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In a few days, my daughter will be finishing middle school. It’s a big step, for her and me.

When she was younger, I knew I wanted to teach her the secrets to life. How to catch a ball by squeezing onto it, rather than letting it slip through her tiny hands. How to eat an Oreo three different ways. How to play ping-pong. But now I also want her to know how to be happy, how to be a good person, how to live a life she can be proud of. I want her to know about the little things and the big things; I never want her to say, “If only I’d known … .”

She’s too young to understand everything I want to tell her. But I want her to know some of life’s best-kept secrets. So, just like we practiced the ABCs so many years ago, I now want to impart some helpful hints based on the alphabet — hints for every girl about life, love and everything in between.

Act your age. Do not be in a hurry to grow up, because it will be here soon enough. There is lots of time for pantyhose and pearls. Right now be who you are, because you only get one shot at each age.

Be brave. Always think “yes” first when presented with an opportunity, especially the ones that seem a little scary, but which make your heart beat a little faster. But never be the first to bungee jump.

Care about yourself and others. Let others know you care about them even if you think they already know.

Dream big. Why dream small? There is no reason not to go for what you want in life. One of the saddest sentences in life is “Maybe I could have done it, if I had only tried.”

Eat something yummy every day.

Find the fun in life. Pick up a fluffy white dandelion, blow as hard as you can, and make a wish. Join someone on the carousel. Skip around the house, just because you can.

Greet everyone with a smile. A real smile, too. Not just one where your lips move. But don’t do this with people you dislike or who give you the willies.

Have children. You will never feel so loved in your life. But first have a pet.

Instinct is your best friend. If your first instinct is “No way!” or “Uh, I’m not sure about this,” this is the correct feeling. Your instinct can save you from a lot of trouble. Do not be someone who looks back and says, “I had a funny feeling about this, but did it anyway.” Your instinct is right every time.

Jump up and down with glee when something great happens.

Know that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Listen to your heart. Your brain will tell you if something makes sense to do, but your heart will let you know if this is what you really want — or don’t want. The heart never lies.

Marry someone you want to marry. Marry him because you feel happy, secure, complete and excited when you are with him and would miss him if he weren’t there. Who you marry is the most important decision in your life. Will he root for you and your goals, no matter what? Will he be a good father? Will he give you the last piece of cake? Take your time choosing, then don’t look back.

No is a full sentence. You don’t need to say anything more.

Over and over and over again. This is how many times you’ll have to do something before you get good at it. Even if it comes easy to you, keep practicing, because somewhere, someone else is practicing even harder.

Promise me you will look both ways before crossing any street.

Question things. Just because one person says something is so, that doesn’t mean it’s correct. Do your homework on the important stuff.

Repeat after me: I rock.

Speak for those who can’t — animals who need protecting, the frail, the elderly. Help those in need.

Take your sweater. If the temperature drops in the theater or at the ball game, you’ll be glad you have it. And even if it doesn’t get too cold, you can use it to “save” the seat next to you, so you don’t have to share the armrest.

Use words wisely and think twice before you say something unkind. You can never take back hurting someone’s feelings.

Validate other people’s feelings. Everyone wants to be heard, to be loved, to be accepted. Do this for the people in your life and maybe they will do the same for you.

Wash your hands.

Expect success. Expect success from yourself. You can do it. And when you do achieve something, celebrate. Never say, “Oh, it was nothing.” Because it wasn’t nothing — it was something. And that is something to celebrate.

You are the expert of you. You know yourself better than anyone (even your mom, who thinks she knows you best). But only “you” know what you truly want, and what truly makes you happy. Do not look to others to tell you what to think, feel or do. They are not the expert of you. You are. And that’s a beautiful and powerful thing.

Zip through your day (but not too fast). Do not be a couch potato. You have the capacity to achieve whatever you want to achieve. All you have to do is make up your mind who you want to be, how you want to live your life, and what you want to do. Also think about how you want to be remembered. Then, all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. And, then, young lady, you are on your way.

Mia Geiger is a writer in the Philadelphia area. You can find her at miageiger.com and @MiaGeiger.

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