A Letter To My Daughter Before She Leaves For Camp- Guest Author Amber Watson

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week, my 14-year old daughter is packing up for a five-day trip into the
mountains with a gaggle of other 12 to 18-year old girls and a handful of very
brave leaders. Sponsored by the LDS church, Girls Camp aims to not only keep
the girls alive in the wilderness but to keep them beating and breathing
spiritually as well. Prior to camp, I was contacted by one of the brave leaders
asking me to please write a personal letter to my daughter, one that she could
read at a specified time and place and, because this letter should include my
personal testimony, or witness, it should help her come closer to God.
I ended up writing was probably not what they had in mind but it’s what I had
in mine.
Dearest Doodle—
hope you’re enjoying Girls Camp with all the dirt and bugs and heat and
campfire smoke, along with the laughter and smiles (that was corny—don’t judge
me), the opportunities for self-evaluation and reflection, and the chances to
make yourself stronger. I hope you’re taking advantage of the time you have to
meet some of the great girls and leaders you are there with, get to know
yourself and come closer to God. If I know you, I’m sure you are.
of knowing each other, after 14 years, I think I know you pretty well. And
Doodle, you know me pretty well too. I’m not going to write you some hokey
letter that says all the same stuff you’ve learned in Primary lessons and then
recited verbatim. While those things are important to sort through and
understand, I want to tell you something more as you’re getting older and
things aren’t always that simple or straightforward.
the potential side-effect of turning into a drugged-out loser, staying the heck
away from any mood or mind altering substances will save you from regret, loss
of control, dependence, and shame. At your young age, staying away from drugs
and alcohol keeps you in control of your thoughts, your actions, and your
choices. It also saves you from loserdom. Check it. 
will come a time when boys will want to kiss you and you will want to kiss them
back. This is great; I actually highly recommend it.
J However, you are so young, sweet
Doodle. You need to decide now where your boundaries are so you know beforehand
when and where you will draw your lines. This is another one of those
situations where you want to remain in control. At your age, relationships with
boys are hard enough emotionally without all the complications and hurt and
insecurities of a physical one. If he can’t respect your boundaries and love
you for the strong, intelligent girl you are, send him my way. I will cut him.
responsibility for your own happiness. Remember that talk we had where I gave
the hypothetical situation about me running off to follow my dreams of becoming
an interpretive dancer? (For the record, and by way of reminder, I’m not actually
considering this.) However, the moral of that story is that people around you
might make choices that you don’t like, or that might make you feel frustrated,
sad, angry, or betrayed. People might hurt you. First rule: when someone hurts
you, it’s never about you. It’s about them—their insecurities, jealousies,
sadness, pain, etc. You can’t go through life taking everything personally or
blaming everyone. Be secure in yourself, in your strength and beauty. Know that
the path you’re on is yours alone and that anyone’s issues are their problem.
Yes, be compassionate (this is one of your greatest strengths); listen to
people and help them but remember they aren’t allowed to drag you down. Or
else. (See #2)
out your own belief. This is perhaps the hardest of all the things I’ve listed.
Deciding what you believe and crafting your personal witness is something that
takes a lifetime and there is no such thing as arriving. Your relationship with
God will change as you grow and encounter new challenges and blessings. You
will have questions and you should not be afraid to admit when you don’t know
the answers. Trust yourself to search and find the truths that resonate for
you. As you earnestly seek, you will come to know what is true. Additionally, keep
in mind that others are also working out their own beliefs. Respect others in
their journeys.
love you Doodle, with all my heart. Be safe, be brave, and be happy.

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Smith Watson graduated this past spring from Brigham Young University’s Masters
of Fine Arts program in creative writing, with an emphasis in fiction. Her
creative work has appeared in Touchstones
Literary Journal
, Cutbank, and The Normal School, and she is currently
in the submission process for a number of the pieces which appeared in her
master’s thesis: Boiling Over. Amber is now adjunct faculty at both Brigham Young
University and Utah Valley University, teaching composition and creative
writing courses. A Columbus, Ohio native, Amber currently lives in Pleasant
Grove, UT with her husband and her two children.

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