A father's letter to his 13-year-old daughter (shared with permission):
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I hadn't planned on writing this letter to you for a couple of years yet. But when you walked down the stairs last weekend wearing a dress and earrings, I decided to advance my timetable a bit.
You are growing up so fast (parents are entitled to say that at least once a week) and you've become a teenager much sooner than I am ready.
I guess what also got me thinking was a scene I witnessed down at the coffee shop. A mother stormed up to the cashier, her daughter, and balled her out for something or the other. I don't think that the girl was all that upset by what her mother said, but she was obviously quite embarrassed by such a public scolding. As the mother wound down, I found myself mumbling, "I sure hope I never do that to Amy."
On the drive home, I found myself thinking about the sort of parent I want to be for you as you become a teenager, and especially what I hope I can avoid. So, as a way of reminding myself of my good intentions, and also as a way of beginning a conversation with you, I have come up with the following.
1. I will give you as much freedom as you can handle. I have felt responsible for you for a long time, but more and more I have to give up that responsibility. That's the only way you'll ever learn to take care of yourself. But I will try to never ask you to be more responsible than you can; I'll still be "Dad."
2. I will assume you always have a good reason for everything you do. I won't try to second guess you, or discount you. I will expect that you will always share with me your reasons for what you do, and that you will accept that sometimes I may have to overrule you. That's still my job.
3. I will trust you to make choices that reflect the values I have tried to teach you. I haven't just left you to figure life out on your own. I've tried to tell you what I think it's all about, and how it should be lived. I can already see how much you've learned in what you say and do, in how you treat people.
4. I will respect your opinions and values, even when they differ from mine. We will have to agree to disagree at times. That's part of your growing up, too. Father doesn't know best, or at least not all the time. You need to know that, and decide what you think is best, even when you still have to do what I say.
5. I will treat you with respect. I won't belittle you, ridicule you, shame you, humiliate you. When I do have to discipline you, I will do it in private.
6. I will treat your friends with respect. I will not automatically assume they are out to corrupt you or turn you against me. Nor will I try to make them my friends. I will be your father, and hopefully one that you will be proud for your friends to meet.
7. I will expect you to treat me with respect as well. That's one of the values I have tried to teach you. You can be angry with me, even hate me, but I will demand that you respect me as I have demanded that you respect all people.
8. I will try to ask, not assume; listen, not lecture; talk, not yell. That's a tall order, but you deserve it.
9. I will love you no matter what you say or do. I hope you already know that. I want you to take it for granted. There is nothing that can change my love for you.
There is more, I'm sure. But I must be tired; my eyes are a bit teary. You'll always be my little girl (parents are allowed to say that, too), even though I will do my best to treat you like the young woman you are becoming. I am very proud of you.
With Love, Dad