Empowering Your Daughter
I listened very carefully to the words of the song that encourages fathers to be good to their daughters the other day. How true... our daughters are often raised with the impression that they are to be lady-like, proper and submissive. Their self image is often shaped by the magazines that they read; looking at pictures of models in tiny clothing, flaunting their bodies as if they were sex symbols. Beauty pageants for young girls are still popular. Young girls dressing like beauty queens, with the expectation they be nothing but poised, beautiful and talented. How very sad for the girls of society to grow up believing they have to adhere to the societal expectations forced upon them.
My own daughter, at the tender age of nine, is entering pre-puberty. Her body is shaped like an hour glass. She is budding breasts already. She is extremely tall; measuring in at almost 5 feet already! She is low maintenance however and I hope she chooses to stay that way. She has thick, naturally curly hair (I am so envious) and eyebrows that resemble Brook Shields's when she was younger. My daughter is a tom-boy however and most of her buddies are boys. She isn't into dolls or playing house, but she will stomach it for a while to appease her girl friends that come over to play. She'd much rather play Pokemon or video games with her brother. She takes karate class and loves how it makes her feel.
She is also "girly" in many ways too. She loves to wear eye shadow, blush and lipstick for pictures. She likes to dress in cute clothes. She looked at herself in a new outfit the other day and said, "I just can't get over myself today...I look so cute!" This made me chuckle. It also made me feel great that she could recognize her natural beauty, feel good about herself and then go kick butt in karate class that evening.
She has a loud laugh and isn't afraid to use it. She is artistic and loves stuffed toys. My daughter loves animals and jumping on the trampoline. She is deathly afraid of all bugs and will scream bloody murder if she sees one. She is tender and loving but also has the temper of a provoked pit bull when she wants to. She is human. She is unique and herself.
I have never promoted comparing herself to other girls because the truth is, she towers over most of her classmates. She isn't tiny, petite and never will be. She isn't afraid to get wet or get dirty and a stain on her clothes becomes a laughable matter, not the end of the world. I am very proud of her and the identity that she is forming. I want her to be an opinionated, self directed, confident but compassionate woman when she grows up. Every day, I check myself and what I have done each day to provide a model in myself that she can look up to. I am far from perfect. She knows and sees this. She has seen me cry, get so angry I have thrown something and has seen me hurt by others and go through the grief of this. I don't want to solve her problems for her though. She sees me solve my own and I explain to her that it's necessary for us to do this because only we can live with our own choices.
My little girl asks a lot of questions and we discuss all of them. She is at this age, trying to form an identity where she can fit in with classmates and societal demands of her, but at the same time, be herself.
We all want our children to surpass us in achievements and success. We all want to give them what we couldn't have too. I am finding that the word "no" makes her angry but also encourages her to think on her own. If given everything she expresses a whim for, she will depend on others to provide for her. If told no more often than yes, she will learn to save up for the things she wants, find a way to earn it or realize that she doesn't always need what she sees and likes at that moment.
Each year, I encourage her at Christmastime to fill a garbage bag of clothing she doesn't wear and toys she hasn't played with in a while. At first she scoffed at this. Now, she looks forward to this event each year. She accompanies me to a women's shelter to deliver the items and she feels a sense of accomplishment in helping others by giving away something she had.
I am her scout leader (along with 18 other girls) and I try to focus on the importance of the earth, treatment of others and giving back. Being nine years old or a pre-teen, life has many ups and downs. Hormones are setting in and emotions are on the rise. Tears form for no specific reason and fight/arguments sometimes feel as if they are more constant than they really are. I pray that I am helping my daughter look at various options for her life. I want her to be tolerant of differences. I want her to embrace culture and other customs of the people we meet or already know. I want her to appreciate the things in life that can't be purchased; commitment, honor, morals and values. I see that she has turned into a complex but wonderful, young lady so far.
Parents, nurture your girls to be themselves. Throw away those magazines if your daughter begins to believe that she isn't perfect unless she resembles the figure on each page. Get them involved in a sport or an activity that will nurture their body, mind and allow them to express themselves in a way that empowers them. No matter what career path our young ladies choose as they get older; be it mothering a child, working in the field or running a business in the home, our girls will need confidence, knowledge and experiences in all venues of life to be successful. Start young and relish their accomplishments. Allow laughter, mistakes and encourage more attempts after initial failures. Love your daughters without condition. One day you'll have to set them free. Be confident in knowing you did all you could to assure success for her from the beginning.