Things I Want My 10 Year Old Daughter To Know


Grace is rounding the curve to ten.  I am not sure how this is possible.  In my second month of blogging here she turned four.  Now she’s more than halfway to her tenth birthday.  It’s irrefutable.  I feel ever more aware of her girlhood and looming adolescence, and of all the things I want her to know, as if I could somehow instill values and beliefs into her, like pressing a penny into soft clay.  I know I can’t; the best I can do is to keep saying them, keep writing them, keep living them.

Ten things I want my ten year old daughter to know:

1. It is not your job to keep the people you love happy.  Not me, not Daddy, not your brother, not your friends.  I promise, it’s not.  The hard truth is that you can’t, anyway.

2. Don’t lose your physical fearlessness.   Please continue using your body in the world: run, jump, climb, throw.  I love watching you streaking down the soccer field, or swinging proudly along a row of monkey bars, or climbing into the high branches of a tree.  There is both health and a sense of mastery in physical activity and challenges.

3. Don’t be afraid to share your passions.  You are sometimes embarrassed that you still like to play with dolls, for example, and you worry that your friends will make fun of you.  Anyone who teases you for what you love to do is not a true friend.  This is hard to realize, but essential.

4. It is okay to disagree with me, and others.  You are old enough to have a point of view, and I want to hear it.  So do those who love you.  Don’t pick fights for the sake of it, of course but when you really feel I’m wrong, please say so.  You have heard me say that you are right, and you’ve heard me apologize for my behavior or point of view when I realize they were wrong.  Your perspective is both valid and valuable.  Don’t shy away from expressing it.

5. You are so very beautiful.  Your face now holds the baby you were and the young woman you are rapidly becoming.  My eyes and cleft chin and your father’s coloring combine into someone unique, someone purely you.  I can see the clouds of society’s beauty myth hovering, manifest in your own growing self-consciousness.  I beg of you not to lose sight with your own beauty, so much of which comes from the fact that your spirit runs so close to the surface.

6. Keep reading.  Reading is the central leisure-time joy of my life, as you know.  I am immensely proud and pleased to see that you seem to share it.  That identification you feel with characters, that sense of slipping into another world, of getting lost there in the best possible way?  Those never go away.  Welcome.

7. You are not me.  We are very alike, but you are your own person, entirely, completely, fully.  I know this, I promise, even when I lose sight of it.  I know that separation from me is one of the fundamental tasks of your adolescence, which I can see glinting over the horizon.  I dread it like ice in my stomach, that space, that distance, that essential cleaving, but I want you to know I know how vital it is.  I’m going to be here, no matter what, Grace.  The red string that ties us together will stretch.  I know it will.  And once the transition is accomplished there will be a new, even better closeness.  I know that too.

8. It is almost never about you.  What I mean is when people act in a way that hurts or makes you feel insecure, it is almost certainly about something happening inside of them, and not about you.  I struggle with this one mightily, and I have tried very, very hard never once to tell you you are being “too sensitive” or to “get over it” when you feel hurt.  Believe me, I know how feelings can slice your heart, even if your head knows otherwise.  But maybe, just maybe, it will help to remember that almost always other people are struggling with their own demons, even if they bump into you by accident.

9. There is no single person who can be your everything.  Be very careful about bestowing this power on any one person.  I suspect you are trying to fill a gnawing loneliness, and if you are you inherited it from me.  That feeling, Woolf’s “emptiness about the heart of life,” is just part of the deal.  Trying to fill that ache with other people (or with anything else, like food, alcohol, numbing behaviors of a zillion sorts you don’t even know of yet) is a lost cause, and nobody will be up to the task.  You will feel let down, and, worse, that loneliness will be there no matter what.  I’m learning to embrace it, to accept it as part of who I am.  I hope to help you do the same.

10. I am trying my best.  I know I’m not good enough and not the mother you deserve.  I am impatient and fallible and I raise my voice.  I am sorry.  I love you and your brother more than I love anyone else in the entire world and I always wish I could be better for you.  I’ll admit I don’t always love your behavior, and I’m quick to tell you that.  But every single day, I love you with every fiber of my being.  No matter what.

94 thoughts on “Things I Want My 10 Year Old Daughter To Know”

  1. Thank you for you words. I plan on sharing them with my 16 year daughter. My favorite is #9. I have always felt unsure of what that feeling meant and after reading your words think I have a better understanding of this common human emotion and now I don’t have feel quite so confused and guilty about having it.

  2. While my daughter has just turned 21 I will still give her this message. I will also give it to my sister of 46 who still struggles with world at times, and myself as a useful reminder for the next phase of my menopausal journey. These wonderful messages are still relevant as we continue to grow. Thank you!

  3. Lindsey, I found your website by chance. So happy I found you! I am a mother of three boys, Could you write “things I want my son to know?”

  4. I have my own Grace, on the cusp of adolescence (9, next month) and you articulated my own thoughts, fears, and desires for my perfect little girl. My Grace and your Grace sound a lot alike too..I want to foster her adventurous spirit, her innocence, and fearlessness as long as I can. I truly enjoyed reading this!

  5. This was incredibly awesome to read. I just wish my mom could have reassured me on some of these things. We stil have a ton of gaps

  6. This is just beautiful – all the more so because it is so heartfelt. I hope you will save it for your daughter to read someday. She will be very touched, as are all of us who have read it.

  7. Just beautiful… words of wisdom for a 10yo and all of us Moms who have lost our way a little and need reminding. Thank you for touching my heart.

  8. Excellent! Beautiful! Regarding #10: We may sometimes feel we are not good enough for our children but based on what you have written in this post ….how can that be true?

  9. Thank you –I just sent your link to my 21-year old daughter. I’ve said these things over and over, but to have it all collected in thought, as you have done, is comforting.

  10. Love this. Recently did research on topic, and I realized that I was working on all the wrong things when I grew up, most of us women do. I was working on being popular, thin, and loved by a boy/man. If I would have worked on liking and knowing myself all the other problems would have worked themselves out. How can you like yourself if you don’t know who you are? Kudos for the list! Even biger kudos for being a great mom!

  11. “I suspect you are trying to feel a gnawing loneliness” I cringe at reading that part and what follows. I do not know you at all nor am I judging you. I will say this; I feel (again.. knowing nothing about you or your family at all) that that could be asking to instill something in Grace that may not even be there. To suggest it (if she were to read that) I think isn’t too good at all. (my three cents-

    I love everything about this post other than that and it put tears in my eyes.. (my own issues)

    Bless you and good luck =]

    Jason H. West

  12. Hi Jason,

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment – you may well be right. I’m not sure. Though she’s only 10 I do get the sense that this is a familiar feeling for her, so that is what I was getting at – but you are right to point out the power of suggestion. xox

  13. Thank you for sharing so eloquently ~ although is it meant to be “feel a gnawing loneliness” in #9, or “fill”? There is a subtle but powerful difference.

  14. This is so beautiful, Lindsey. Thank you for sharing your powerful thoughts. So many of these things I wish that my mother had told me. Instead, it took me a lot of life to figure them out. You and your daughter are so lucky to have each other.

  15. I don’t understand why you would tell your 10 year old that you’re not good enough and she deserves a better mother??

  16. That is a really good question and one that I’ve been asking myself. On the Huffington Post version of this piece I said many times that I wish I could change #10. I don’t want to tell her that. Thanks for pointing it out.

  17. although I am a daughter still not a mother but I understand that my mom thinks the same for me because for 20yrs., which I’ve been with her, I got to understand her more than ever n no matter how oftenly we argue or have clash in our opinions but I still know that nobody can love me more than her n nobody will ever love her more than I do…
    for a daughter, no matter how much she’s attached to her father, MOTHER remains a MOTHER and for me my mom is the best ideal i’ll ever be to be like…
    and for your daughter you ARE the BEST MOTHER she could ever have… :)))

  18. Hi my name is Isabella and I am about to turn 9 in July and my grandmother told me to read this and now I feel better about myself and I hope this message gets out to everybody that you don’t have to pretty to do anything and to just be your house PLEASE RIGHT BACK

  19. Thank you!. As my daughter turns 10 in a week I’ve been processing deep emotions and wanted to do something special to mark this passage of turning double digit. Found your 10 things and loved it. I’m inspired to write my own version for her.Grace is an extremely lucky girl!
    Sincerely, Lili

  20. That’s bad ass! I came here looking for advice on my soon to be 12 y/o daughter who just wrote a love note to a boy she likes in her 6th grade class, and I found this post. I will have to tweek this a but to come from a man’s perspective but I wholeheartedly agree with everythign she wrote. This took courage too. I give you props, Super-Mom whoever you are!


  21. What a lovely and honest letter to your daughter. I remember feeling that age 10 was a real year of change. I truly felt a sense of “me”, of real independence at that age. This resonated with me. She is lucky to have you.

  22. Hi Lindsey.

    I stumbled onto your blog via Facebook and this post is exactly what I want to tell my six-year-old daughter when she’s ten. My version of what you’re doing is to send emails to her (and her brother) at email addresses they don’t even know they have yet. I plan to copy your post and send it to her so she can read it when she’s old enough. Just wanted you to know.

    Thank you.


  23. Thank you so much for posting this. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking of recently. I’m only 23, but it’s hard not to think about these little life lessons that you want to pass along as you realize them.

  24. Hello!
    I stumbled upon this post and I took the freedom to translate it to Spanish and posted it on my website, saying it is yours of course. I hope to deliver to Spanish moms what you made me feel…
    Thank you,


  25. This is amazing. So many details echo the exact same things I want to say, but haven’t found the words! I think I may have to use it as a starting point to my own almost 10 year old daughter & her 8 year old sister behind her.
    Thank you for such a wonderful gift.

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