This post is part 2 of 7 in the series Sugar and Spice & Everything Daughters.
When we found out we were having a girl (and then another girl), my first thought was, Hallelujah! Bring on the slightly-ugly floral print clothing! After the shopping spree ended and I saw these lovely creatures who are my daughters take form — grow arms, legs, bodies; form thoughts and make sentences, friends, and dreams — I was forced to scour the Internet for resources on how not to screw them up.
How can I ensure these individuals get all the good qualities I have and wish I had and none of my negative attributes or the negative attributes of the entire world?
The weight of this question is bone-crushing, heart-crushing, and especially brain-crushing — because I rely on Google to answer my parenting questions 75% of the time, and Google can’t even answer this one.
And just like that, I’ve started applying the pressure that is all too familiar to moms — the pressure to be perfect in an imperfect condition. This time, it’s not the pressure to get a perfect grade, or have the perfect body, or say the perfect thing in the perfect moment to get the perfect job. This time, it’s the pressure to parent perfectly so as to raise perfect children.
We want our daughters (and our sons, too, but I don’t have any of those) to be confident, aware of their worth, conscientious of others and able to stick up for themselves, respectful and able to earn the respect of others. We want them to be healthy, to find their talents, to be good friends and strong citizens. We put a lot of pressure on girls. We know because we are those girls in older bodies.
After reflection, my new question is, How can I ensure these individuals get all the good qualities I have and wish I had and none of my negative attributes or the negative attributes of the entire world without applying the all-too-familiar pressure to be perfect?
My novice mom brain has devised the following plan for the next 20ish years:
PRAY FOR THEM, PRAY FOR MY MOTHERING.
Maybe you’re not the praying type. I am. My faith guides my parenting, and I’m going to pray that God will help me be equipped to raise these girls into strong women who will know in their hearts and minds that they are capable and worthy of good things — good grades, good relationships, and good jobs, to name a few.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE.
This means working hard, courageously pursuing my own dreams, being active and making healthy choices, treating people (including myself) with respect and kindness, and doing it all with confidence. This will not be easy, because sometimes I suck and it’s hard for me to not dwell on the areas where I’m failing. (Like laundry. It’s always the laundry.)
I will show them I care for and accept them whether they are fitting the mold of my expectations or the mold of who they’ve been created to be, which I hate to admit are not always the same. A wise one once said, “Parent the child you have, not the child you wish you had.”
I’ll check back with ya’ll (it’s about time we started saying that in Iowa) when my girls are grown and let you know if these three tasks accomplish the goal. But I think the answer to my question is, “You (probably) can’t.” You just do your best to love who they are and protect them from the unnecessary pressure to be perfect.
It’s probable they’ll discover perfectionism on their own, and in those instances where they’re frustrated by their imperfection, I plan to tell them about the times in my life when I felt the same frustrations and inhibitions.
Because, moms, we are the people in our daughter’s lives who are in the best position to encourage them.
They were formed in our wombs, so we know them better than anyone else. Their bodies are composed of half our genes, so there’s a good chance their bodies have some of the same limits or “flaws” we thought our bodies had. We were once girls their age feeling the same feelings, so we have experiences they can learn from. Even if they’re too annoyed to absorb our wisdom in the moment, they’ll look back and know we we’re there for them.
And that’s perfect.
Read more from our Sugar and Spice & Everything Daughters series!
- I Didn’t Want a Girl
- Ribbons and Bows
- The Reluctant Mother to a Daughter
- She’s a Girl, but That Alone Does Not Define Her
- Dreams for My Daughter
- Like Mother, Like Daughter: My Mom’s Effect on How I’m Raising My Daughter