today’s post is the final of a three-part series about raising girls. i look forward to hearing your feedback and continuing the discussion!
while there are many things that could be said and many ways to say them, let’s start with this: no matter the gender of your kids we will not get it right 100% of the time. there will be times when we get it wrong, yet they will somehow thrive regardless of our shortcomings. other times, when we amaze even ourselves as we hear the perfection coming from our mouths, they will miss the message entirely, and choose a different path. there is no book, no person, and no blog post that you are going to be able to laminate and put on your bathroom mirror to ensure parenting well.
so, while i do not have this motherhood thing down, i love my girls and i love you who are willing to walk with me on the journey, and believe that collectively we have something of value to share with each other. in the interest of this blog not being a book, and getting milk and eggs before everyone hits the grocery stores, here are my three tips for mothering girls…
1) “more is caught than taught” i have no idea who said this or why it is the most frequently shared quote in my maturation, but i believe that it is particularly crucial in parenting. you cannot teach a little girl to be okay with her body if you are saying “geesh” every time you look in the mirror. you cannot wax and wane on and on about the importance of being kind to people regardless of who they are or what they look like, unless you are in fact kind. to the best of your ability make a concerted effort to observe yourself over the next season. what are you living well and thus teaching well and what do you need to teach yourself before trying to pass it onto your little ones?
2) you were made beautifully, intentionally, and well. there will be about a billion ways that you can teach this one and there are a lot of different tools available to walk through it with your kids, but this is in fact one of the most important things you can spend your time on. the age that a little girl will look to her peers, boys, magazines, or the hollywood ideal to define her worth is shocking and appalling. there are about 8 blog posts that could spring from that sad truth alone, but for now know this: they hear you. tell them they are amazing (they are). notice new things each day that make them specifically them, and relish in the opportunity to dote on them. write and hide notes they will find with ways you delight in who they are and in who they are becoming. compliment them in front of others. show them that you are a fan of them. let them know they are the best one of them there could be. and if it seems to get old or if they seem over it or if it seems it is not sinking in do not stop. never stop.
3) unless your daughter is hurting her body (cutting or needing medical intervention for eating disorders) there is never a reason to comment on her body in any way that is less than entirely complimentary. i have sat around tables with women far too often who begin sharing stories of what their moms always say to them about their appearance. remember, they hear you. teach healthy ways of eating? knock yourself out! show them the joy of exercise? super! then you better run home and check your motives at the door. there are enough voices telling your daughters what they need to do to improve their look including the one in their heads that is often the harshest of all. if you affirm her worst thoughts about herself by your words or your actions you may lose the fight before you begin.
my bonus tip on how to raise a daughter (or anyone really) is don’t go it alone. the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is popular not because it sounds good in theory, but because it feels good in practice. unless you have some supernatural mad skills in parenting or a superhuman amount of patience, you will in fact need the help and companionship and wisdom of others along the way. this is good news, i promise. as moms let’s be sure to be honest not only with each other, but with ourselves. trying to maintain an unrealistic ideal for parenting is not winning the race, it is injuring those who are observing you and trying to learn in the process. this is a hard road. a beautiful, rewarding, wouldn’t-change-it-for-the-world-yet-hardest-road-i’ve-ever-traveled road, and you injure more than yourselves by trying to make it alone. instead, let’s be an amazing community of people who are strugglin’ right alongside one another, who may have walked that particular trial already and have some wisdom to share, or who simply know that this motherhood thing ain’t no joke and can commiserate and encourage along the way.