Sometimes I forget that you’re only 4 years old. Your ability to negotiate pretty much anything, whether it be watching one more episode of Wicked World or sleeping with two stuffed animals instead of one at bedtime, makes me think you’re already a 'tween. You like things your way and enjoy taking charge; you're not easily swayed by others when your mind is set on doing something. It’s this ability to stay true to yourself that puts me in such awe of you. But I know that as you grow older, staying true to yourself may become harder due to peer pressure and a desire to fit in. Hopefully this letter will help you as you constantly strive to continue to stay true to yourself.
The world is full of people who don’t accept people who are “different” from themselves. In fact, our culture makes fitting in the norm, and ostracizes those who stand out in different ways. There are so many people in this world who will try to knock you down and question everything about who you are just to get you to start thinking, acting, and dressing like they do. You’ll meet these people in middle school, high school, college, and even as an adult, and it'll be up to you to decide how to handle these encounters. Sure, sometimes it will seem easier to give in and go with the flow to avoid being made fun of or being excluded, but I hope that with time, and after a few of these experiences, you’ll realize that compromising the things you love about yourself just to please someone else is totally not worth it.
I hope you learn to ignore the haters and always do you.
As you grow up, there are some things I want — no, need — you to remember. Keep rocking those mismatched outfits that you love so much even if other kids ask you why you dress so funny. There will be style trends I expect you’ll want to try out, but my hope is that you manage to toss in your own unique touch. Wear the fanny pack, the flannel, the baby doll dress, the fedora, and the choker, but keep the wild hair that you constantly ask to dye with pink streaks, or the glittery lip gloss and your favorite ballet flats. I know it will hurt when others ask you why you dress so "strange" or recommend you switch out that glittery lip gloss for the red cherry bomb matte that everyone is wearing. And I get why you may want to switch up your style just to look like all the other girls, but let me tell you something: doing so won’t make you happy. And that’s all I want for you — to be incredibly happy. Know that I’ll be around to ask you what’s going on when I notice you've swapped out your usual go-tos for new items and I’ll be here to remind you how fantastic and cutting edge your style choices are. I'll be sure to tell you how brave I think you are to stay true to yourself when others are trying so hard to convince you to fit in.
Eventually you'll realize that you shouldn’t have to alter anything about yourself just to gain a friend. It’s OK if someone doesn’t get your joke, or tells you you’re not funny. They just don’t get you. Maybe someday they will, or maybe they won't. But please don't ever measure your self-worth against someone else's option of you.
Keep that quirky sense of humor that will make some kids roll their eyes but will make others laugh their asses off. Not everyone is going to be charmed by you, no matter how hard you try. And you really shouldn’t have to try to gain anyone’s adoration. It’ll take time to realize that trying too hard is just not worth it in the end, and eventually you'll realize that you shouldn’t have to alter anything about yourself just to gain a friend. It’s OK if someone doesn’t get your joke, or tells you you’re not funny. They just don’t get you. Maybe someday they will, or maybe they won't. But please don't ever measure your self-worth against someone else's option of you.
You may not want to hear this, but when I was younger I was considered “weird” and a “loner” because my humor was a little out there and because I thought reading books at lunch was cooler than walking around campus with a group of friends. I’m not going to lie, it was hard not having a lot of friends in middle school and not being invited to parties, but trying to be someone I wasn't just wasn’t worth it. It took time to meet people who liked me for me, but that made all the difference. So trust me, baby girl, good friends are worth the wait. Never change who you are just to please someone else.
Continue to stand up for your beliefs, even if others tell you’ve got it all wrong. This is really hard to do when you’re trying to figure out what’s right, what’s wrong, and what you believe. Here’s the truth about staying true to yourself: It’s f*cking hard. Even now at the age of 34, I waver on whether or not I’m doing the right thing. Listen to me, baby girl: This is life. You're going to doubt yourself sometimes. You're going to think you're not good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough, or peppy enough, or funny enough, or thin enough. There will be people in your life who will make you question everything you think you know — about yourself, your body, the world, your relationships, your jobs, your dreams. Ignore them. Remember that deep down inside, you already know what’s best for you. And if you're ever unsure or nervous or scared, your dad and I will be here to listen and help you as you try to figure it out.
You are so in touch with other people’s feelings that sometimes I worry that you hurt too easily. But I also admire that about you. Your heart is so kind. I hope it stays that way forever.
You were born a negotiator, always trying to bargain for one more episode of Sophia the First or an extra baggie of fruit snacks. You know what you want, and go after it when you do. If you want to make us proud — or better yet, if you want to make yourself proud — keep shooting for the stars. We love this about you.
Go on being that outgoing person I love so much. The one who includes everyone — even the kids who don’t always want to play with you. Don’t join in the gossip or set out to hurt others, and don’t belittle or exclude a classmate just because others are doing so (or telling you to). Instead, continue to do what you’ve done since preschool: be friends with everyone, get to know them and understand them before making up your mind on where they fit in your life. You are so in touch with other people’s feelings that sometimes I worry that you hurt too easily. But I also admire that about you. Your heart is so kind. I hope it stays that way forever. Your ability to feel so deeply allows you to connect with others in a way that not many people can. I mean, you recently cried after realizing the cat in the Missing Cat signs posted around the neighborhood didn’t have a place to sleep and would be scared.
Also, continue to be assertive and standup for yourself the way you always have. You’ve never had a problem voicing your opinion or telling us when your sister is doing something wrong. Please continue stand up for yourself and others if you’re being mistreated. Even now, you tell friends if they are being mean or unfair and I hope you continue that with future relationships because no one needs a toxic friendship or should stand to be taken advantage of in any relationship. Maintain those boundaries your dad and I have taught you. Let people know if you do or don't want to hug them. If you need space, say it.
My little firework, the light of my life, my strong-willed child — I absolutely adore you. You bring so much light and happiness to this world. I’ll never ask you to try and be perfect or to pursue friendships, relationships, activities that don’t make you happy, but one request I do have is that you always stay true to yourself.
Don’t stop doing the things you love just because others say you can’t do it. You love, love, love to dance and sing at the top of your lungs even though your voice cracks and sometimes you make up your own words because you think it sounds better that way. Who cares if you sing off key or if you sometimes forget the steps to dance routines? Just keep doing those activities that excite you and light you up from the inside.
My little firework, the light of my life, my strong-willed child — I absolutely adore you. You bring so much light and happiness to this world. I’ll never ask you to try and be perfect or to pursue friendships, relationships, activities that don’t make you happy, but one request I do have is that you always stay true to yourself. Or at least try. Don’t let anyone — not even me — break your spirit. You are you, unique and quirky and assertive, smart, self-confident, creative and stubborn. An individual both fearless and careful, extroverted yet shy, empathetic but stubborn. You are perfectly you and I promise to always be here to remind you of that.