All About Teens

On The Eve Of My Daughter Turning 13

My daughter, Riley, is turning 13 tomorrow. She is my middle child and my only girl.

Janel pregnant with Riley
The night before she was born.

Right now, Riley is fiercely independent, athletic, kind and responsible. And I want her to stay that way for the rest of her life. But I know what turning 13 can do to a little girl.

Thirteen is a major milestone in a girl’s life. No longer a child, but not quite yet a woman. The next five years may be some of the best years of her life. Or they may be filled with indecision and worry.

I was 13 once too

I remember my 13th birthday. It doesn’t seem that long ago. I spent the day swimming in the pool with my friends. We had a sleepover that night, talked about boys and prank called people from the phone book. It was a day filled with fun, innocence and laughter.

Within a few years, most of us had drifted apart. Some of my friends turned to drugs or alcohol. One had a teenage pregnancy. Some went to college, some got married and had a family and some traveled the world.

Thirteen seems to be the tipping point where the decisions you make now have huge consequences. This is the age when the childhood innocence starts to fade away. You begin to realize that the world is full of both opportunities and dangers.

And now, all these years later, I’m creeping up on 42 and my daughter is the one who is turning 13. My precious, baby girl is the one who has her whole life ahead of her. Riley is the one who is at a pivotal, tumultuous time in her life. A time when a girl needs her mom more than ever.


And I am the older, wiser woman full of hard earned advice. I’ve made mistakes (tons of them!) and I have plenty of sage wisdom to dole out to her. There is so much I want to say to my daughter as she embarks on her teenage years.

So on the eve of my daughter turning 13, I wrote down a few gems for her.

A letter to my daughter on the eve of her 13th birthday

My dear, sweet girl, you might think this is silly and sentimental. I know it is hard to believe that I could possibly remember what it feels like to be 13. But I do.

I remember it well and I want to share some advice with you to make your life as easy and joyful as possible. So here are the things you need to keep in mind as you start on this next chapter of your life.

Forge your own path

You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Nor do you have to wear what everyone else is wearing, drink what they are drinking or repeat what they are saying.

Be true to yourself and your dreams. Don’t ever feel like you have to mold yourself or pretend to be someone other than who you really are just to fit in.

It’s ok to be different. In fact, being different should be celebrated. Don’t worry about taking the path less traveled – I know you like the solitude anyway.

Wear sunscreen

Riley on the beach
Riley on the beach

Also, make sure you find a good moisturizer. Actually, find a good moisturizer with sunscreen in it. Trust me, you (and your face) will thank me for this later. Get outside and enjoy time in the sun, but protect your skin.

Do what makes you happy

Don’t worry about what you think other people expect of you. Find something that lights you up inside and then do more of it. There is passion within you and that should be your guiding arrow in life.

The caveat to this is that it can’t be anything illegal or dangerous to your health. Other than that, have fun, shine bright and do something that makes you happy every day.

Don’t ever settle

Not for a man, not for a job, not for anything. You deserve the best that life has to offer you. Settling for any less is a disservice to yourself and will leave you unsatisfied in the long run.

Keep looking until you find something or someone who challenges you. That is what you need in your life, not complacency.

Stay positive

Continue to see the world through rose colored glasses. Assume the best of people. Search for beauty everywhere.

Know that everything will work out in the end. Because you know what? It always does.

Drink water

Seriously, you don’t even realize how many problems can be solved by drinking enough water. Hangovers, bad skin, problems losing weight . . the list goes on and on. Make sure to drink water every day.

Be humble

A tuckered out princess
A tuckered out princess

You are destined for great things, my girl. Stay grounded and remember your roots.

Don’t ever think that you are too good for people or that they are beneath you. Every single person is put in your life for a reason and they should be all be treated with respect.

Be a good friend

When you find good friends, it is important to hold tight to them. Be a good friend back and treasure the true friends in your life.

Also, try to remember that it’s not about the number of friends that you have, but about the quality of your friends. You will be lucky if you find a handful of truly good friends in your life, so don’t squander them.

Never stop learning

Never stop learning. Every day is an opportunity for you to expand your brain.

Stay open to new experiences. Read lots of books. Listen to what people are saying and keep learning until your last breath on this earth.

Don’t be afraid of aging

Don’t be afraid of aging. Every year is better than the one before. The laugh lines that will eventually show up on your face are a sign of a life well lived.


Regarding my earlier point about laugh lines . . . laugh often and loudly. Don’t stifle your joy or hold back. A good belly laugh can transform your whole day.

Find something every day that makes you laugh. Watch a funny video or surround yourself with entertaining people. See the humor in every situation because I promise you, there is something funny about almost everything.


This is a big, beautiful world and I want you to experience it. Don’t put it off for later or think that you can’t afford it.

Make a list of all the places you want to visit and then start tackling it. Take loads of pictures and put them all over your house to remind yourself that YOU are a bad ass, world traveler. And make sure you tell me all about your adventures.

I will always be here for you

You can always come to me. I will be your safe place, the keeper of your secrets.

Riley and I
Riley and I

I will always be your #1 fan and your biggest cheerleader. I will laugh with you and I will cry with you.

Because you are one of my greatest creations, my legacy to this world, and I promise to be your protector until the end of time.

Happy Birthday, Riley! Love, your evil mommy

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Daughter's 13th birthday
Daughter’s 13th birthday
Daughter turning 13
Daughter turning 13
On the eve of my daughter turning 13
On the eve of my daughter turning 13

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