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16 Lessons for My 16-Year-Old


Suzanne Hayes

Today, my oldest daughter turns 16.

16! And for some reason I have butterflies in my stomach.

I am kind of a mess over it. 16 feels a little too adult to me. It is way too close to 18 and way too far from little girl. Despite my strong desire to hold onto her way-too-tightly, I am so amazingly proud of who she has become. She is ready to be 16 and take on the challenges that accompany it. She has the tools to make good choices and own the bad ones (because it will happen). She knows she is loved and she knows how to love. She works hard and she plays soft, actually. She is determined and focused and she has goals that I have no question she will reach- even if they require a bit of blood, sweat and tears. She has her wings and now it is my job to let her fly.

Molly Walsh


Suzanne Hayes

But before I let go, I offer her 16 pieces of advice.

Dearest Molly, My advice to you on your 16th birthday:

  • Say I love you every day-to your siblings and your dad and to me. Say I love you to anyone you love and say it often. Once that habit is broken, it is so hard to re-establish.
  • When you see a piece of garbage on the ground, in the hallway, or on your bedroom floor, pick it up and throw it away. This simple act will keep you humble and teach you the importance of doing the right thing when no one is watching. That, my daughter, is integrity.
  • Trust in and rely on God. He will never let you down.
  • Don’t ever settle- not for a guy who may be good enough or a prom dress that doesn’t make you feel like the most beautiful girl in the room. You deserve the best- and the best is always worth the wait.
  • Don’t text and drive. As a matter of fact, lock your phone away in the backseat at all times. Oh yea, and keep your hands at 10 and 2. And obey speed limits. Pretty please, just don’t get your license at all.
  • Be brave. When the fear doesn’t go away, dare to do it scared.
  • Dance often and do it like no one is watching.
  • Say sorry when you are wrong. It will take away the awful feeling of guilt and shame and help you to correct your shortcomings in the future.
  • Heartbreak is inevitable. Wallow in the pain for one night and one night only. Then, blast some Lizzo, look in the mirror and repeat after me: his loss-and walk your fine-butt out the door. He isn’t worth it.
  • Don’t hold back your tears. If you need to cry, then cry. Tears actually release toxins- and they help to heal your mind and your heart.
  • Practice the pause: When you are angry or over-excited or disappointed or unsure, just pause. Breathe and wait and remind yourself that you do not have to act right this minute. It can wait.
  • Write your goals down in blue ink. Read them often.
  • Be kind. You will never regret it.
  • Treat the janitor the same as you do the principle. We are all God’s children and equally worthy.
  • Money aint a thang. Relationships, love, and internal growth are everything.
  • Make an extravagant wish, blow out your 16 candles, and eat the damn cake, girl. You deserve it all- and then some.
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