To My Daughter on Her Tenth Birthday


with the messy ponytail, sparkling eyes and a crooked grin;

just today I saw

in the curve of your neck and the way you turned when I called your name

the ghost of the woman you will be.


Startled at your smile, your laugh, both somehow a bit older today,

And the long brown legs suddenly free of bruises and band-aids,

I imagined

all that is before you

and pondered the age old question of

how much of that woman is carved into your very biology

and how much circumstance might mold you.

Good mothers say

they only wish you happiness


they wish you only happiness

but it is just that: a wish

without some advice on how to grant it to yourself.


I find it is not so much a matter of what to do or be or say or become

as a matter of what not to.

Don’t hurry to grow up, when all around you are straining toward some imagined golden adulthood. Gold in the fire takes time, and it gets burned.

Don’t be a woman who thrives on drama, creating her own at any chance,

only to complain about the chaos and drama

making a mess in her life.

Don’t be a woman who makes bad choices

And then,


blames circumstance for the hand dealt her.

Your choices are yours: if you make a few bad ones,

here and there,

learn and move on.

Laugh when you are able.

Follow that feeling in your heart and in your stomach

that says do this, or don’t do that. It is your compass;

your true North.

But take with a grain of salt

all other feelings;

listen politely, as you would to an elderly stranger,

(not entirely sure if he is senile,) and look for the logic within them.

Feelings can be your greatest teacher, or a treacherous traitor

depending on how much power you give them.

Don’t be a woman who is fueled by things:

things will disappoint you every time.

Find what inspires you, and reach for it

be it a million miles away, or in your hip pocket;

find it, and hold it tight.

Should you marry I hope you marry

a man who is not so rich that he cares about the wrong things


not so poor that he is accustomed to it.

Love Big. Laugh hard. Eat well. And believe in your dreams.

But dream

with your sleeves rolled up.

And if God grants me a long life, know this:

I am here I am here I am here

and I love you