I have two daughters, ages 2 and 5, and I do what some would dub “weird” things to try to start to instill some life lessons while also boosting their Girl Power. Some might think it is silly, but it is something that is really important to me. Here are a few examples.
Girl Power Talks
These happen daily on the way to daycare. They vary depending on what is happening at the time, but always include messages of using manners, being kind to everyone and working hard to get what you want. I make them repeat after me when I start with “Today, I’m going to be awesome. And I’m going to use all my manners…” and when I wrap up with “Because I have major Girl Power. And I’m going to rock it.” It’s weird. I know it is. But it also gets ME channel my inner Girl Power to get ready for my day and it just simply sets the right tone. I am bound and determined not to raise jerky kids if I can at all help it.
Pretty vs. Smart
I understand that people are going to say kids are cute, girls are pretty, boys are handsome, etc. And I do think my kids are cute. But I am super quick to make sure to tell them that it is more important to focus on being smart, working hard and being kind than it is to be pretty. They can control those things. They cannot control what they look like. At least not when they are little. Someone once made a comment that I might be overdoing that a little and to just take the compliment, but I think it is such an important message that little girls know they shouldn’t rely on their looks to get what they want. They need to use their brain, their manners and develop a strong work ethic to get where they want to go.
You want to be Elsa when you grow up? Cool. Let’s map out a Princess Plan. You want to fly into space? Perfect. Let’s go tour the Cosmosphere and read some books about astronauts. You think it would be cool to be a trash collector? Awesome. Let’s learn about recycling, get a landfill tour and talk to our local trash worker. Bottom line, I don’t care what you want to do. I will back you and support you and help you learn more about whatever your current curiosity is, even if it doesn’t fit some mold that tries to box kids in.
My husband and I are pretty big watchdogs on this one. If I had a nickel for every time they heard us saying “Say please”, “Say thank you”, “Say you are welcome”, we would be living in a fat mansion on the beach. Granted, my girls are certainly far from perfect, but we are VERY quick to correct if we catch them being jerks to other kids or really to anyone at all. I was raised with a firm foundation of being kind to everyone unless they give you a reason not to be kind to them. I’ve always taken this very seriously. When my daughters get older, I will stress the importance of simple things like taking the time to make sure you know the name of the janitor and his or her interests just as much as you know your CEO’s name and interests. Respecting your elders and others around you is huge with us. If Mimi and Pop Pop tell you no more ice cream (like that ever happens), then no more ice cream. If Grandma and Grandpa want a hug when they see you, you better darn well give them a hug.
You don’t know everyone’s story and what they’ve been through. Their story might be a lot more difficult and tormented than yours. So respect that, respect them and be a nice person. Don’t be the mean girl in middle school who doesn’t invite you to a slumber party and then prank calls while everyone laughs in the background. People remember that stuff for their whole lives like I just did. Yes, it makes you stronger, but what if it doesn’t? What if it destroys them? Would you really want that weight on your shoulders? Not on my watch.
I will not raise girls who can’t take care of themselves. I want them to eventually find their life partner, to be happy and have families of their own (if they want all that). But they darn well better be able to pay their own bills, get a good education and get a job. They need to know how to handle it with “it” being a whole range of situations. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to try something and then probably fail. Don’t be afraid to try it again and again until you figure it out. Until you handle it. I feel like I’m kind of channeling Olivia Pope on this one. Because who doesn’t love the show Scandal, right? I digress…
Yep, your family will always be here for you. But you need more than that. You need our insanely awesome tribe of neighbors too. Find other strong women who you admire because of their passion for their life’s work, whatever that may be. Learn from them. Tell them how much you admire them and ask about their personal path to success. Recognize they are human and have made mistakes, maybe even really big ones, and know they are still worth admiring. You need to find authors who inspire you. Find your own Bob Seger or Tom Petty whose songs speak straight to your soul. Find friends who are there with you through good and bad. Friends who will drop everything they are doing to be with you to celebrate just as quickly as they’d be there with you to mourn. And do that for them too.
Well clearly I could go on and on. I take this parenting gig pretty seriously and it is the most fascinating, frustrating and fun journey I’ve been on. I hope you’ll share some life lessons that are important to you. We can always learn from others, especially in the weird world of momhood.