Advice for Moms

Letter to Pascaline: Turning Ten with a Sway in Your Hip

Me Ra Koh

To my dearest Pascaline,

I’ve been writing this in my head since we were in Thailand, trying to figure out how to articulate all that I’m feeling with you turning ten.  When your dad first asked me to think about going back to Thailand, he shared how there was something special waiting for us there.  I assumed it was making new memories after the Dengue fever from last year.  But it was the second night of our trip when I realized why we’d come.  Do you remember that night?

We were walking back from dinner, and you and dad had a miscommunication over something.  You walked ahead, feeling hurt and misunderstood.  Dad and I talked, and he went after you.  I watched the two of you sort it out.  Your words were full of passion and emotion as you expressed your side of the story. 

Your poor dad, he stood there a bit speechless. 

Did he ever expect his little girl to be so articulate?  I could tell he was in love with you and overwhelmed by you at the same moment.  And I tried to imagine being ten and having such real conversations with my dad.  I was ten when the abuse started with my dad.  It would be another twenty years before me and Papa would have heart to heart conversations that would heal us.  But here you are…full of confidence and passion. 

We’d come for the uninterrupted time to listen to you

With no where to rush too, we all stood in the middle of the night’s trail with fireflies dancing around us and worked it out as a family.  I knew why we’d come to Thailand.  We’d come for the uninterrupted time to listen to you as you go through this incredible transition of girlhood to womanhood.  To let you know we not only want to be here but we also want to hear…you.

Something has happened.

Turning ten has changed everything.

And it brings tears to my eyes as my fingers race at trying to type it all–process it all.  Our baby girl is stepping into womanhood.  Turning ten years old is proving to be a big change for all of us.  As you remind me, you are not only ten but a decade.  You’ve got so many feelings and shifts happening inside of you, and I can tell that sometimes you feel lost and a bit alone.  Your venturing into a new world, with the world of being a little girl behind you.

I didn't expect my world to change with my daughter turning ten. Instead of a skip in her step, there is a sway in her hip. (Advice for Moms by Me Ra Koh)

Sometimes I watch you straddle both worlds, unsure of where you fit most; one foot in adolescence and the other foot in innocence.   And I understand the angst in your dad’s belly when he tries to hold on to you.

I felt the angst in my own tummy when I first tried to photograph you in Thailand this year.  You’re turning ten and things have changed. I approached you with the camera the way I always do.  But I couldn’t help but notice there wasn’t a skip in your step.  Instead, there was a sway in your hip. Whether you are walking on the beach with a turtle named Shway

…there wasn’t a skip in your step.  Instead, there was a sway in your hip.

I didn't expect my world to change with my daughter turning ten. Instead of a skip in her step, there is a sway in her hip. (Advice for Moms by Me Ra Koh)

or walking back to our jungle home

I didn't expect my world to change with my daughter turning ten. Instead of a skip in her step, there is a sway in her hip. (Advice for Moms by Me Ra Koh)

your very movements have transformed.

Sometimes you look at me with such honest intensity.  I can feel your heart churning, trying to sort thing outs.

I didn't expect my world to change with my daughter turning ten. Instead of a skip in her step, there is a sway in her hip. (Advice for Moms by Me Ra Koh)

You like to remind me of all the ways we are different. 

I love to paint my toes pink, but you love black or blue finger nail polish.  I love to wear sparkly headbands and romantic, flowy blouses.  You love your camouflaged yoga tank top.  All these pieces are part of turning ten. Do you know how much I love the way you express yourself, whether you are wearing camouflage, reading favorite books late at night, enticing us with another story or sharing your strong opinions.

I didn't expect my world to change with my daughter turning ten. Instead of a skip in her step, there is a sway in her hip. (Advice for Moms by Me Ra Koh)

You are braver than I ever was at ten years old. 

You have more passion than I know how to respond too.  And you listen to me talk with your dad about empowering women to go after their impossibles, and I shouldn’t be surprised that you’ve been taking notes.  I just wasn’t prepared for how nervous I’d feel when you started climbing your impossibles.

I didn't expect my world to change with my daughter turning ten. Instead of a skip in her step, there is a sway in her hip. (Advice for Moms by Me Ra Koh)

Up until this year, I’ve always been able to keep up with you (somewhat).  Whether we were rock climbing, hiking, or swimming.  But this year, you looked at the old tree in the middle of the jungle lake, and you dove right in.  This year, I knew it wasn’t about keeping company with you, it was about cheering you on.

I didn't expect my world to change with my daughter turning ten. Instead of a skip in her step, there is a sway in her hip. (Advice for Moms by Me Ra Koh)

You are a gift Pascaline.  You are stunning.  As I watch this new season of turning ten begin to unfold, I am overwhelmed with how beautiful, mysterious and passionate you are.   I love that you still need your mama, in some ways more than ever.  I love to turn around from my morning yoga and find you behind me.

When I was in my twenties, I believed a lie. 

I thought I was too broken to ever raise a daughter.  I remember the day I closed the door on that lie.  It was the ultrasound appointment when we’d find out whether we were having a boy or a girl.  Grammie, Papa, Gigia Ma, Gigi Pa, Dad–we were all there together when the doctor said “It’s a girl!”  When the doctor said we were having a girl, I cried.  I knew in that moment that despite my fears, insecurities, brokenness, God had a plan for you…and me.  And God believed that I was the best mama for you.  I prayed God would show me how to be worthy of such a responsibility. 

Pascaline, I wanted you to have everything I didn’t know until much later.  I wanted you to know you were loved unconditionally, beautiful, smart, and able to do whatever you desired.  I envisioned myself someday standing up tall to the responsibility of being your mom.  In my vision, I pick you up and put you on my shoulders.  And you can see farther than I will ever see.  I smile as I hear you tell me all about your vision.

I didn't expect my world to change with my daughter turning ten. Instead of a skip in her step, there is a sway in her hip. (Advice for Moms by Me Ra Koh)

You have given me the opportunity to be a mama–to venture into an unknown land that I didn’t feel worthy of–bringing with me all kinds of fears and insecurities.  Little by little, year after year, I’ve learned more and more about how to love you and listen to you.  I LOVE being your mama and can’t imagine life any other way.  Pascaline, you bring me more joy than I can ever express through words. 

When you reached for my hand on the subway in Bangkok, you took me by surprise and held my hand tight, oh, how I relished that moment with you.  I know you don’t need me holding your hand all the time, especially with turning ten.  I know you’ve got a lot to figure out for yourself.  You’ve got to make your own discoveries and walk your own path.  But any time you need a hand to hold to, I’m here.  If you ever wonder if anyone is cheering you on, I hope you hear me and dad.

Oh, I wasn’t prepared to see you climb so high already. 

A wise woman once said that motherhood is a constant journey of grieving and celebrating the transformations our children go through.  I know you feel me and dad grieving a bit when we try to hang on to you too much.  But I hope you also hear us celebrating too.  Celebrating you turning ten.

My sweet, strong Pascaline, I love you.

love always,


p.s. If you enjoyed this post, fast forward a few years when Blaze turned ten.


  1. BreAnna says:

    Happy Birthday, Pascaline! Beautifully written, Me Ra…what a wonderful gift.

  2. Tiffany says:

    this is the sweetest thing I’ve ever read….. I can’t wait to be a Mom!

  3. Kari at MamaBloo says:

    A beautiful piece of writing, Me Ra, and such a gift to Pascaline. Ten is a GREAT age — take lots of pictures this year, cuz 13 is coming… (just kidding, ok, not really). Honestly, what a gift mothers and daughters are to each other. You are both amazing parents who are both shaping your kids and being shaped by them. God’s plan is perfect and amazing!

  4. Kristen Buley says:

    How beautiful!

  5. Angela says:

    Wow!! so beautiful!! both the post & pascaline! i am gulping back the tears as i realize that so very soon i will be in the same position as a mother of daugthers (now 2 & 3 years old.)

    thank you me ra for documenting this & sharing it with all of us. =)

  6. Rhonda says:

    It didn’t take you very long being back from Thailand to get me to cry. I’m living this place with you, only with my Merritt. He starts middle school this coming year. And this past year has been a time of evolution in him. I was prepared for it to be in the teen years, not for it to come at 10.
    Pascaline & Blaze are incredibly blessed to have you and Brian for parents. I know God has big things in store for them that He has been preparing them for in your household. Praying extra for Pascaline today.
    Love you!!!

  7. Darcy Pace says:

    Oh, Me Ra, I have tears in my eyes. Such a beautiful gift to Pascaline. I’m honored you shared it with all of us. Motherhood is beautiful.

  8. hi me ra,
    your tribute to pascaline’s becoming a TENager was beautifully written. i heard your heart’s expression of mama love and pride. i remember feeling the same way years ago as my two daughters (now 21 & 23) were blooming and becoming! enjoy the amazing ride.

  9. Christina says:

    Happy Birthday Pascaline!!
    What a great gift you have given her Me Ra and Brian, in so many ways. This is unforgettable and incredibly moving.
    Now I have to go reapply my make up πŸ™‚

  10. denise karis says:

    happy birthday, darling pascaline! Have a wonderful birthday!!

  11. Melisa says:

    Happy Birthday Pascaline!!! MeRa you are such an amazing writer, I am sure Pascaline will cherish this.

  12. Kate says:

    Happiest of Birthdays Pascaline!

    And MeRa, I hope you know that she is all those wonderful things because of YOU. You’ve planted them, you’ve nurtured them, you’ve modeled them to her. How could she *not* be so wonderful??

    Happy Anniversary to you too MeRa, on being Pascaline’s momma. Her life may have begun on that day, but I have a feeling your’s did too.

  13. Terri says:

    Thank you for sharing such an intimate love letter. It is so wonderfully written, MeRa. Through my tears, I am reminded that it is both beautiful & painful as our children get to such an age. Stepping back & remembering our youth brings the understanding & compassion to help everyone through these amazing, albeit sometimes trying, times. It does help to remember that we were handpicked by God to parent the children we call ours & knowing He provides all the necessary tools to do the job well. πŸ™‚ You so clearly love your children-that overpowers any mistakes we make along the way.

  14. Trish says:

    WOW! You are so articulate in expressing your thoughts and feelings. It struck such a chord with me, as my daughter has turned 13 and it is so hard to see them becoming more and more independent. Thank you so much for sharing.

  15. Happy birthday Pascaline!
    what a beautiful letter, just beautiful!!!

  16. Freida Hall says:

    Such a gift – Pascaline is to you, you are to her, this beautiful letter that she will cherish is – all around priceless. Thanks for sharing with us.

  17. Cathy says:

    You are such a gift to each other, always learning, growing and experiencing life’s beauty through one anothers’ eyes. MeRa, you are right–you are the best gifts to one another that you could ever imagine. Happy birthday, sweet Pascaline!

    And ohmygoodness! look at her rocking Padangustasana (Toe Stand)! Yay yogis!

  18. Idie A says:

    This is one of the most beautiful things I have read. You are blessed to have Pascaline, and she is blessed to have you!

  19. BreAnna says:

    I forgot to tell you how much I love the pictures! Of course your photos are always beautiful, but you have captured your daughter in such a lovely way that I just had to say something. πŸ™‚

  20. Jessica says:

    So beautiful and honest. “And God believed that I was the best mama for you.” How powerful is THAT! Thank you, Me Ra, for sharing your heart.

  21. amalie says:

    I am speachless and crying πŸ™‚

  22. Kylie says:

    Wow! SO heartfelt. Sitting here with tears rolling down my cheeks. What a way with the written word and the images are breathtaking. Congratulations on bringing your gorgeous heart and mind and family experiences out for all to share with us….food for thought and much reflection as we consider our own experiences and our own princes and princesses. Thank you Me ra. Xxx

  23. Susan says:

    What a beautiful letter to your daughter. You both have been blessed to have each other. You have instilled her passion, and love of life. You have taught her well. I have 3 boys and 1 daughter, and I can tell you, I love my boys dearly, but there is nothing like a daughter!
    Thank you for sharing this with us.


  24. What a wonderful gift to give your baby girl! Your words really speak to me (as usual). Do not fear MeRa, she will always be your baby girl, no matter how old she is. My baby girl is graduating from high school next month and she still likes to curl up in my lap, wrestle with her dad and curl up on the floor with the dog. It’s just that it happens less often than it used to! Soak it up and keep being the best mommy in the world! Happy Birthday Pascaline!
    P.S. the photos are dreamy!

  25. Claudia Constantino says:

    Beautifully written! What an amazing girl! Such a reflection of her parents! xoxo

  26. Jen MacNiven says:

    Gulp, sniff sniff…tears! Absolutely beautifully written. Obviously Pascaline is a reflection of her mama and dad…you can take credit for that! πŸ˜‰
    Happy birthday Pascaline!

  27. Kristy says:

    Oh Me Ra!!! I wish I had some tissues left, but I used them all up this week with my darn cold. That was a beautiful story about your little girl. I have my own daughter who is seven and I see her with a bounce in her step and wonder when that moment will arrive for me.

    Those images you took of her were amazing!!!

  28. Melinda says:

    Happy Double Digits Pascaline! One of the unexpected joys for me of attending the confidence workshop in Seattle way back in 2009 was the chance to get to meet Pascaline and Blaze in person after seeing so much of them on your blog, Me Ra. They were and are fantastic kids – such a joy to really talk with. Darn it, I love your family!

  29. Jill O'Hanlon says:

    Me Ra, I am so moved by your words! Pascaline is so lucky to have you as a mama; you are giving her such a gift by being so reflective and honest. My heart is incredibly full for you and your family. Happy Birthday to Pascaline…and congratulations on being a loving mommy for ten years!

  30. Meg says:

    Wow. I did not expect to be overcome with such strong emotion with this letter. Reading and crying. Beautiful.

  31. Fiona Gains says:

    I’m CRYING.. again…. note to self Stop reading Me Ra’s blog at work!
    Just extrodinary! Thank you xoxo

  32. Tina P. says:

    I can’t see my keyboard as I have tears welling up! What an amazing mom you are MeRa!! Pascaline is a very lucky girl to have you. She is the way she is because of your love (and Brian’s!). My heart ached when I read that you felt so broken to raise a daughter and I could so relate. I too lived a similar past and once prayed for boys…but am now so incredibly thankful I have a little girl. And I know there is a reason I have her in my life. Thank you for being so honest and sharing this with us! Pascaline is a gorgeous little girl!

  33. Me Ra says:

    Thank you so much for all the beautiful comments. I’ve been writing this post for a couple weeks now, and I knew that I could share it with all of you mamas. I know that you all know how I’m feeling on one level or another, regardless of our babies ages. Being a mom…what an amazing responsibility and gift in life. Life can get so busy, and then all of a sudden your little one takes your breath away…thanks for letting me process all of the above with you. So wonderful to know we are on this dynamic journey together, whether it’s taking better photos of our kids are just being mamas.


  34. Amy Keffer says:

    MeRa, that may be the most touching and poignant thing you’ve ever written, and that’s saying something. Thank you so much for sharing this intimate moment of motherhood with us, as it put into words the constant wrestle we feel of grieving the closing chapters and celebrating the successful completion as our babies grow.

    I’m printing this out and keeping it in my journal. I know the day will come when I need to express this to my own two daughters, and I’m glad to know it’s here.

    Blessings, friend.

  35. Delanae says:

    Awe. <3

    I sure do remember seeing that sway in my daughter's hip for the first time too. I blinked my eyes and she was sacheting down the aisle in a wedding dress, moving to Montana and attending graduate school.

    Don't blink!

  36. Laura Hanis says:

    Me Ra and Pascaline, you have such a special relationship. What beautiful words from a momma to her daughter.

  37. Genie says:

    Your first decade Pascaline! Happiest of birthdays – and those future ones will bring even more beauty and wisdom.

    This letter needs to win a Pulitzer Prize for beauty, wisdom and honesty. You’ve surpassed yourself Me Ra. She has inspired you to reach new heights yet again. Thank you Pasc. Big LOVE to you both! Genie

  38. Molly says:

    Just beautiful, Me Ra. I think we all feel that contradiction between wanting to hold them close and wanting them to fly. Even though you got me crying, thank you for sharing!

  39. what a beautiful post, Me Ra! thanks for making me cry πŸ™‚ Happy Birthday, Pascaline!

  40. Richelle says:

    Happy Birthday to your beautiful baby girl!! Beautiful (sob-inducing) letter. πŸ™‚

  41. simply beautiful … what a treasure.

  42. Keisa says:

    Wow Me Ra! What an beautifully written letter to Pascaline, thank you so much for sharing it with the world. You brought tears to my eyes as I read it and touched my heart as I watched this beautiful expression of lthe ove of a mother to her daughter.

  43. charley*star says:

    Oh, Me Ra. So moving. choking back the tears… even more so because i know i will be there myself faster than i care to with my 4 year old… Thank you for sharing this with us.

  44. Charisse says:

    My dear Me Ra, what an ah mazing letter of your love for Pascaline! I wasn’t expecting to have tears in my eyes when I read this letter, but all of a sudden they were just there! I fully understood the depth in your heart from which you are writing because my girl too, is turning ten in a few months and I have felt a very similiar pull & tug as she feels her way through the changes she is experiencing. The line about holding your hand on the subway…priceless..

    Thailand is truly your place of grounding. I am so glad you went back. What a memory!

    Glad you are all back safe & sound full of knew memories and adventure. The pictures you chose for this letter are breathtaking.

    Love ya,

  45. Stephanie says:

    Oh my, my, my, Me Ra! How beautiful is this letter to Pascaline! The pictures and words are breathtaking and made me so warm inside, ready to cry! I don’t have children yet, but I only hope I can tell them things like this! Thank you for always sharing and always allowing us to see into your life and family! When I grow up, I want to be just like you! Thank you!

  46. Melody says:

    Having only discovered your website for the first time this week, this is the first of your blog posts I’ve read. I didn’t expect the tears. Nor the wistfulness. Comfortable in my role of non-mothering woman, this was one of the few times I’ve felt wistful contemplating the idea of motherhood. Such beautiful writing and images. Thank you. And Happy Birthday Pascaline.

  47. Tacey says:

    Oh Me Ra….I’m crying in my coffee, completely relating to so much of what you’ve written (so beautifullly)…My girl is turning 14, and I know just how you’re feeling….You are a beautiful Momma, and the love you have for Pascaline is palpable…What a beautiful daughter you have…she has a lot of her Momma in her…and that, my friend, is a wonderful thing. Love you.

  48. Pascaline says:

    mom that was so amazing!Thanks so much,i don’t know what say,but i can say this,I’m holding back tears.That was so wonderful,mom i love it.I’m goiing to read it over and over:)


  49. Chantelle says:

    MeRa…what a beautiful gift to have written this for her tenth birthday! You put into words so beautifully what all moms feels, even though it’s just the details that are unique to your web of love with each other. I am in awe of how wonderfully you are able to express yourself and you truly have a gift! Pascaline is very blessed to have such a wonderful mother, and you are in return blessed to have her. Isn’t that just the most wonderful thing about being mothers.

  50. Lakeicia says:

    THis is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I remember that same fear and feeling of unworthiness when i found out I was pregnant with a son, and that same revelation and flow of love a millisecond later. I remind myself often that my children are gifts, that I am blessed to have been chosen as their mother, and that they could only be the little people they are through that route. I felt like because of all the pain, abuse, and abandonment I had experienced in my life I couldn’t properly love, protect, and care for a son and having one would just be horrible for that child. Being a mother to a son, and now a daughter, has been the most rewarding thing ever. I love him and am in love with him and have never felt the kind of vulnerability and true love as I did the moment I held him in my arms 5 years ago. He graduates from Pre K tomorrow and I often look at him and smile, I sit at my desk and look at the smile in his pictures, and think of the warmth in his hugs, and it encourages me to do the things I’ve told myself (and I repeat I) I couldn’t do, from picking up the camera to going on that first date. πŸ™‚

    MeRa, what a beautiful sentiment, I am amazed and humbled by the honesty and how sweetly and without judgement you share your past pain with your daughter, focusing on the place healing and love have brought you to, and how that love has brought your Brian, which brought you Pascaline.

    How blessed is Pascaline to know at this age and from now on that she is loved and valued for who she is and where she is right now, today, and forever.

  51. Grandma says:

    ME RA,

  52. Mel says:

    Wow! Awesome letter. I found you through the PPA magazine and had to check you out. I’m so glad I did. I’m definitely a new follower! I have 2 little ones and have a journal for each of them. My daughter is 7 and I’ve been writing to her since the week before she was born, sometimes telling her about what’s going on in our lives at that time and other times expressing my feelings about her. I’m sure Pascaline will not only cherish this letter, but all that you guys have sacrificed and done for your family. You are so blessed! What a wonderful season God has given to you! I pray for love, health, and safety for your family, and for many more abundant blessings!!!!

  53. Erin Brooks says:

    This is beautiful–there are no words but I feel honored that you shared such love. It reminds me of how much I have to look forward to in this life and I feel blessed I came across your blog today. Thank you!

  54. ali anderson says:

    me ra and pascaline – it took me awhile to get through this…mostly because i kept choking up at every paragraph; relating to the journey with my own daughters and imagining the 10 year olds (and beyond) they will be someday all too soon. thank you – BOTH of you – for sharing your lives, your journeys, your gifts with the world. xoxo, ali

  55. that was so beautiful, i am in tears. how lucky is pascaline to have such a loving mother like you, mera. i hope to meet you some day. xoxo, gina

  56. Nicki says:

    Wow – you are as artful with words as you are images. beautiful.

  57. Lynae says:

    My sister, LaRae, sent me the link to your blog, knowing I would appreciate this as my own daughter approaches the ripe old age of 10 in one more short year. I broke down, my tears turning into a soft sob, as I read your heartfelt words. It was as if they were my own thoughts and feelings I have felt and are feeling towards my own daughter. What wonderful, amazing gifts daughters are, aren’t they? And even more amazing is that each one was picked specifically just for us mamas πŸ™‚


  58. Me Ra, I can’t even speak. Still so young in my parenting, saying no and placing limits all the time, I can hardly imagine this relationship and am praying to experience it. So beautiful. I think I’m just going to sit here and cry : ) I love your family.

  59. Jessica says:

    Me Ra,
    Thank you for sharing this letter. It was so inspiring as a mother to hear. My daughter is two, it’s a challenging age I must say. Your letter gave me so much hope to not give up on what I do with her everyday. (tears rolling down) That when my little girl follows me everywhere she is watching and learning. Oh how I hope I can be an amazing mom like you, reflecting and appreciating all the changes my daughter is experiencing. It’s so amazing how words can be so inspiring. Your words really brought me back to that age. It is a tough age at ten, I remember looking up to my elders and wanting to be like them. You don’t even realize how much you can impact a young girl. Scary but so powerful. It will truly define her … You are an amazing mom!! Thank u for sharing!

  60. First of all, MeRa, that was beautiful! How wonderful to be able to capture all these moments and then to put to words so beautifully what is on your heart. Pascaline is such a beautiful person inside and out! And I say it is a reflection of you and her dad!

    And can I just say NO WAY is she 10?!??! Not sure if you remember me but I had her in Homeschool Swim at the YMCA. She was such a pleasure to work with and she always made me giggle. Such a free bird with her own take on life and things. It was so great! I knew, no matter what, that I would have a smile on my face when she was in my class. Happy Birthday, Pascaline and HIGH FIVE on swimming to that tree with the flag!! Way to go! I am super impressed!

  61. Stephanie says:

    What a beautiful letter, Me Ra. And – oh! – your pictures are perfection.

    I’d love to hear more about how Thailand is helping your daughter transition from girlhood to womanhood. Is it the culture there? The time away? The proximity to family/friends?

  62. jenell tamaela says:

    Sorry for the late response, as I just catching up on your blog. I want you to know that I LOVE how you love Pascaline. Everyday I see moms who just live day to day and raise their kids, but you are truly present in her life. Pascaline not only has a mom who is bringing her up, but she has someone who is so invested in her as a person, and appreciates her uniqueness. I also love this post because you aren’t someone who takes your children for granted. You realize they are a gift and precious. It’s this attachment with your kids that makes you so approachable with other moms. We all want to love our kids, and notice all the little things, just like you do. Great post friend!!

  63. outlook 2010 says:

    serve. I’m constructive I’ll be back again yet again and can deliver a number of of my friends.