When Husband and I talk about wanting to raise a strong daughter there are many things that scare us. Society has come a long way – yes – but let’s face it, this is still a man’s world in many way. As a modern, free thinking, women-can-do kind of woman, I don’t say that lightly, but we still live in a world where being a mom isn’t considered a real job, men are paid more for doing the same work as women, and girls are taught by the media to look pretty, be thin, and talk lightly.
So I say to my daughter….
We will teach you no such thing.
You will know how beautiful you are because you know how beautiful you are not and not because anyone else tells you. Too many girls allow their self-esteem to be controlled by other people. If the media doesn’t think I’m beautiful, if boys don’t think I’m pretty, if my friends don’t think I’m cute… None of these people matter in your self-esteem. That’s why it is called self-esteem. It comes from you. And what comes from you cannot be taken by anyone.
You will play sports (if you choose to) and you will play hard. I was a girl that liked to play, that loved to compete and I didn’t let any each or any boy push me around or tell me they were stronger, faster, smarter, or better at anything. But I knew that I was a minority. According to keepherinthegame.org, by age 14 girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of their boy counterparts. Many girls are so afraid to be strong and “not girly” that they lose what they love to what they should become. They hear and read messages like hide your flaws, how to get perfect skin, are you ready for swimsuit season and believe that to fit in they have to be small. In high school I watched girls pretend they didn’t how to play something so they would look cute instead of capable. That hasn’t changed…yet.
But it must.
You will dive for balls, go up for baskets, and slide into home-base. You will know how to throw a football, know how to make a basket, know how to swing a bat. You will not be allowed to quit so that you could go to the mall, get a makeover, or maintain your mani. Of course you could do those things too but not in place of the game.
You will not be quiet. And I don’t mean in the shhhh type of way. I mean you will not be agreeable and run with the crowd because “good girls” are seen and not heard because “good girls” are nice. If someone is being bullied, you speak up. If something doesn’t feel right, you say so. Sometimes, it is ok to offend people. In fact, sometimes I want you to offend people.
You will be kind. One of the things I look back on in middle school and high school that I am most proud of was the way I treated new kids or kids that didn’t fit in. I was far from a saint and I wasn’t always nice, unfortunately, but I asked every new kid to sit at my lunch table and asked not so popular boys to dance with me. Imagine what it would be like to walk in someone’s shoes that maybe aren’t as easily walked in as yours and act accordingly.
You will not pretend to be weak, stupid, or clueless. You will not twirl your hair or giggle at a joke unless it really is funny. If a boy wants to make you laugh, let him try. Don’t make it easy for him. Let him work for it. If he wants to impress you, he will. If he isn’t as smart as you, he should study harder. But by no means will you pretend to be less than you are to satiate someone else’s low self-esteem. Understood? Oh and another thing… you will not eat small or order a salad to seem dainty…ever!
You will be loved. No matter what you do, your dad and I will love you. We may not always agree with you (a lesson I’ve learned myself from my own mother) but we will love you and support you and stand with you. You need not worry that you are not making us proud; we are already and always proud. So listen to that little voice in your gut that is there to guide you and know we got you.