A Mother’s Advice for A 10 Year Old Daughter

Dear Daughter,

Welcome to the double digits. Turning ten is considered a milestone, celebrating the first decade of your life. But becoming the mother of a ten-year-old for the first time, well, this birthday is kind of terrifying for me. And not just because finding a gift for you is a real b*tch…since you feel you are too old for toys, and feel you are too young for just about everything else. (You also likely know the word b*tch and how to properly use it. Thankfully, age ten does not seem to come with the courage to say it in front of me, only the eyerolls that imply it.)

The simple addition of an extra digit to your age has suddenly made me feel like I am intensely under the gun. It is somehow as if turning ten is the gateway to adulthood. I know by most respects, you are still a child. But you don’t feel like a child anymore, evident by your refusal to order off the kids’ menu and your desire to steal my shoes (which actually fit you) for real life instead of to merely play dress up. This means my window for helping you cram for the exam that is your whole life ahead of you is closing. And my syllabus is full of lesson plans still untaught. Sadly, you are already beginning to doubt that I know anything at all.

My friend Emily of The Waiting recently wrote an achingly beautiful post about how we mothers are continuously pushing, in the sense that we give birth to our children over again each time they move onto something new. Well, now that you have turned ten, my instinct is to stop pushing. Because you are officially on the downhill side of your journey here with me as your guide. Any push I might give will only send you careening to the bottom even faster. But you are going down this hill one way or another whether I like it or not, mostly due to physics. Don’t ask me to explain. All I remember from my Physics class is that you will stay warmer if you towel off inside the shower with the curtain closed than outside on the bath mat. Again, don’t ask me why, but I’ve tried it. And it’s a sound theory.

But I will leave those types of lessons to your teachers and professors. I have my own wisdom to share, and I feel as if I need to catch you now, before the momentum of your descent becomes so forceful that my voice simply sounds like a fleeting distraction.birthday candles

Buy Into “The Deodorant Effect.” We have already talked about the whole your body will be going through a lot of changes thing. But it really does creep up on you. And you just can’t predict anymore when you’re going to smell and when you won’t. I’m not saying it would be right for other kids to shun you if your armpits were ripe, but there is no point in giving them ammunition on a silver platter. So just do that quick preemptive measure every morning.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Deodorant effect’: anytime you can do something simple to ward off problems later on, do it. ” quote=”This ‘deodorant effect’ applies to life in general: any time you can do something simple to ward off a problem down the road, do it.”]

It gives you your best chance to come out smelling like roses…or at least not like b.o.

Speaking of Your Body, You’re Going to Hate It. Everyone is going to tell you not to, while simultaneously sending you unspoken messages that you should look differently than you do. So then you get to feel bad about your body AND feel bad about feeling bad about it. Welcome to being a woman. What I can tell you is that you will likely be your body’s worst critic, so try to remind yourself that no one else is scrutinizing you as much as you do to yourself.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Advice to My 10 yo Daughter: your body doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing…or lovable.” quote=”And your body doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing…or lovable.”]

As far as I’m concerned, no one can hold a candle to your body because it is the vehicle through which God sent me the daughter I had always dreamed of. I have never wanted you to look any other way…except for when you let your hair hang in your face like a crazy-cat lady and wear leggings with a shirt not long enough to cover your butt. Comb it and cover it, kid. There is nothing wrong with putting your best self forward.

And Speaking of Hating Things, You’re Going to Hate Me. I am pretty sure you have already had experience with this one. It is probably going to be a more frequent feeling in the next few years to come. And I won’t lie; it is going to crush my heart every time we are at odds. But I am stubborn, as are you, so we WILL fight. Yet I am not stubborn enough to let you think I don’t love you. If you only remember one thing, let it be this: my love for you can never be wiped away by any words or actions. But damn it, I’m going to prove I’m right sometimes.

You Know Best, Except When You Don’t. Trust your gut. In most situations, it will lead you to the right decision. I know this because I have witnessed what a good, decent heart and perceptive, intelligent brain you have. But your gut can’t exist in a vacuum. Make sure to listen to what others have to say, because it is impossible for you to be the utmost authority on everything.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Never see yourself an expert on anything. There always exists knowledge you haven’t yet learned.” quote=”By the same token, you should never consider yourself an expert on anything, for somewhere in the universe there always exists knowledge you haven’t yet learned.”]

No one has a monopoly on good ideas…except for your mother. (Hate me yet?)

The Only Name That Matters Is Yours. People are going to try to tell you that it matters which name is on your college diploma…or the label of your athletic gear…or the street sign where you live…or the building where you work. And yes, some people are going to judge you on those names. But those names do not really say anything about you, at least, not anything important. The thing that matters most is what comes to mind when people hear your name. What do you want to be the first thing to fall from others’ lips when you are mentioned? If you place too much importance on associating yourself with certain names to create an image, those names may just end up defining you to the world. But if you simply live your life in a way that does justice to your own name, THAT becomes who you are to others. When someone hears your name, would you rather them think Harvard grad with a high-powered job who is always in the top fashions and lives in that exclusive neighborhood or kind, generous, compassionate, and sincere? I already know how you will answer that question, so just make sure to be true to it.

My sweet girl, you have one decade down and so many more to go. I don’t know if I made the most of our past ten years together, but I can tell you they were better than I could have ever imagined. I have a suspicion the next ten will be the hardest on you and me. They usually are for mothers and daughters. But I have faith we can weather the stormy attitudes in the forecast, and I will love you fiercely through it all. I am in this for the long haul.

And I have a stockpile of deodorant.

Love, Mom


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41 thoughts on “A Mother’s Advice for A 10 Year Old Daughter

  1. Your tribute to your daughter’s tenth birthday made me choke up… What a beautiful way to introduce her to womanhood… You are blessed to have one another….


  2. Kelly, this was perfect right down to the end with having unlimited supply of deodorant! Seriously, what a beautiful letter and love the advice your face here to your girl 😉


  3. I can’t even begin to say how much I love this. This might be my most best favoritist thing you’ve ever written. And that’s saying a lot. I will be reading this out loud to my daughter. Absolute perfection!


  4. Beautiful thoughts, beautifully expressed! I still remember the call from you, announcing her birth (we just turning off the Pennsylvania turnpike)! Happy Birthday, Gracie girl! And hugs and strength to you, Kelly, as you begin the most difficult decade for moms and daughters (so incredibly true!).


    1. That day does seem like yesterday! It’s amazing how much I remember from being in the hospital, and having my long list of people to call! And thanks, I know I’m going to need that strength 🙂


  5. All of these points are so fantastic but the one I loved the most was that last one – the only name that matters is yours. That’s such an empowering way to think about things. I love when little pearls of wisdom fall from the blogging sky!


    1. I’m with you…I love when a blog post just really makes me go “YES!!!” I am humbled that this post could do that for you. I had recently read an article about how it doesn’t really matter where you go to college but what you do when you get there, and I have been thinking a lot about that general idea lately. I really want my kids to come to understand that, and not get so wrapped up in things that don’t really matter in the long run. I mean, I probably can’t tell you where half of my friends went to school (unless they went to school with me), but I don’t love having them in my life because of their alma mater.


  6. Once again so beautiful Kelly! I can’t believe our Gracie s double digits! Seems like you were just there. I am sure you will have some trials but she is a good kid and has 2 great parents! Best of luck with your tween!


  7. So, confession: sometimes when we Skype, I think to myself, “I’m so glad I know Kelly because not only is she funny and talented and kind and good, but she’s also so wise.” This post made me think that all over again. I am at a very different place in my parenting journey than you, and I am so blessed to glean insight from your wisdom and understanding. You make me realize that there is so, so much hard stuff to come, but that it’s so very worth it. Love this post, and love you. You made it to ten years. That’s pretty incredible.

    P.S. I believe we’re both hosting birthday parties for our gals this weekend. May the force be with us, and may the chocolate be copious!


    1. Okay…SO…I wrote this entire post to my beloved daughter without shedding one tear. How, I’m not sure…but I was pretty proud of myself. And then you post this freakin’ comment, and I’m all grabbin’ Kleenex over here. Sheesh. I love you, too, Em. You are already a wiser parent than I was when Grace was Cee’s age, so you are going to be JUST FINE when she turns ten.

      P.S. I love that we are throwing parties at the same time. Sadly, I’m not sure that a group of 3 year olds and a group of 10 year olds is all that different. And FYI, Grace wanted a candy table at her party, and the biggest reason I agreed is because I knew I was going to need some chocolate therapy…because there will be karaoke at her party. How many Taylor Swift songs do you think will be sung?


  8. Words cannot express how much I love this. Grace is one lucky girl and I have no worries about the next 10 yrs. ❤


  9. Oh Kelly, you made me laugh and cry. My daughter is turning 5 next month and I can imagine myself saying all of this to her in 5 years. I love what you tell your daughter about her name and now a line from a Jason Mraz song finally makes sense. “Our name is our virtue.” Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!


  10. awwww…I loved this! I am dreading this and 6 already feels too old for me. I wish I could have another child. Hope she loves her body and you for writing it. BTW…on your click to tweet you can set it so it tags you @twitter handle so you know when peeps are tweeting you…like me!! ;0)


    1. Thank you so much. And you know, the thing about having more kids is that you just get to lament them growing up all over again.

      Thank you for the click to tweet tip! You know, I think the problem is that I am still on WordPress.com so I have to use an external click to tweet link generator. You have to pay to have tweets tracked, and I always run out of characters before I can tag myself. It is annoying. I should be switching to WP.org soon though and will definitely be downloading the click to tweet plugin. So I am happy to know I will be able to do that. And thanks for tweeting it! I really appreciate it!


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