My Ivy.  She is five years old now.  While I cannot believe half a decade has passed with her, I also feel that I have known her all my life.  Below is a collection of thoughts on how to grow wild Ivy and other brilliantly bold, colorful, fearsome daughters of many varieties.

Give her train tracks and microscopes and skateboards and dinosaurs and bugs and a million other things boys AND girls like.  Let her figure out real life interests without reducing her to only “girl” things and the princess tea party fantasy.

Instead of telling her she is pretty or looks cute, tell her she is brave, smart, wild, decisive, fast, determined, thoughtful, hard-working, caring, and a million other things that actually matter.  (The first things Ivy usually blurts out when I say “You are….” is “BRAVE” or “STRONG!” or “PERSEVERANT!”)

Teach her to save herself and to also be the heroine.  Instead of playing the damsel in distress, my girls are known for turning around when chased, standing their ground and saying “I’M NOT AFRAID OF YOU!

Teach her to have standards for herself and to not waste energy on people who make her feel bad or don’t treat her well.  Teach her to trust her intuition above everything else and that she’s never too young to do so.

Teach her adults can be wrong.

Teach her the difference between kindness and being nice.  Teach her she does not have to smile and be polite if someone is making her feel uncomfortable.  Teach her she doesn’t have to accept or even acknowledge a remark (especially on her appearance) from a stranger.  Teach her that “no”and “stop it” are very powerful words and that other people no matter their age (or hers) should listen when she uses them.

Teach her to work hard.  Teach her how to be a kind friend.  Teach her about helpers and all the good people in this world.  Teach her about sisterhood.  Teach her about how big, beautiful and wonderfully diverse our planet is.  Teach her another language.   Teach her how to drill holes and hammer nails.  Teach her about real music.  Teach her about food and how to cook.  Teach her to travel the world (even if you’re local or just at home) through meals and new flavors.  Teach her how to travel the world for real.

Teach her that love, families and people take many different forms and all are deserving and equal.

Teach her to get messy.  Teach her to not take any failure too seriously.  Teach her she is limitless; that with enough determination she can do anything.  Teach her to take risks (or rather, teach yourself to stand still and watch without interfering or guiding or warning as she takes risks).  Let her make mistakes and get hurt then let her be the one to pick herself back up again.

Teach her you will always be her biggest supporter and a soft place for her to land whenever she needs you.

Teach her to value experiences, nature, art, literature, travel, friendships, food, and the art of giving instead of accruing possessions.

Teach her that she has a million things to teach you as well and that adults are actually still figuring it out as we go along too.

Teach her to be her own person, and let her figure it out without ties to your expectations.  Whether she ultimately actually loves princess dresses and tea parties or dinosaurs, or maybe getting muddy outside with dinosaurs in a princess dress; teach her that she’s the one who gets to decide and that no one’s opinion matters except her own.

And finally, teach her that you will relentlessly accept her in all of her weird awesome authenticity.  It is the best thing any of us can do for our children, and really, for each other.

Cheers to the next 5 years with my dearest Ivy.  May we continue to learn, grow, do right by ourselves and others, see more of the world together, and most importantly; stay wild, stay open, stay true, and eat some fantastic food along the way.

Forever onward and onward and onward and onward my baby.