This morning, the magical Madeleine turns ten years old! It seems like only yesterday I was covered in spit-up, walking up and down our busy street, praying like crazy that anything, anything at all would help her settle down so we could all get some much needed sleep. I had no idea how much joy and happiness being the mother of such a wild, warm-hearted girl would bring me. Here's my list of ways to love a 10 year old today and everyday as she enters a new chapter of her growing up adventure.
1. Put her at the head of the table. That's right. Your girl has things to say and she needs an audience. By making sure she gets a turn now and then at the head of the table, you let her and your family know it's totally okay for your girl to command the attention of a room. You'll be surprised at how savvy she is and how much she has to say about things that matter to you, too.
2. Ask her to tell you her dreams and take notes. Inside every 35 year old mother is a ten year old girl trying to get out. Now is the time to give her hopes and aspirations full airtime--these tender dreams hold the keys to the truest version of her best self. Don't be scared if she says she wants to be the next Hannah Montana touring the globe--little girl rockstar dreams have more to do with the deep wish to be seen and respected than anything else.
3. Let her glory in every single moment of inflated self-confidence. Did she make the honor roll? Discover she can swim the length of the pool after all? Let her run with her happiness and pride as far as it will take her. Too often we encourage our girls to be demure and modest when a healthy dose of uber-confidence will take her so much further.
4. Ask other people to be quiet so she can finish her story. She's chatty, I know, but wouldn't you rather know every last thing on her heart instead of watch her sulk in the back of the car? Turn off your need to get her in line and take a turn listening to the twists and turn of her drama-loving life.
5. Indulge her promiscuous love of books. Turn her curiosity about grown-up things into a sophisticated knowledge of good literature. Now is the time to introduce her to the tried and true favorites of your own girlhood along with some new titles that will stretch her mind. This year Madeleine and I have had interesting talks about Iran and growing up during a revolution thanks to the brilliance of the Persepolis series (mother advisory required).
6. Turn up the music. It's not my favorite thing to do, always preferring the goodness of NPR to any top 40 pop music torture, but nothing means more to Madeleine than five minutes of her favorite music blaring out the windows on the ride to the grocery store. I don't understand it completely, but there's a certain kind of joy for her in this that you just can't duplicate anywhere else.
7. Remind her she doesn't have to be in a hurry to grow up. She's trying out her power moves, I know--groaning and moaning when you ask the simplest thing or waiting to see if you'll lose it if she dares give you the eye roll. Don't forget that underneath all that attitude is a little girl who probably still needs to sit on your lap, to have you brush out her hair or hold her every once in a while as she drifts gently off to sleep. Be bold in asking for hugs and insisting on tenderness between you in quiet moments. She needs it and you do, too.
8. Institute girls' night out. Admit it, there's a part of you that is dying to see the latest, greatest girl movie with all the cheese whiz and over-the-top acting. Here's your chance to do girlhood all over again, so do it right by giving your girl all the things you missed the first time around--time alone with your mother learning what it means to be a girl from her unique perspective.
9. Be her best cover. She's keenly aware of where your family rules fall in the continuum of lenient to strict in the kid stratosphere. Help her navigate the differences by being her best excuse when the invitations on the table feel inappropriate for your family's sense of sensibility. The same works in reverse when she knows your invitation will be met with reserve by more cautious parents. Let her know you'll help her not be embarrassed by the inevitable disconnects.
10. Dance with your girl like it's 1999. She'll love laughing at your moves and you'll be delighted to learn as she shows you a thing or two. Let her see it's okay to be silly, to not do it right and to let your heart go--especially for the sake of good-hearted fun.
What would have done your heart good at age 10? Add to our list in the comments below.