10 Lessons I Want to Teach My Daughter

Dear Adalynn,

Despite what I may have led you to believe, your father really has no idea what he’s doing. I’ve just been making it up as a I go along, putting on this show of confidence and competence for your sake. As we continue on this journey together, I hope to pass my 30+ years of wisdom (ha!) on to you. As my daughter, you will face your share of challenges, but know that I will be by your side every step of the way.

Never hesitate to come to me if you have any questions. About anything. I may not have the answers, but we can find them together. And while I may not explicitly say all these words to you, I want you to take these life lessons to heart.

1. Keep Your Word

If you say that you’re going to be somewhere at such-and-such a time, then be there at that time. If you say that you are going to do something for someone, then do it. Push yourself to be the best you can possibly be, but don’t over-extend yourself and accept more than you can handle either. You are only as good as your word. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

2. Slow Down

You’ve only been walking for less than a year and I can already tell you’ve inherited my sense of anxiety. You’re always in a hurry. It’s always go, go, go. Don’t let life pass you by in a blur. Walk a little slower and cherish the moment. Don’t get stuck in the “I can’t wait until I’m…” line of thinking. Enjoy your childhood.

3. Respect Tradition

When I was little, I didn’t like being Chinese. It made me different. I didn’t like watching Chinese TV shows or listening to Chinese music. I wanted to be Canadian. I watched western TV and listened to western music. Now that I’m older, my perspective has changed. I want to know where I came from. And the Internet has made that a lot easier.

I want you to be a fully functional and active participant in modern society. I want you to capitalize on all the advantages that being a Canadian can offer. But I also want to know where our family came from and why that still matters. You won’t hear much Taishanese (“Toi San“) in Vancouver anymore, but those are our people.

Embrace diversity. Embrace the multicultural mosaic and express interest in the cultures of others. Experience it all. Just never lose sight of where we came from.

4. Be Confident

Trust that you’ll be great. Be brave and test your limits. And even if you fall, even if you come up short, have the confidence to dust yourself off and try again. It’s okay to fall. It’s okay to cry. Just give it your all and do it to the best of your ability. No one can do more than that.

5. Don’t Worry About the Money

You’re going to be tempted to chase the almighty dollar. You’ll be tempted by all the shiny things that money can buy and lured by the prestige of premium. But none of that matters if it the pursuit of money makes you miserable.

Do what makes you happy and don’t worry too much about the pragmatics. I’m not saying you should be foolish with your money. Don’t put yourself in unnecessary debt and don’t be stupid. But don’t let money worries weigh you down either.

6. Use Your Voice

First, recognize that you indeed do have a voice. And that voice carries great power. Use this voice to be kind to others. Use that voice to say no when you object. Stand up for what you believe in, fight for the little guy, and use your words to change the world.

7. Help Others Selflessly

When helping other people in need, whether that’s helping a friend with homework or volunteering at a community event, don’t ask what’s in it for you. When helping others, it’s not about you. It’s about them. Don’t ask for or expect anything in return. Do good things because it’s the right thing to do.

8. Never Stop Laughing

My favorite sound in the world is your giggle. As hard and as grueling as the world can be sometimes, never lose your innocence and your resolve. Never lose sight of what makes you happy and what keeps you moving forward. Never stop laughing, because your laugh is awfully contagious and the world is all the better for it. And remember to keep dancing too.

9. Pay Attention to the Details

The little things matter, because they’re indicative of the bigger things. Remember how I said that sloppy spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are like a chipped coffee cup at a diner or cafe? Those little mistakes aren’t a big deal on their own, but what do they mean about how else the restaurant is being run? Proofread carefully and make sure you’ve got your numbers lined up. You don’t want anything to slip through the cracks.

10. Be Yourself

At the end of the day, the most important thing for you to remember is to stay true to yourself. You don’t need the validation and approval of others. You don’t have to be a little princess just because society says you should, but if you want to wear pink dresses and sparkly tiaras, that’s cool too.

And remember to take care of yourself. It’s not like you can send yourself in for repairs and replacement parts. But you can always come back for hugs and kisses.