To my 20-year-old self

I'm fortunate to be part of a Facebook group of midlife women bloggers, called GenFab (Generation Fabulous). This week we have our first blog hop, posting on "What would you tell your 20-year-old self?" Here is my response, followed by links to the moving posts from my GenFab friends.

Dear 20-year-old Lisa,

You became a mom when still just a child yourself. As you suspect, the age at which you have your three precious daughters (yep, that babe in your belly right now is a girl, too) will affect everything you do and are throughout your life.

That can be a good thing, though—if you allow it.

In hopes you will indeed allow it, I have some advice for you. Despite you being stubborn in ways many have yet to realize, I do hope you'll take my advice to heart, act on it.

My advice is this:

Stop being so scared. You're scared about what's to come, what people think of you, what your girls—hell, what you—will grow up to do and be. You're scared of the other, older moms who seem to know and have and be so much more than you. You're scared of not knowing enough, not having enough, not being enough.

Well knock it off! There's no reason to be scared. Well, there is reason sometimes. But there will soon be an advertising tagline that says, Feel the fear and do it anyway. Do exactly that—always, in all ways.

Question authority. That principal who tells you it's okay to send your barely five-year-old daughter to kindergarten? Question that. That doctor who tells you tubes in a child's ears are a thing of the past? Question that. That same doctor, who tells you your daughter has an infection when it turns out to be a <cuss> hernia? Question that. When you're assured a negative amortization loan is okay, question it. And when an editor rejects your work, question that—then send it to other editors and never. ever. give. up.

Don't take the job. A few years from now, you'll be offered a job by someone you consider worldly and wise. Don't take it. The damage to your self-esteem, marriage and more because of "friends" you make there is so not worth it. Trust me. Yes, your household desperately needs the money, but Just say NO! (another slogan that will soon be a pop culture hit).

Brace yourself. I know you, I know you'll ignore the advice above. So brace yourself. The stress caused by the consequences of that bad choice will wreak havoc on your health in ways that will affect you each and every day for the rest of your life. Seriously. But know this: It's not as bad as doctors first tell you. You will walk again. You will see again. In fact, your neurologist will one day tell you you're a miracle. Trust that doctor. And trust that you will be okay.

Brace yourself, part two. Those little girls you hold in your arms today and the tiny one in your womb? Well, they're going to hate you. They will love you at first, of course. But when they're teens, they will hate you. Or at least think they hate you and make you think they really do. Because you'll be a mean mom and won't allow them to do much of what their friends do. Yet you won't be able to stop the typical teen stuff your girls manage to do anyway. And your disapproval, restrictions, and determination that they respect themselves and their parents—and that they just plain stay alive through the trauma-filled teen years!—will have them screaming, crying, resisting, and swearing they hate you because you are such a mean mom.

Be mean anyway. Regardless of their freakouts and your heartbreak and self doubt, be mean. It's what those girls—what many children—need. One day they will thank you, I swear. In fact, one night 28 years from now, that tiny bundle in your belly, the baby whom you've not yet met, will send you a text (something you'll learn to do decades from now) that says this:

Your baby girl's text—along with similar gratitude from her older sisters, once grown—confirm being mean was one of the most right things you'll do.

Have no doubt, the years ahead will definitely suck at times. But those sucky times will make you stronger, smarter, bring into breathtaking focus the brilliance of the many non-sucky times. Ultimately, you, your marriage (which does last, by the way, despite the challenges, stats, and naysayers), your babies, your eventual grandbabies, your life will turn out far better than you ever imagined.

Even if you don't listen to my advice.

Which I know you won't. Because you've always been far more stubborn than most people realize.

I love you anyway.

~ Your far older and a wee bit wiser self

Today's question:

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Please enjoy the heartfelt posts from my GenFab friends. Warning: Tissue alert for most!