Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Raising Rafa: How to Raise a Strong Daughter

When Husband and I talk about raising a daughter there are many things that scare us.

We've come a long way - yes - but let's face it... this is still a man's world in many way. Not that I say that lightly as a modern, free thinking, women-can-do kind of woman but we still live in a world where being a mom isn't considered a "real job" (as if there's anything harder in the universe), men are paid more for doing the same job as women, and girls are taught by the media to look pretty, be thin, and talk lightly.

So I say to my daughter, Rafaella...

We will teach you no such thing.

You will know how beautiful you are because you know how beautiful you are not because anyone else has had to tell 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 grew up a girl that liked to play, that loved (understatement of the year) to compete. I didn't let boys push me around or tell me they were stronger, faster, smarter, or better at anything. But I know that I am an exception. When girls are younger they believe they can be anything - athletes included, but according to, 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 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 to not know how to play something so that they would look cute instead of capable. That hasn't changed...

...but it must.

You will dive for balls, go up for baskets, slide into home-base (your dad will  teach you that one). 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 not ruin your manicure. 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. 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 or high school and am most proud of was the way I treated new kids or not so popular kids. I'm not saying I was a saint. Far from it. 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 at dances. Imagine what it would be like to walk in someone's shoes that maybe aren't as nice as the shoes you walk in and then 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...ever!

You will be loved. No matter what you do, your dad and I will love you. We may not always agree (a lesson I've learned myself from my own mother) but we will love you and support you anyway. You need not worry that you are not making us proud because you always are. Listen to that little voice in your gut that is there to guide you. 

No, not that guide...

these guides....

Oops, Sorry. I mean THESE ONES. Listen to these ones.

And know we love you.

Photo Credit:
Meeting Jiminy Cricket - Loren Javier

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