My oldest daughter just turned 21 years old.
She is home for the summer working to bulk up her bank account after draining it with a semester abroad in London with side trips all around Europe. (Oh, to casually say, “When I lived in Europe…”)
I’ve noticed a new maturity about her since she came home. Some are small things like how she makes her bed, whips up masterpiece desserts in the kitchen, and actually seems to enjoy being a mentor for her younger sister.
There are the big things too like how she is planning for an independent future. She resists the idea of graduate school but knows she selected a major (human development) that essentially requires more education to use it in the working world. Her future is coming at her too fast and she doesn’t feel ready for it. In fact, at 21, she feels old.
I remember being at that transition stage of my life and 21 really did seem old.
She casually mentioned recently that she doesn’t have her life all planned out like I did when I was her age. Ah, sorry to break it to you honey, but I certainly did not have my life planned out when I was 21 years old.
In fact, I distinctly remember believing that if I could just make three major life decisions, the rest of life would be just a smooth walk down my well-planned life path.
As I pondered my life when I was a student roaming around the campus of Utah State University, I thought the three most important decisions in life were what to do for a living, where to live, and who to marry.
While those might be major decisions, I was extremely naïve about them being my only big life decisions. It shocked me when the decisions just kept coming and the path never smoothed out. Instead, my path had sharp corners where I couldn’t see what waited on the other side. There were steep hills, dark areas, and lots of surprises.
I explained to her that when we look back, things seem planned out because the awkward transitions from one phase to another don’t really show up on resumes and in conversations about our past. The murky parts get skipped most of the time.
So now that she is contemplating life and where she’ll go, I wonder whether I’ve taught her enough. (I clearly misled her about my life following a well-thought out blueprint.)
She knows how to do laundry, make dinner, and manage money. She knows how to create and sustain friendships, fill up a tank of gas, and get the oil in her car changed regularly. She even knows how to host a great party, make small talk with strangers, and boy, can she pull an outfit together.
She knows the importance of faith, and how to draw on the powers of heaven for direction and comfort.
There are so many other things I want to teach her. Unfortunately, they are the kinds of things that cause eye rolls, and groans.
There are definitely things I don’t say because they don’t easily fit into conversations. In fact, they would mostly be categorized as lectures.
Here is the lecture I’ve wanted to deliver lately:
Don’t ever doubt your beauty or your power. You will have instances every day that will make you doubt both. Your beauty is yours. Don’t look at Kate Middleton and want to be like her. Just be your kind of beautiful. And don’t doubt what you can do because you see others who do things better. This is probably the biggest mistake women make. We compare ourselves to everyone around us and it zaps us of our self-worth and power. If you start believing others are better, smarter, prettier, etc., you start to withhold your contributions from the world, thinking they are too small, too insignificant to share. This thinking is flawed. You are magnificent in every way, and you must make your mark on the world with all the confidence you can muster. God created you to make a difference, to stand out, to believe in yourself. Don’t hold back. Give the world your best every day and send the self-doubts packing every time they rise up their destructive little heads.
I know that you and your friends follow blogs with beautiful brides and GQ husbands who live in Pottery Barn homes with clean, well-dressed children. Naturally, you want to be like them, look like them, and have the kind of marriages that you imagine they have. Remember they put all the pretty, glossy stuff online. They leave the gritty stuff out. So don’t buy into the perfect life idea. There are no perfect lives, even if blogs make it look like it. Oh, there are great, happy lives, (I have one) and you will have one too if you set your mind on it, and always choose to be happy. But, create your vibrant life in your own way, and remember you’re reading only the bright and lovely things of their lives.
No matter what happens in your life, remember this: NEVER want something or someone so much that you compromise for less than you deserve.
Now, it will be hard to find the right man because not just any ordinary guy will do.
You have so much to offer and that means your Mr. Right must have a lot to offer you.
You can have fun with different guys and enjoy their company but don’t even think about marrying a man who isn’t worthy of you.
(I could tell you whether he’s worthy but you’re not going to want that when you’re cross-eyed in love.)
So I want to tell you my marriage advice now, hoping that it will burn into your heart, and become part of your love radar.
This is what I want for you:
- A man who has fought just as hard as you have to do what’s right; a guy that never retreated, gave up or took the easy way out. I want you to marry a man who shares your beliefs and values, and has a past to prove it.
- A man who values education as the only way to have a happy, productive, enlightened life as a successful, contributing member of society.
- A man who loves God just like you do and puts His will first always.
- A man who loves his family, honors his parents, and respects and honors women, and cherishes children.
- A man who wants a strong woman for a wife, a woman who will lead the family with confidence and courage, a woman who will speak her mind and exert her independence in healthy, productive ways; a man who will support your dreams in every way and never hold you back from achieving your own success.
- A man who can laugh at the silly foibles of life and take mistakes in stride.
- A man without a temper.
- A communicator, someone who will talk about everything with you and listen to you with his heart to really know who you are, what you want, and what you’re trying to say.
- A hard worker, someone who never sits back and expects success to come to him without serious, hard work and continued learning and education.
- A big, tender heart; a sense of humor, and a man who will be a great addition to our family.
- Someone that you can stand next to at the trailhead of your lives, and see a beautiful vista open up in your future — a big panoramic view of opportunities, fun, family, love, and everything you’ve ever wanted. I want your heart to feel full, but light, and happy.
- I want you feel like he will make you a better person because he believes in you, sees your divine nature, and wants to nurture you to be every good thing you can possibly be.
- I want you to feel safe with him in every way — emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and physically.
- I want you to feel confident that he will always hold your hand, walk down the same path with you and, never stray and go off on his own path.
- I want you to love how he sees you because you will see yourself through his eyes for the rest of your life. Make sure you LOVE how he makes you feel about yourself because you won’t believe how his love and vision of you will get you through some very tough times. There will be times when you need to rely on his vision of you because it is better than the one you have for yourself, and it will elevate you, enlighten you, and make you return to loving yourself. Just trust me on this one.
I know this is lofty list, and you probably shouldn’t show it to a date because he will think you have a psychotic and overprotective mother, but it’s what’s in my heart. It’s probably in every mother’s heart. We are wired to want the best lives for our kids. The person you marry will have the greatest influence on your happiness in your future.
I will love the man you love. But, I won’t be able to stand happily at your wedding if your dreamy, handsome husband doesn’t also make you feel like a million bucks every single time you look into his eyes.
I want to look at him and know that he will never break your heart, never be less than you deserve. I want you to have the assurance that he is a man of deep, solid substance.
I guess in the end, I want you to marry someone exactly like your dad. He meets all these qualifications and more.
If you hold out for someone like that, I’ll never have a day of worry in my life about your happiness.
I’ll confidently smile at you on your wedding day knowing you chose a man who will make you happy.
Your happiness will be his mission in life, his reason for living, and I will thank God from the deepest part of my soul for giving you the very best, a man like your dad, the kind of man you deserve.
(This goes for you too Annie!)