Advice for My Daughter as She Graduates

by Ellen Williams

Dear Daughter Who is About to Blow This Popsicle Stand,

I can hear you now, “What? Where do you find a Popsicle stand? I’d rather go for ice cream.” And that right there is why I’m writing my advice in a letter instead of sitting you down for a heart-to-heart: no interruptions, no tangents.

But while you’ve got me on this tangent, for the love of search engines, can you promise me when you don’t know something you’ll Google it? Say for instance, things like idioms and colloquial turns of phrase. You’re post-Millennial for goodness sake. They’re proposing calling your generation Digital Natives, and yet, I always have to remind you to stop shrugging when you don’t know something and pull that super computer of a phone out of your pocket to look it up. When I was your age, it wasn’t that easy. We had to go to shelves containing these books of knowledge known as encyclopedias arranged compulsively in alphabetical order . . .

Okay, sorry about that, but it’s just hitting me hard that I’m not going to be there when you have questions about the little things in life. Sure you can text me, but we’ve already established you may have a tendency to “oh well,” a situation when you don’t have the answer.

You’re about to leave the nest for college and embark on life on your own. Well, more accurately “life on your own” heavily encased in air quotes since dad and I are footing a majority of the bill. Until you’ve chosen between paying the rent and buying name brand cereal for dinner, you haven’t quite sipped from the pool of adulthood.

ANYWAY, my point is I won’t be around to interject my everyday-years-of-experience-old-person knowledge into your life on demand; like that time I stopped you from cleaning the outside of the toaster with nail polish remover. Seriously, acetone and plastic do not mix.

To head these catastrophes off at the pass, I’m going to list as much as I can think of here. In no particular order, here is my “Advice to Make You Look Like More of a Genius Than an A in Calculus.” What? That title may need some work,  but it’s accurate. Calculus may be impressive, but knowing how to clean a toilet is forever.

ANYWAY . . .

A practical love letter filled with advice for a graduating high school senior. Childhood is fleeting, but a mother's love and wisdom are forever. | Parenting | Advice for My Daughter as She Graduates | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

  1. Always open the toilet cleaner pointing AWAY from your face.

  2. Oh and never mix anything with toilet cleaner. My friend forced the evacuation of a summer camp because she mixed ammonia with Sparkly Bowl. Don’t trigger a hazmat situation. It’s embarrassing.

  3. By the way, clean the toilet. Using the brush.

  4. And while we are on the subject of using cleaners properly, never put regular dishwashing liquid in a dishwasher . . . unless you want a flood of suds of Brady Bunch Hijinx proportions.

  5. If “someone” living in your abode makes this mistake, white vinegar will slay those bubbles in an instant.

  6. In fact, just always keep white vinegar around. Unlike nail polish remover which should only be used on nails (it’s in the name, they’re not trying to fool you), white vinegar can be used for just about everything from deodorizing to unclogging shower heads.

  7. What vinegar can’t be used for is a grease fire on the stove. Never throw a liquid (including water) on a cooking fire. You’ll just scatter that sucker around. Use flour or a pot lid or that special fire extinguisher graduation gift—that you rolled your eyes about—to smother the flames. Don’t forget about 911.

  8. You’re not going to walk away from a pan on the stove anyway, right?!

  9. And turn the oven off when you’re done.

  10. And speaking of turning things off, know how to shut the water off before Old Faithful makes a cameo in your kitchen.

  11. It’s righty tighty, lefty loosey.

  12. Always use the right tool for the job. For the love of all that is good, stop opening things with your teeth. The portion of your life where your parents pay for your orthodontia is over.

  13. In general, if it should be moving and doesn’t, blast it with WD-40. If it is moving and it shouldn’t be, duct tape it.

  14. Speaking of things moving, don’t leave your dirty dishes and snack scraps lying around. I saw my first cockroach in college. And mice? Your cat is not going with you to the dorms. I do at least get to keep my fur baby.

  15. Hairspray will kill a cockroach in a pinch. But maybe not in Texas or Florida. Those monsters could survive a nuclear blast. Just. Run.

  16. Never use a paper towel (or Windex) to clean sunglasses, computer screens, or televisions. You would think that at their price points, they would be made out of stuff that could survive a paper towel. They are not.

  17. In general, don’t eat your feelings, but if you must, go for something primo. Don’t waste the calories on a Twinkie.

  18. But really, don’t stress too much about what you eat. Eat healthy because it will make you feel better, but don’t deny yourself that cheeseburger. You have your forties and beyond to do that.

  19. But do stress about drinking enough water. You need at least 64 ounces a day.

  20. But honestly, exercise really is a better stress reliever than eating.

  21. Do at least ten push-ups a day. Push-ups are seriously the perfect exercise. They require no equipment and they’re like the speed dating of upper body workouts, hitting your shoulders, arms, chest and core all in one motion.

  22. Take the stairs. Bonus: unlike an elevator, you’ll never get trapped with a pervert, a screaming baby, or an incontinent grandma.

  23. If you have the choice between staying home in your pajamas or trying something new, even if you think it may be lame, change out of those pjs.

  24. However, there is no shame in “pajama days.” Everyone needs a break.

  25. But for the love of not flashing what the good Lord gave you, never leave the house in pajamas. Even the cute ones.

  26. Remember to put on sunscreen when you do leave the house.

  27. Treat others as you want to be treated. If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for you.

  28. Always assume the person you are talking about (talking is just old-timey speak for texting or Snapchatting) will find out.

  29. If you always get stuck with a task you hate, train someone else to do it.

  30. Crumbs do have to be cleaned out of the toaster.

  31. Clean out the lint trap in the dryer, too.

  32. And never dump someone’s wet clothes from the communal washer onto the floor. That’s the brand of karma that will get your good bras hanging from the trees.

  33. If someone dumps your clothes, you know what to do. Wink, wink.

  34. Scratch #33 and remember #27. See? Adulting is hard.

This list could be endless and I’m sure I forgot something, but don’t worry. Just like the encyclopedias you know nothing about, there will be routine updates. Via text of course.

And if you find yourself in doubt here is the biggie:


(Or at the very least, Google it. I repeat myself because I have to.)

Some of this advice may seem random or trivial (well, except for the fire safety and hazmat avoidance), but here’s why those are the things I worry about. You have the big things covered.

You are so talented and yet, you have finally grasped “hard work beats talent when talent hardly works.” You brim the confidence that I didn’t even know existed when I was seventeen. You know you deserve to be respected. You know there is more to finding your joy and setting your goals than just being good at something. Happiness doesn’t exist without balance.

You are primed to find the people who honor your soul and fuel your happiness because you believed me when I told you that your classmates were just the luck of the draw. They didn’t have to be “your people” and their opinions didn’t have to hold weight.

Now go fulfill your commitments, tackle your dreams, and dominate your goals. Just remember to always lock your doors while you’re doing it.

I believe in you more than you could ever imagine.



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Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”


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One thought on “Advice for My Daughter as She Graduates

  1. Karen Austin

    My son graduates from high school next week. He’s taking a gap year (or two) and living with us, so I have a little more time to transmit some of these pearls of wisdom to him. All my best to the both of you during this time of transition.


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