A Letter to my 12-Year-Old

Dec 11, 2017

Dear Lucy,  

How proud I am of you! You have turned into and are turning into such an amazing, incredible, loving and lovable person. I love watching you, being with you, listening to you, learning from you and much, much more. Your presence lights up a room, and when you are around, heaven has taken a moment and touched us all. I love you.

So, as you turn 12, I have asked myself, "What is 12 about? What does a 12-year-old need to be able to do to really be 12? Just because a body is 12 does not mean the person is, at least on the inside. They may be 4 and just wearing a 12 year old's costume, looking like they are 12. But 12 has some very important aspects to it. It is a time of completion, and a time of growing up that will have meaning for the rest of your life. In light of those kinds of thoughts, here is my test for you to answer the question: "Am I 12?"

I do not expect for you to answer 100% on the whole list, nor 100% on any given question all of the time. None of us would pass that, me included!! What I do want is for you to realize that you have been given a life, a lot of talents and a path that is yours to find with the people who love you. These questions hopefully will help you to know a little better where you are at any given moment.

A little more background:

Throughout history, all cultures have realized that there is a time where children "pass through" a doorway from childhood to adulthood. It is often symbolized as going through the "rites of passage," a sign that you have moved from one stage of life to another. There is also the "time of accountability," where there is the beginning of your life not being so closely managed by your parents as it was when you were little, but managed by yourself. You are becoming more and more of your own "guardian and manager."

What that means is that Mom and Dad's role with you from the beginning of your life has been threefold. We have been your….

1. Source 
2. Guardian
3. Manager

By Source, I mean that you got from us pretty much everything that it takes to keep your life working. A roof, food, American Girl stuff, toys and clothes, information, learning, care of your health, values and morals, experiences, spending-money, etc. We were always thinking of how to get you what you need.

As you move from childhood into the teen years and beyond, you will become more and more of a source of these things to yourself. You will be providing more of what you need in a lot of these areas. You will be responsible to create more and more of your own fun, experiences, learnings, spending money, etc.

All of that will for sure certainly still be offered to you from us, but you will get to play a much more active role in providing the things that you need in a lot of those areas. That will be so much fun, as you will be able to use your creativity to figure out, "What do I want to learn? Where will I go find that information? Who will I choose as friends? What do I think is important? Moral? Where will I get that $20 I need for that music?" It will be so much fun to watch you and what you choose!

By Guardian, I mean that children have to be guarded in order to be safe. When you were a toddler, I had to guard you to keep you from running into the street. I also had to guard you from mean dogs or mean people at the park. I had to guard you from disease, or spoiled food, or fire, or injury. "Don’t jump off there!" "Don't run into the street!" "Don't put your fingers in your mouth after the dirty sand at the playground!" "Don’t play with that kid. She will hurt you!" and on and on. Parents were your chief guardians.

While Mom and I still are your guardians, you now are becoming more and more of your own guardian as well. Said another way, you have increasing responsibility to "guard yourself" from anything that could hurt you. We are not around you all the time. More and more you are on your own doing things apart from us, at school, with friends, and in other activities. Since we are not there to "guard you," who is going to do those things? Who is going to make sure that you do not expose yourself to things that might hurt you or are dangerous? Either dangerous people or dangerous experiences and situations? Answer: you are.

Your friends and the TV and other influences will tell you many things are good to do when they are not, and in truth, are very dangerous. Trust the other people you can trust (including me and Mom) to help you find your way. But ultimately, you will decide what you will do and not do.
Said another way, "be careful." What you will encounter in much of life will come from how carefully you guard your heart.

By Manager, I mean that children have to have someone watch over them to make sure that what is happening is going in the direction that is needed. To manage means to "bring about or succeed in accomplishing, sometimes despite difficulty or hardship." It kind of means "to get it done." When you were little, you had to be managed to get dinner done, to pick up your toys, to take your bath. Your time had to be managed. Your play had to be managed, etc. etc.

Now, you are managing more and more of yourself. You are the one "getting it done." Whether that is making sure that your talents get to be honed, refined and mature, or your homework and projects are done, you are more and more in charge of yourself. At 12, we are not looking over your shoulder as much, which means that you are the one who must "look over your own shoulder."

Asking questions that always lead to, "Am I getting it done?" Whether that means your homework, or your communication with us or your sister or your friends, you have to ask, "Is what I am doing right now getting me to the goal that I desire or not?" That is management.

Sooooo, here you go, Munchkin. Welcome to the doorway of teen years and adulthood: 12 years old. I am proud of how you have done in these areas so far, and am certain that you will continue to do well. Remember, even though you are more in charge of yourself than you ever have been, we are still here for you in all the ways that you need us. And so is God. The rule is always this: ask for help. That is what people who are bigger than children do. In light of that, here are your questions to help you know if you are being 12 at any given moment.

Here you are: 

1. Am I thinking about me?

  • Children have parents thinking about their actions, feelings and behaviors all the time. Watching them.
  • 12 year olds think about their own actions, feelings and behaviors.
    They observe themselves and ask, "Am I watching myself to make sure all is good?"

2. Am I asking, "Is this good for me or not?"

  • Children have parents to guard them from things that might hurt them.
  • 12 year olds ask themselves that question to make sure what they are doing, or being with or watching or participating in is dangerous or not.  

3. Am I having any fun?

  • Children have parents making sure life is fun and fulfilling. Parents plan activities and experiences for their child to make sure life is full.
  • 12 year olds ask, "What will bring me fun, fulfillment and meaning?" Then they go for it.  

4. Am I facing the boogieman?

  •  Children have to be encouraged by parents to face fear and go ahead and do what they are afraid to do. "Jump in the pool….you can do it."
  • 12 year olds realize that even though they are afraid to do things, they must push through their fear and do it anyway. "Feel, accept and go."  

5. Am I choosing to go through the pain to get to things that are good?

  • Children avoid pain at all costs. Parents make them sit down and get the shot from the doctor, eat their broccoli, finish their homework, and other things that are not comfortable but will lead to something good.
  • 12 year olds lead themselves to making the hard choices and pushing through to the finish.  

6. Am I taking responsibility or blaming?

  •  Children blame their sister or someone else for their own behavior.
    "She hit me first." Or they find a reason that they did what they should not have done or didn't do what they should have. What they care about is that someone else take the blame, or they have a good excuse.
  • 12 year olds do not care so much about blame as they do results. They care about whether or not they got it done, or had self-control. They care about the outcome, not who made them or didn't make them do something.  

7. Who are my friends?

  •  Children's friends are chosen for them, for the most part. Playdates, classes, parents' friends kids, etc.
  • 12 year olds as the question, "Who do I want to be close to? Who is good for me? Who is hurtful? Who likes thing that are important to me? Who has good morals and values? Who helps me be better? Who helps me be my best self? Who leads me closer to God?  

8. What do I feel?

  •  Children often do not know what they feel, so they act it out. If they are hurt or mad, they act it out, or withdraw.
  • 12 year olds are more mature and have the ability to observe and manage their emotions. They do not throw tantrums when mad. Instead, they realize "this bothers me," and they name it, and then go and do something about what is making them feel crummy. They talk to the person or change the situation.  

9. What are my talents?  

  •  Children are taken to music class, sports, dance, art, etc. They do not know what they love or are good at. Nor do they know that to get better they must practice.
  • 12 year olds are finding out what they love, want to try, are good at, and practice those things on their own. Discovering and owning your talents, and maturing them is something 12 year olds do that children often don't think about.  

10. Who needs forgiveness?  

  • We all need forgiveness. Children make mistakes, and their parents tell them, "It's ok, I forgive you." Children are hurt by others, such as siblings, and their parents say, "She said she is sorry, so tell her you forgive her and go out and play."
  • 12 year olds recognize that sometimes they have to admit they have done something wrong or hurtful and ask for forgiveness. Also, they go to those who have hurt them and work it out, and then forgive them.  

11. How am I leaving this?

  • Children go into a room, have a good time, make a mess, and go on to the next room. Or, they often go into a play moment with another kid, have an argument or fight over a toy, and then run off to the next thing that grabs their eye.
  • 12 year olds also go into rooms, have a good time, make a mess, and move on. But before they do, they ask, "What can I do to leave this room in better shape than I found it?" Or this team? Or this project? Likewise, when they play with people or talk to them, they want to leave that person in better shape than they found them.  

12. Am I looking outward?

  • Children are pretty much focused on themselves, and their own little circle of friends or activities. You could say that they don't think much about things that they are not involved with, see or touch.
  • 12 year olds begin to ask, "What lies beyond what I see and experience that I might be able to help? What does my neighborhood, town, church, community or the world needs that I can join to give to them and be of help to those past my own little circle?”    

13. Am I being a kid?

  •  Children do not have to remember to be a kid. They just are, all of the time. Fun, silliness, and the like are their daily jobs.
  •  12 year olds have more required of them, so they have to intentionally not forget to still be a kid. They value silliness and playfulness, and do not allow their newfound "maturity" to make them a boring stick-in-the-mud. They do not lose their goofy-ness, and still display it readily, especially with their fathers.

Ok, Lucy, there it is. The test for being 12, as we discussed. I look forward to all of the great times we will have together as you are more and more … 12.

I love you,