A Letter to My Daughter on Her 14th birthday

Posted on March 6, 2020

Three pink birthday balloons

This Morning Buzz is brought to you by Dr. Sarah Martin, VP of Health Solutions at mySidewalk. Follow her on Twitter at @DrSarahMarie.

What I’m Watching: I have watched The Morning Show on Apple TV twice through and have to say that Billy Crudup is one of the world’s most amazing character actors. It is complex, challenging and gorgeously filmed. 

What I’m Reading: Just finished Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls. Now on I’m on to… wait for it… JESSICA SIMPSON

What I’m Listening To: This song. On repeat. 

Dearest Emaline,

I started this letter as “lessons I have learned in my career that will help you in life”. As I wrote more, I realized that because I was so young and unformed when you were born, it was actually YOU who taught me a thing or two about how to survive in the world. 

Tomorrow is your 14th birthday. 14 is both of our lucky numbers–it’s your jersey number, too. It makes me think that this is gonna be a year for the books. I know that the last few years–family changes, house changes, school changes–have been a lot to handle. I know there have been moments where you cried and didn’t know why. I know that sometimes life feels very unfair, and that sometimes grieving is the only thing you can do in the moment. Even when grief is unexplainable, it’s real. 

But I want you to know that over all of these 14 years, I’ve been watching you navigate life in a way that I never did. Whether I knew it consciously or not, your approach to the world has influenced me. Even though I am your Mom and you have to do what I say because I know more than you, I’m in awe of the person you are and the grace with which you walk. You have taught me more than you know. 

So, here are the top five lessons I have learned from you. I have tried to apply these lessons to my work and my life, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so successfully:

A very large baby

Enter a room boldly. 

The first thing the nurse said when you were born is “It’s a Toddler!” Coming in at 10 and a half pounds (!!!), you were the talk of the hospital. They didn’t have a shirt that fit you, and your feet kept hitting the end of the bassinet when you would kick. From the beginning, you were a force in the world. You didn’t even flinch when your older brother would sit on you.

When I enter a new situation, I have a tendency to look down and avoid eye contact. Because of you, I remind myself to look up… look ahead… stay the course. 

A sassy toddler

Wanting to win is OK.

Do you remember the city championship soccer game last year? You were starting at midfield, and you were so hyped and so excited that you had been up since 5 in the morning. You lost steam very early–missing shots and lacking your normal spark. Your coach yelled at you to get off the field, and you stomped to the bench, kicked a water bottle and just bawled.

Every part of me wanted to rush down on the field and drag you away. While we definitely needed to have a “sportsmanship” talk later, your reaction was a function of your disappointment in yourself, and the way your body had betrayed your intentions. You had laser focus on achievement and winning–you wanted to be better than you could be in the moment. 

For most of my career I have been told to be “less ambitious”… that I would never be satisfied. I admit those criticisms have hampered my passion at times, and I tended to internalize this image of a woman stomping on people to win. But for you, it wasn’t just about winning. It was about the expectations of greatness you held for yourself–it was an internal striving for excellence that comes naturally for you, but for others like me, gets squashed by the spheres we orbit in. 

Stop kicking water bottles, but don’t ever lose that competitive fire. 

A girl and her mom in bonnets

Target is a fine place to make a Tik Tok. 

Every public place we go, you end up just dropping what you are doing and recording dance videos. I’ve never seen you hesitate or worry about what other people think. I often wonder how my life would be different if I wasn’t on edge worried about the opinions of others. 

Crossing off a to-do list is extremely gratifying.

When you were about 6 or 7, I saw a list on your desk in your room. It was a to-do list for your morning routine. It read:

  1. Wake up
  2. Do 5 push ups
  3. Put on clothes
  4. Brush your teeth
  5. Go downstairs

You meticulously crossed off that list every morning. You taught me that sometimes it’s about recognizing and celebrating the little things you have to do during the day and not obsessing over the big things you can’t possibly get done in 24 hours. You taught me the value of the baby steps–enumerating our accomplishments and not our deficits. 

A woman and her daughter in dresses

High standards are everything. 

In 4th grade, I remember overhearing (eavesdropping on) a conversation between you and your best friend. She was pretty boy crazy, and she asked which boy in school you liked–who you wanted to be your boyfriend. You responded “I don’t have time for that. I’m waiting to get older and marry Bruno Mars.”

I wish I would have had that perspective when I was that age. I hope that you see from my life choices that settling is never the answer, even when changing course hurts people you love. I hope that the life I have made for you now reinforces the idea that waiting for someone who is your equal is worth it, and that only the most special of people–in love, in work, in friendship–deserve the blessing of knowing you.

I want to protect you from a world that could take this spirit away from you. I know that it is through interacting with the world you hone your skills and build resilience, but it is still scary for us adults who love you. Your potential is infinite… your light is bright. And as long as I am on this earth, I vow to fight the forces that would dim it.

Also… stop stealing my clothes.


I love you,



Teen girl in front of mural

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