Growing up as a young lady in The South is a great blessing, but one that carries a heavy burden. Although your mama did not have this privilege (Virginia may be below the Mason-Dixon line, but no one ever accused people from NoVa as being "southern"), I have learned a thing or two about what it means to be from The South in the nearly-ten-years I've spent living here (4 in Tennessee, 6 in North Carolina). And despite your daddy's best intentions, you will be a southern lady. There are more than a few things you will learn about growing up in God's country, but these are some of my favorites.
Mind Your Manners
You should always always say please, thank you, ma'am and sir. I am 27 years old and I still say "yes ma'am" to people who very well may be younger than I am. "Please" and "Thank You" are not magic words that get you what you want - they are common courtesy and can never be over-used. While I'm thinking about it, don't underestimate the value of a good apology or adding the qualifier "so much". A genuine "Thank You So Much!" can mean a lot to the person hearing it if it means a lot to the person saying it. I also want to say here that your mama never attended cotillion (although I did have a brief etiquette class the year I did Girl Scouts), but my parents taught us table manners and your daddy and I will do the same for you. You eat what is put in front of you, or you go to bed hungry. You speak when spoken to and do not interrupt if other people (including your parents) are talking. You get no dessert if you have not finished your dinner. These might sound harsh, but that's the way I grew up and I turned out just fine. We'll do our part and make sure you never go hungry (and if I know your father, he'll do your part to make sure you never miss out on dessert).
Act - and Dress - Your Age
Little girls deserve to have fun and be little girls. I don't care if your idea of fun is making daisy chains with your girlfriends under a big tree (your mama and your Aunt Sissy did that all the time!), or if it's playing in the mud with a big tonka truck - you get to be you. But you don't get to start wearing eyeliner at age nine, and you don't get to throw a temper tantrum at that age either. I experienced first-hand how quickly little girls grow up nowadays and I do not want that for you, sweet baby. I led a bit of a sheltered childhood, which I now see as a blessing, that included only listening to Christian music or oldies, not eating fast food or drinking soda, and wearing overalls until I was a teenager (you might not be able to avoid this one - your GrandPadge loves to buy his girls some Osh Kosh B'Gosh Overalls - you already have a pair waiting in your closet!). There are so many precious memories I have from my childhood, especially growing up with lot of kids around at all times, and it was largely because I was allowed to just be a kid. A well-behaved kid, all the same, but I was a little girl and was not expected (or allowed) to be a big girl too soon.
Thank You Notes
As I said earlier, don't underestimate the value of a good apology OR a genuine Thank You. If someone invites you over for dinner, you write them a thank you note. If someone has you as an overnight guest, you get them a hostess gift AND write them a thank you note. And if, some day, you're blessed with a child of your own and your sweet mama and Aunt Kiki host you a baby shower with friends and family you've known for years, and that baby gets spoiled with the cutest clothes you've ever seen, you BETTER write them all thank you notes, or your mama will kick your butt. There is something to be said for monogrammed cards - don't worry, you already have some. And while I may have missed a thank-you-note-opportunity now and again, I really do try to make this a priority. Your Aunt Kiki does a great job of it, as does your cousin April. Their mamas taught them well. Who doesn't love getting a note in the mail, especially on beautiful stationary?!
The Bigger the Bow, The Better the Mama
Your closet is currently full of about 15 wicker baskets, one of which is especially dedicated to hair bows and head bands. Everyone who knows me knows that these are a necessity. While I have tried and tried to resist buying you tons of clothes and accessories (all our sweet friends & family have done plenty of that - especially your Gigi!), I did breakdown and buy two gorgeous handmade bows and a hat with a huge flower. You might look back at your baby pictures and think that you look ridiculous with bows and flowers as big as your head, but trust me, it's because I love you. And you might as well learn to love it now, because they're not going anywhere. I've yet to determine if I'm going to let you cheer or not (that's another blog for another day), but if I do - and if you want to - the bows are only getting bigger, little one.
London, I think the most important thing to remember about being a good southern girl is that it's never too late to become one. It's a way of life that you can choose to adopt anytime you want, but you're so blessed to grow up this way. Southern girls love monograms, college football, tervis tumblers and casseroles. We love shopping, manicured nails, a cold beer on a patio and a handsome man in a collared shirt. Sometimes being a southern girl is being able to hold your whiskey and sometimes it's a well-made guest bed. It's acceptance, it's being gracious, it's a few "bless her heart"s and it's being a daddy's girl. This might sound like a lot of pressure, but trust me when I tell you, it's a lot more pressure for me to raise you right. I promise to do my best but I hope that someday, when you realize that maybe I made some mistakes or wish I had done a few things differently, you'll know that everything I did was because I love you and I want you to be proud of the woman you're going to become ... even if that means moving to New York someday.