By Guest Blogger Misty Nichols, author of Back Porch Bliss

As time takes flight and Decembers become Januarys, I see the babies I just brought home growing up. It’s remarkable to watch— I see myself in them, I see my husband, I see our parents and grandparents. And there are some days, I am like, “where the heck did you come from?!” Then I remind myself that one-of-a-kind mix of genes is what makes them, um, precious individuals??? Yes, PRECIOUS.

I remember getting more advice than I could handle during pregnancy and when they were babies, but I never heard much about helping that little person grow into a self-sufficient adult. Nobody prepares you for (adorable?) middle-schoolers and sassy third-graders. Where’s the What to Expect book for all that?

Over the last couple years, I’ve thought about it a lot. I think about the big world we live in, what experience has taught me and what I really want them to know. From their mama.

Here are a few:

You belong. As you move through this life, when you feel pain, sadness, or uncertainty, know that in this family, you always belong. Always.

Know that life is hard and unpredictable. It’s supposed to be, embrace it. It will never (ever) go according to your plan. Life is never black and white, sometimes you just have to watch it unfold and trust the path. Be flexible and don’t forget to breathe. Find what grounds you and take a moment when you need it. When you need to, switch gears or do the next thing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Love yourself, but know that not everyone will. Know your value, appreciate your authentic self and pay attention to your inner voice. Be kind to yourself. Expect that some people won’t understand or like you. I promise it will be ok. They are just not your people.

One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, gave a piece of advice that has really stuck with me: “What people think of you is none of your business.” Focus on loving the person God made you to be and it will all take care of itself.

Look upward and inward. Trust God and yourself. Go with your gut and let your conscience be your guide.

Pretty is as pretty does. There are so many ways to say this, but this is how my grandmother said it, and she was the smartest earthly angel I ever knew. So be pretty kind, pretty brave, pretty loyal and pretty strong.

Kind is the new cool. It’s so much more fun to be kind than it is to be nasty. Pay attention to how you feel when you are kind or when someone is kind to you. That said, don’t be afraid to walk away from someone who isn’t kind to you.

Perfect is a monster. If you strive for perfection you will spend much of your life disappointed. When I get stuck, I ask myself, “will it matter in ten years?” I actually learned that one from my wise brother (thanks bro!). Laugh at yourself when things aren’t perfect. Some of life’s great lessons are learned from failure and imperfection. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake and get back on your horse.

Stay forever young. The image of my son riding his new bike through the living room comes to mind with this one. Ride that new bike through the living room. Swim in the sea. Watch the sun rise and set. Dance in the kitchen. Surround yourself with kind people who love you. Laugh until your stomach hurts.

Live with a grateful heart. Give gratitude for what you have, find beauty and joy in the simplest of things. Know that success has nothing to do with money. My grandparents were simple, grow-it-in-your-garden kind of people. I never knew happier, more genuine people.

Know your boundaries and limits. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should or have to.

Remember your roots but use those wings. Know where you came from but write your own story. Never stop learning. Use your voice– what you have to say matters. Take it all in and don’t let fear keep you from loving or living.

Love, Mom

“May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
And may you stay forever young.”

-Bob Dylan