On the eve of Cora’s 6th birthday, there are a lot of things that I’m thinking about as her mom. I see her facial expressions shifting, from silly little toddler to thoughtful little girl. I see her stretching an inch every day, it seems, and talking about boys at school in a way that infuriates her father.

Issa, too, even though Cora is the belle of the ball at the moment. She’ll get her turn in March when she turns 3. 😉 But she’s precocious and a pistol, telling me yesterday she was “too busy” to go to the library for story time. *eye roll* *secret laugh so she doesn’t know she’s getting to me*

They are both watching my every move, it seems, even asking me about my childhood and how I grew up so much it makes me struggle to remember to the level of detail they want. It’s an immense amount of pressure, as the mom of two girls, to remember everything I need to be passing down to the next generation.

This, inevitably, brings up my own issues and insecurities that I am most certain I do NOT want to pass down. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. How can I make sure they’re better off than I am, physically, emotionally, spiritually? How can I stop the cycles of self-doubt and self-deprecation that so many women, including myself, put themselves through? How can I raise girls into women who will raise the bar even higher than the generations before them?

So, my dear daughters, as much as I am looking forward to passing down my wedding gown, my love of Shel Silverstein poetry, and my Celine Dion obsession, there are six things I hope I do not give to you:

1. A negative body image

When you tell me I have a big booty (which I do), I will simply say thank you. I will not tell you I need to lose five pounds, or I don’t like my booty, or I wish I could change that part of myself. Because I don’t want you to ever look at your body and see something you hate. You can improve yourself, you can be strong, you can work for the body you want, but I want you to do it out of a place of love and not self-loathing.

2. An unhealthy relationship with food

You know your mother loves a good cupcake. But you also saw me on a three-day juice cleanse not too long ago and asked why I wasn’t eating dinner. I chose not to tell you that mom wants to lose weight so I’m on a diet. I don’t want the word “diet” to be in your vocabulary. So I simply told you I wasn’t that hungry and this juice was full of all kinds of yummy stuff that was good for me. Which was true. Because I just want you to eat when you’re hungry and enjoy eating healthy with the occasional guiltless treat.

3. A reliance on makeup to feel pretty

A very wise friend of mine once wrote that her mom always told her, “You’re beautiful, not that it matters.” I love that. Cora, Issa, you are BEAUTIFUL, not that it matters. You are so much MORE. You can play with makeup, put on fake eyelashes, add extensions in your hair, but do it for fun. Do it because you want to. Because I know and you must know that you are not defined by how pretty you are.

4. Any amount of imposter syndrome

This is a big one. You accomplish the things you accomplish because you work hard and you fight for them. Then once you get there, OWN IT. Be great, and be unapologetic for that. Don’t say sorry because you’re afraid of your own strength. Be strong, be fierce, and be confident in that.

5. A feeling that you can’t have it all

Can you be a five-star wife, mother, career woman, friend, daughter, sister, etc. all day every day? No. You can’t. But that doesn’t have to make you feel that your life is limited by any stretch of the imagination. You don’t have to pick just one, you just have to give yourself grace when you inevitably encounter challenges. The juggle of life is what makes it exciting, enticing, and evokes your best self. Be a five-star daughter always though. That one is non-negotiable. 😉

6. A sense that you are alone

NEVER. Do you hear me? Call me anytime, day or night. I am here, and there is not a single thing you could ever say to me in a million years that would make me love you any less. Unless you murder someone. But even then I’ll come visit you in prison.

I love you my babies. Happy birthday sweet Cora, and have no fear, Issa, your day is coming. You are both precious to me.