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. What a blessing you are to Grace and she to you. I would love to share this Caroline if that would be ok? And then I would like to write to my own although I’m not sure what else there is to say- this is wonderful.

  2. Of course it’s okay! And I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. You are among a small, treasured group of dear friends with daughters the same age as Grace, and I am intensely grateful for your companionship on this path. xox

  3. This is so beautiful. I wish all daughters had these words to steer by, LIndsey, thank you.

    As my girl heads off to college in a few months, I am trying to form my own. This post is a wonderful inspiration.


  4. I wish I had read these wise words when i was ten. Instead I will learn from them now and fold the, away to share when my own daughter arrives. Thank you thank you!

  5. These are all wonderful, Lindsey, but I especially resonate with #8, as not a 10-year-old but a 33-year-old! I am struggling with this right now with someone in my life, and they are just the words I needed to hear. I have always been “too sensitive,” too, something that my own mother was quick to remind me that “I’d grow out of someday.” Your list hits upon a truth that I’ve been pondering lately, something I’d like to write about soon: the very things I am trying to cultivate in my own daughter are the things I am trying desperately to cultivate in myself.

  6. This is an amazing list…and I agree, I want to pass it along to Kiddo when she’s older. And I think I could use this as a reminder at times. I was going to point out the one that “hits” me the most, but they all do. Fantastic, just spot-on. Thank you for starting my week off this way!

  7. I’ve been so busy the last couple of weeks – I’ve been behind in reading. I come back to reading this monday morning and start the day with tears – such beautiful writing.

  8. Lindsey, this is beautiful. Ten is a great age, especially when she is able to read this herself and understand these words you’ve lovingly crafted for her.

  9. I am reading this as a letter to MY 10 year old SELF and wishing these were things that I was told when I was younger.

    Of course, everything that has happened to me since has shaped me into who I am… but…

    I was talking to my husband yesterday and wondering how different the world would be if parents taught their children only two things:
    1. be kind
    2. trust yourself

    these are the things I would teach my children (if I had any) and I will continue to teach myself.

    Beautifully written and incredibly moving, great reminders to me, even at more than 10 years old.


  10. I feel completely raw and tender reading this, having a 13 year old niece without a mom who is struggling, suffering. You are such a good mom, Grace is so lucky.

  11. I could probably stand to learn these things too. Esp. #8, which is both freeing and very compassionate. What if I could see the ways that people hurt me as some insight into their own struggles?

  12. These words are beautiful and ones that every young girl (and some of us older ones!) should hear – often. Thank you for your eloquence and openness. A blessing!

  13. Beautiful. I hope this gets passed all around the big wide web (and from one of my student’s hands to the next).

  14. Listen, Sugar. I I tell you when my birthday is, will you tell me just 4 or 5 things you’d like me to know? This is just beautiful. Things from the heart always are. And oh my goodness, how she will treasure this as the years go by.

  15. Absolutely wonderful, Lindsey. I love this, being the mother of two who will be 10 some day. Thank you for this gift.

  16. What wonderful advice! I have an 11-year-old daughter and so many of these things are the same things I’m hoping she will hold onto, too.

  17. when this gets shared, can you please warn people (i.e. hormonal moms especially) that they will need tissues? thanks.

    I pretty much want to copy this, and edit it for my 7yo. She needs to hear it.


  18. Just incredible. Your words encompass everything I believe, feel, value, and fiercely want to be passed on to my almost-10-year-old daughter Carly – and I certainly could not have said it better – or half as eloquently – myself, and should be oh-so-grateful for your generous sharing – once again – as always!! Your way with words is just magic, the attention you give to your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings is just astounding and your blog is simply a gift to everyone lucky enough to have found it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  19. Lindsey, this is just stunning. I wish I’d had these words when I was ten. I’m going to inhale them now and try to share them with my own oldest daughter, who is eight. Thank you.

  20. Lindsey-
    I love this! May I print it for Christina who is only a few months ahead of Grace on the path to 10! I love the list for myself as well.

  21. I have a friend who (with a bit of help from the rest of us friends!) Wrote her daughter a book for her 13th birthday. It was called ‘Things I Wish I’d Known At 13’.
    It had everything from boys, relationships, sex, hygiene, friends, jobs, education etc. Just snippets of information that people just don’t tell their kids, some things seem unimportant at the time but these things are BIG at that age.
    I love this post, it’s so important to treat our kids ‘not so like little kids’. They have brains and we underestimate them.

  22. Great list, Lindsey! If we take these ten and share one a day with our children … it will make a profound impact on their lives! Happy Birthday to your daughter. 🙂

  23. Substitute ages 30, 24, and 13 for “10” … and this is a PERFECT article for me to share with my 3 daughters 🙂 As a mom/grandmother, I still search for parenting advice. This is beautiful!! Thank you.

  24. This resonates with me, and I have one suggested edit. You Are good enough. You are not perfect, but she is lucky to have you for a mom!

  25. As a new mother of a precious baby girl, I sure enjoyed this post!
    #8 really resonated with me. It was great to see it put into words, and especially such eloquent ones.
    I know everyone can relate to #9, but the idea of “embracing” the loneliness really broke my heart. I fully believe that the ache you speak of is part of the deal, but only because we live in a broken world, separated from the One who created us and designed us to be in relationship with Him. I am praying that you and your daughter will both come to know the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ, and the peace, joy, and fullness that come with that deal. I have been learning (slowly) over the last two decades how to make Him my everything, and I He alone has never once let me down. Oh, I have often burdened other people and things with the pressure to be everything to me, and I’ve found your assessment to be correct every time. But He can handle our neediness and our expectations. There is such hope in Him!!
    That’s been on my heart ever since I read this yesterday, and I couldn’t keep it to myself. I do thank you for your openness and your beautiful writing, and I wish you and your family the best!

  26. My daughter’s name is Grace as well and she is turning 10 next year. I plan to read this post to her. It was very inspirational. I wish my mom had given me such advice. Thank you

  27. How can I get a copy of the “10 Things I want my Daughter to know”? Would love to send it to my daughter to share with my 2 granddaughters (9 and 11 yrs).

  28. My daughter turned 10 a couple weeks ago and my son is 12 today. Your post hit the spot as it were.

    This is a lovely love letter to your daughter. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us.

  29. Fantastic list and I agree with one poster above that probably the best piece of advice is item no. 8 : )

    I think you are being a bit hard on yourself in item no. 10……………I am sure many would agree you are a great mother : )

  30. Beautiful words! I came across your blog/posts about Lee ann Womack’s song “I hope you dance” in Moments of Wonder that you wrote about. Reading your words lifts and inspires me and I also relate so closely. It feels wonderful reading it all. I’m a new Mom and I will be sharing this with my own daughter down the road 🙂
    Thank you.

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