many teenagers lack enough awareness to know how their actions truly affect others and it can be a very difficult time for some kids. Apparently I was a “mean girl” in high school, and I honestly had no idea until people that weren’t in my group of friends told me years later. Clearly, I let my own insecurities dictate my actions and I hate the fact that it could have hurt other people. I have been to my 10 and 20 year reunions and there were no “cool and uncool kids” or “popular kids and nerds,” it was just a group of adults catching up with old classmates and it was a wonderful experience.
The bottom line is that I wish I would’ve just embraced the experience a little more. I should have taken better care of myself, not been so critical of my looks, and realized that my friends and family were what mattered.