Things I want my daughter to know #IWD2022

In the darkness that accompanies overnight feeding sessions, I tap notes on my phone to keep myself awake. Given that I’m publishing this on International Women’s Day 2022, I thought it was the right time to share my thoughts so far on what I’d like my daughter Aoife to know as she gets older. I confess I was also inspired by the reading of Mary Schmich’s hypothetical commencement speech Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young, at my friend Ruth’s wedding, which is more commonly known as the basis of Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann. It was performed by Ruth’s very talented friend Charlie, and hearing it spoken by a woman for the first time made it feel all the more significant.

Life lessons for Aoife

1. One can never talk or be “too much”. Instead, walk away from conversations knowing you are more than enough
2. Write down – or learn – the birthdays and addresses of those who mean the most to you
3. Do not fear phone calls
4. Don’t write letters to people who don’t deserve it
5. Do send flowers to friends “just because”
6. Exercise in groups to share in the pain
7. Learn to box – it’ll teach you to breathe, and that power comes from technique rather than build
8. Start to move when you are young and make the most of your body every day you can
9. Learn an instrument
10. Find out what your favourite lyrics really mean
11. Read a book a week
12. Own a record player and don’t be afraid to buy mysterious vinyl for a quid from a charity shop; you can always donate it back
13. Order dessert, especially to share
14. Learn to make a “signature dish” and tweak one element to make it truly your own
15. Try to walk without headphones once in a while
16. Look up
17. Advocate for yourself, and don’t accept uneccesary pain; physical or emotional
18. If you don’t use it, give it away or sell it
19. You don’t need as many pairs of shoes as you think you do. Ditto jeans, eyeshadows and red lipsticks. (You will never learn, and should not feel guilty.)
20. Vanity is not a sin
21. Don’t let a fear of hypocrisy stop you from changing your mind – you make your decisions, no one else
22. Take all the photos and selfies you can, when and while you can – you’ll be grateful one day
23. Print your favourite photos and create books of your life so far; it’ll help your children understand your life before them
24. Don’t spend live experiences on your phone; feel the present
25. Laugh about your arguments – your father and I will never forget the phrase “you’re mugging me off”, and for good reason
26. Admit your mistakes, but don’t take the fall for what you haven’t done
27. Avoid social media if you can
28. Own a pet at least once in your life
29. Ride a bike
30. Be curious about something, anything – no matter how niche or common
31. Learn to use a sewing machine
32. Upcycle a piece of furniture
33. Prioritise sleep
34. Learn a second language
35. Don’t neglect your pension

36. Buy secondhand when you can
37. The unhappiest people are often the most vocal
38. Videogames are time well spent
39. Do not feel obliged to speak up – but feel proud if you do
40. When you are young and full of energy and ideas, grown men will be scared of you. Don’t let them take away your shine
41. Unsolicited advice becomes increasingly irritating the older you get. Question where it has come from, and then decide whether to follow or ignore it.
42. Don’t judge girls for saying they are “boys’ girls” and “don’t get on with other girls”, but be wary of ones who continue this attitude into adulthood
43. Being nice is simple, being kind is an active trait and requires a worthwhile effort
44. If someone is not nice to you, you don’t have to be nice back
45. Learn the art of worry management
46. Don’t go out with anyone just because they asked. Spend time with others because you want to…
47. …But don’t avoid a situation just because you fear discomfort…
48. …Although boundaries are important. Set them as you see fit.
49. You will know when you are truly happy; even the greyest of places will burst with colour. Savour those days. Lightness and darkness is circular.
50. Never forget you are loved

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