What I want my 17 year old daughter to know before adulthood

Happy birthday.
Happy birthday. Photo: Shutterstock

Happy birthday beautiful girl. Seventeen. One more year until you’re an adult, officially. Able to vote, and drink, and get a tattoo, change your name, and get married, all without my permission. Now there’s a good night out. What am I saying? I’m your mother. I’m the responsible one. So here’s some things you should know before you become an adult.

Adulting is hard. You might think that being a teenager is the pits. But imagine being a teenager and having to work and pay a mortgage and get dinner on the table most nights, and not having your knees behave the way they once did. That’s when things get hard.

Adulting is great. You will be able to do, for the most part, exactly what you want to do. Whether that be sleep in until midday (good to see you’re practising this one), fly to Paris for the weekend, or flirt with totally inappropriate people, no one can, really, tell you what to do. They'll try, don't get me wrong. But you can ignore them all. Just not me. You’ll work out pretty soon what makes sense, what works, sometimes you’ll ignore that too and do the wrong thing anyway. But a life of doing the right thing, while noble, might not lead to great adventures.

Celebrate your last year of being a child.
Celebrate your last year of being a child. Photo: Supplied

That said, be a good person. Don’t do stupid things regularly. Be kind. Think of and care for others. You do that so well now. You’re already a good friend, a good daughter and sister. You already have people who love you, outside of your immediate family, and that’s a good thing. Try to foster those relationships forever. For sometimes your immediate family isn’t there for you. I always will be.

Don’t take life too seriously. We’ve only got one shot at this. Make it fun. Laugh often. Surround yourself with people who make you happy. Be that person for someone else. But remember someone else’s happiness is not your responsibility.

But give serious consideration to a few things. What to do with your money. What to do with your heart. Trust your gut. And if you’re still not sure ask for advice. There’s no shame in asking for help. There’s no shame in admitting you don’t know something. No shame in admitting you’re vulnerable. You won’t always make the right choices. But don’t make the same mistake twice.

But make mistakes. Some of life’s great lessons come from stuffing up. Some of life’s great moments are mistakes. Take a wrong turn and you never know where you might end up. It might not be a bad thing.

Fall in love. Find someone who makes you giddy. Find someone who makes you want to be a better person but doesn’t expect you to be a better person. You’ll be good enough as you are for the right person. And if you’re not, they’re not good enough for you.

Remember too that being good enough is enough. Don’t set your expectations too high. All that business about having it all, it’s a shonk. You can’t. The perfect partner might snore like a train, the perfect job might not pay much money. Find what works for you, what makes you happy, and be happy with that.

And find a career that makes you happy. I’m quite sure your career trajectory will be vastly different to mine. You think you know what you want to do, trust that feeling and follow that. You’ll soon figure it out. Never let anyone tell you that what you do isn’t important, or well paid enough, or worthy. Why would you be doing it if you didn’t think it was worthy, no matter what it is you choose to do.

Stay active. See above about your knees. Take care of your body. Be kind to her. She’s an amazing thing. Wait until you have a baby. You don’t have to go to extremes. Run marathons if you want, but find joy in going for a walk with a friend to get a coffee. Get outside as much as you can. Nature can heal. Play team sports. Swim in the ocean in winter. Dance in your bedroom. And stretch everyday. No one ever tells us to do that.

So happy birthday baby girl. Your final year of childhood. I know I have to let you go eventually but remember I’ll never let you go. Know that I’ll always be here with advice you can ignore, with a bed where you can rest your head, with a meal on the table to feed your belly and your soul. Just know that your mother loves you.