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Mothering a Daughter

When the Princess was born, I was so excited to have a girl. I felt I had the best of both worlds…the son to get me outside of my prissy comfort zone, and the daughter to help me revel in my prissiness. The Princess’ closet looked like a Peptol Mismol explosion had occurred.  I had a basket of hair bows, at least five pairs of shoes (for a child who had months before she would even be able to think about walking), and numerous frilly dresses. I had a girl to dress, to shop with, to teach about make-up and boys, to share being a woman with.  At the same time I knew complete joy, I also knew extreme fear.

Being a girl is rough. While I have a girl to do all the fun girl things with, I also have a girl I have to lead through all the horrible parts of being a girl….periods, boys, mood swings, pregnancy and childbirth (not that pregnancy and childbirth are things I hate, but just the not-fun parts of it), and biggest of all – girls’ self-esteem issues and dealing with other girls. When she was born, I shoved that all in the back of my head. I had time. It seems I no longer have time.

This year has been miserable for P as far as girl drama goes. We’ve had many talks about dealing with Queen Bees and Mean Girls. (I type that with capital letters because that is how I see them in my head when I think about them)  There have been numerous tears and wondering whys. I have been very focused on figuring out what it will take me as her mother to get her through this successfully.  I’ve had more than a few discussions recently with my friends about mothering daughters. This is getting harder. And watching her go through it just brings up my own insecurities.

When she was born, I prayed she would be stronger than me. I prayed she would believe in herself enough to never let herself be a target. I prayed she would know her value so well, no one else would be able to make her wonder at her worth. But girls will be girls. Sadly, the people we should be able to rely on most are often the ones who cause the most chaos in our lives, the most damage to our self-esteem. But then again, we let them. If we just thought about it, we might realize that they are comparing themselves just as much as we, and lash out to help themselves feel better when they find they lack in some area.

At a young age, girls seem to learn to compare themselves to others and generally find themselves lacking. I admit to still living this way. Thoughts that frequently flow through my mind sound like this: “I wish I were tall and thin like her,” “Why can’t I speak in front of people without fear as she does?”, “Why can’t I be as fun as she?”, “She’s a much better mother, daughter, sister, friend, care-giver, writer, reader, homemaker, scrapbooker…(insert pretty much anything here) than I”, “My house is disgusting and I must be a horrible, lazy homemaker if she has more kids and can keep her house so clean where mine always looks like a clothing/shoe/toy bomb went off”.  I find myself lacking at least twenty times a day. So how do I teach Grace to believe in herself, to not compare herself, when this is what she is exposed to? I can do everything else right, but if I get this part wrong, will she live her life stuck in this self-defeating way?

As I was running this morning (running is a great mind-clearing activity, btw), I was rolling all these thoughts around in my head. If we are constantly, as women, thinking about what we don’t have as compared to other women around us, are we ever thinking about what we do have, what our gifts are? I may not be tall, but I am athletic. I may not be a great speaker, but I’m a decent writer. My house may not be immaculate, but my kids have a comfortable home that is focused on them. I may not be caught up on my scrapbooking, but the walls of our home are covered with photographs.  If we never take the time to acknowledge what we are good at, what we do have, then we are tossing those gifts back in God’s face. He made me the way I am. If I am always seeing myself as not good enough when compared to others, what am I saying to Him about how He has made me?

The Time magazine cover and article title got me thinking about this even more. Honestly, regardless of how I feel about that photo, or attachment parenting, I was angry at the question “are you mom enough?”. Mom enough for what? They are feeding into our own psyche of continually comparing ourselves. No fair. We should be teaching our daughters to recognize and acknowledge the things they are good at, to recognize and acknowledge – not be jealous of – the things other girls are good at. When we start appreciating ourselves, I think there will be less meanness and bullying, less beating down, fewer Queen Bees and Mean Girls.

I will strive from now on not to boast about what I’m good at, what my gifts are, but to just acknowledge them. I will strive to not compare and find myself lacking. I will strive to teach Grace to do the same. I will strive to see myself through the eyes of my husband, children, and family. As a mother to a daughter, I believe that is one of the biggest parts of my job. There will still be Mean Girls and Queen Bees out there who will do what they can to drag her down. Sadly, that never goes away. But if she is sure of her worth, her talents, and even their fears, she stands a much better chance of rising above it.  We all want better for our children, right? I continue to pray she will be stronger, have more belief in herself, and never see anyone else’s gifts as a measuring stick.

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