I’ve read a lot of things about how and how not to raise a girl. Things you should teach her. Things you shouldn’t. What you should say. What you should never say. Some of them make sense to me. Some of them literally make me roll my eyes. I am a girl. Ok, I am a woman. A healthy, reasonably confident and successful woman. I care about people and I have people that care about me.
I know the things my own mother did right and some of the things she did not do so right. Nobody is perfect. And I learned just as much from the mistakes my mother made as I did from what she got right. And I carry that all with me and draw from it as I raise my daughter.
The first rule of parenting is – there are no rules to parenting. We parent with common sense and love and are guided by our own moral compass. What feels right for me might make no sense to you. That’s just how this parenting thing works. We do our best with what we have and what we know. We seek advice when we need it. The rest of the time we just wing it. I have no real advice about how to raise a girl. Just my own ideas based on my own life as a girl.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with Barbie. I grew up, as most of my friends did, with a small collection of them. I put make up on their faces (markers) and played hair stylist (chopped their hair off). I gave them baths and sewed them clothes. I never once looked at them and thought “Man I hope I grow up to be just like Barbie.” Barbie is a doll. I never did the calculations of her proportions and how that would translate into an actual person. Just like I never imagined my collection of Smurfs as real live beings. They are just toys. And not just toys but just dolls.
When my three year old plays with her Barbies I never hear her talk about how thin Barbie is. How big her boobs are. How perfect her hair is. What I see and what I hear is a little girl playing, independently. Her Barbies are all friends and they do things like share clothes and dance together.
Girls do no get low self esteem from playing with Barbie. I know that’s a common argument in the anti Barbie crowd but there is not one part of me that believes that.
A few years ago I read a ridiculously long article, written by a woman, on how she will make a point of not telling her daughter she is beautiful. I’ll tell you that this made me sad. So sad. I tell my daughter, almost every day, that she is beautiful. I also tell her, almost every day, that she is smart, funny, and comment on other positive things she does or tries (whether she succeeds or not). How horrible would it be to grow up without ever hearing your own mother call your beautiful? Well I can answer that. It sucks.
Here’s the thing moms – if your daughter thinks that YOU, her own mother, doesn’t believe she is beautiful she is going to look for that validation elsewhere, and quite often in unhealthy ways. So yes, I tell my daughter she is beautiful and one day she will thank me for it.
And, just as importantly as telling your daughter they are beautiful – tell them that YOU are beautiful. Even if you don’t 100% believe it. Say it. In front of them.
Last year, just before my daughter turned two, I wrote a post about the power of the princess. She was in love with princesses long before she ever saw a Disney movie. That love had, and still, has very little to do with the fact that the “typical” princess today has long flowing locks and perfect (you know like Barbie) bodies. For a three year old it’s about flowing gowns, tiaras and wands. I’ll be honest, when she started her love affair with the princess I hoped it was a phase. But that wasn’t because I think princesses are bad for her. It was the thought of having a house full of princess paraphernalia that I cringed at. But now, I have just that. There isn’t a room in this house that doesn’t have a princess in it. And I’m ok with that. There’s nothing wrong with a little girl wanting to feel like a princess.
Girls Will Be Girls
My daughter loves pink – and purple. She loves dolls and bows and pretty much anything pretty. She loves to cook (as much as a three year old can cook) and has a play kitchen stocked with pots and pans and plastic food. She choses to wear dresses every day, the more twirl it has the better. She loves glitter and hearts. She is a girl. Sprinkled in with all her “girlie” toys and accessories are a few “boy” things. She has a tool bench and a play garage with cars. In her tickle trunk full of gowns and crowns is a fireman outfit. She gravitates towards the “girl” things more often than not but every once in a while she will decide that today is a good day to be a fire fighter instead of a princess – in fact when she is the fire fighter I am usually designated as the princess so she can save me. Some days she pretends to be a pirate or a robot. Oh and she loves her Lego – even the ones that aren’t pink.
I will continue to outfit her in pink (and purple) dresses and tie bows in her hair for as long as she wants. If she asks Santa for another doll for Christmas, that’s probably what Santa will bring her. She is a girl and I want her to be proud of being a girl. I just want her to be proud of who she is period.
Just a Mom?
Recently my husband and I were discussing the future and saving for our daughter’s future, specifically for university. “What’s university mommy?” I briefly explained to her that it was a school you went to when you were gown up if you wanted to learn to be something like a teacher or a doctor. “Oh, well I just want to be a mom.” I was caught a little off guard by this statement. But maybe not for the reason you think. It wasn’t the “just” part. She was really saying “I want to be a mom.” Not a teacher, not a doctor. A mom. I actually think that’s kind of great. That she could have said (and has in the past) that she wants to be a princess or a ballerina. But that day she wanted to be a mom. Like me. Of course it would have been remiss of me not to explain to her that she can be a mommy AND a teacher – but she was already off playing with her Barbies…
I’m just like you and pretty much flying by the seat of my pants here. You can never have it quite figured out because life changes every day. All I know is that I want to raise my daughter to be proud (but not vain), to be kind and compassionate, to be a good person. To know that she has the whole world in her hands but to understand that world doesn’t revolve around her – three year olds tend to think that so that one’s going to take some time. I want to be a better mother to my daughter than my mom has been to me. I know that sound harsh but it’s just reality. In the end I just want for my daughter to see herself through the same eyes that I do because that is a pretty rosy view.