By LINDSEY MEAD
Grace is rounding the curve to ten. I am not sure how this is possible. 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 10-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. Your physical fearlessness is a strength. 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. You should never 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 realise 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.