Advice for an 18-Year Old

Our beloved daughter, Branwen, turns 18 this week.  While I’ve written about my wife and our son a few times on the blog (something Branwen never fails to note), I have rarely written about her, and even then only in the most oblique terms… because she’s my little girl and my instinct is to protect her from all harms, real or imagined.

But she’s turning 18.  She’s not a little kid anymore.  Heck, as of this week she could enlist in the Armed Forces and be shipped to the front lines. I’m pretty sure she’ll be shipping off to college instead, but still. She’ll be absent from our daily lives, all too soon.

There are certain snippets of advice you can give ANY 18–year old woman: Don’t fall into credit card debt. Save for a rainy day. Treat your trust like a gift. Make friends worth keeping. Have fun – but not too much fun. Don’t drink and drive. Pursue your passions (but don’t forget to pay the rent). But such advice feels tone deaf, too.  It doesn’t meet the need of providing specific advice to someone you’ve known and loved since they were tiny.

BranwenBranwen is a miracle. She’s the girl you wish your kid would befriend; the kind of girl you want your son to marry. She’s funny, beautiful, smart and daring but also practical and charitable. She is, blessedly, a lot like her mother.

She’s the girl who spends her vacations bunked on the outskirts of a Costa Rican landfill, to help build furniture for a people who subsist on trash to survive.

She’s the only girl in her community service troupe to skip the bus ride and instead hikes the arduous Andean mountain trail leading to Peru’s Machu Picchu landmark.

She’s the only person in the raft to dive into the Class III rapids, to splash in a natural waterfall: just one more item scratched off the bucket list.

She’s the one person out of 100–odd tourists who will notice a wet, scraggly kitten huddled dangerously close to the tires of the tour bus; rescue the kitty; and badger the guide relentlessly until he promises to not only rescue but adopt the mewling, pathetic creature.

She’s the designated driver who doesn’t judge the rest of the kids puking in the backseat; not because she doesn’t like to party but simply because she doesn’t dig the taste or the after-effects of alcohol. (At least, for now.)

She’s the girl who curses her impossibly thick, wavy hair; nicknames it The Beast. Who isn’t a sucker for a girl who can nickname her hair?

She isn’t perfect. She can be volatile. She often underestimates her abilities and beauty. But she is alive.  The toddler girl who leapt into the snow in her bare feet – our “Spicy Muffin” then and now – is more fit for, and open to, Life itself, than anyone I could name.  She amazes her mom and me more often than she imagines.

Branwen is a veteran collector of experiences, an accomplished maker of friends.

What kind of advice do you give such a woman?

Branwen: Don’t fall into credit card debt. Save for a rainy day. Treat your trust like a gift. Make friends worth keeping. Have fun – but not too much fun. Don’t drink and drive. Pursue your passions (but don’t forget to pay the rent). And other than that, my sweet girl?  Keep doing what you’re doing.

We love you.  Happy birthday.

Posted on: January 25, 2013 at 7:30 am By Todd Defren
3 Responses to “Advice for an 18-Year Old”


  • Justin says:

    She sounds quite incredible. You must be proud! I’m 30 and she sounds like a kindred spirit about to enter a very formative decade.

    My advice: Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. And live that life on fire.

  • roula says:

    She sounds amazing–thanks for sharing. My advice: Listen to your gut and follow your heart. It’s always turned out to be a winning formula for me.

  • C.C. Chapman says:

    While I have yet to meet this amazing woman, we have talked about her in the past and she sounds awesome.

    My advice to her would be simple. Never change and loose that passion she has for insuring that the world around her is better because she is in it.

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