My themes of parenthood
Motherhood was not something I truly contemplated. I just assumed that I would be one someday. It’s an expected part of life as a woman, at least of one my age. (I’m pushing 50.) That being said, I was lucky enough to give birth to two amazing daughters with an equally amazing life partner.
Raising girls these days can be especially challenging, walking the fence of the nuances of improving the lives and rights of women while continuing to satisfy the patriarchal world in which we live. I simultaneously want to help them burn all the bras and protect them from potential abuse and harassment. It’s not a simple task.
I raised my girls through a trauma survivor’s lens. I’m not sure if this was the right thing to do, but it did seem to protect them, for the most part, from abuse. As part of this view, I also taught them skills to promote self-advocacy and independence. I knew that I couldn’t be there every moment to protect them. So they needed the skills and confidence to protect themselves.
Here are a few lessons I repeated often to my girls:
- If someone tells you not to tell your parents, or you will get in trouble, that’s exactly when you need to tell us what’s happening. Because that person is definitely doing something wrong. This is especially true when it comes to abuse. It’s a big red flag that requires the attention of a trusted grown-up.
- Real names for body parts. My girls knew the appropriate terms. I still recall how my then 2 ½ year old proudly announced while we were in line to buy food at a restaurant (loudly!) that boys have penises, and girls have vaginas. I affirmed her declaration. It was Ash Wednesday. I remember the shocked expression of the man in line behind us, ashes on his forehead. It’s still one of my favorite stories!
- If you find yourself in over your head and in a bad situation, call me, and I will pick you up, no questions asked. We will discuss it later, but you will not get into trouble. My girls never took me up on this offer, so I’d like to think that they never found themselves in a sticky situation where peer pressure snowballed into a bad time.
- You can always blame me for the reason you cannot do something. Are your peers trying to talk you into something nefarious? Make me the bad guy. I don’t care. Just stay safe.
- In managing conflict at school, I always encouraged my daughters to try to resolve issues on their own first, talking with them about the problem and offering ways to discuss issues with their teachers. If that didn’t work, I would step in. My girls are both very good at advocating for themselves now, which is especially important as they navigate college and enter adulthood.
- When I did need to step in to help resolve problems at school, there was a meter for my involvement, from “nice email” to “Defcon 4.” I always let my kids have input in the ferocity of my intervention.
- Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. This includes trying new things or traveling to new places. We have been able to send our girls on international trips with their high school. We’ve also encouraged them to step out of their comfort zones from time to time, like trying out for the school musical.
- You should never change or abandon your goals because of a relationship. Until you have children, your priority should be you. It’s a lesson my own mother taught me. My older daughter did an overnight trip at a college she was considering. She was still in high school. When I picked her up, she told me immediately that this was not the school for her. The reason? All the girls she met were looking for a husband. They weren’t serious about getting an education. That’s my girl!
- Purity is a religious and social construct. Certainly, sex is not to be taken lightly, and involves a lot of emotional attachment, but a choice to become sexually active does not make you a bad person. It simply means you are human.
- All people are born good. I had to undo a teaching from the fundamentalist church down the street from us, a church where we had family as members. They hosted many fun events for kids, and my children attended. Things like Trunk or Treat and Easter egg hunts. But their beliefs included that all people are born bad, and could only become good through the salvation of Jesus, and this was explicitly taught at one of these events. That’s a lot for a 4-year-old to take in, and it had to be undone. No one should ever tell a child they just met that they are a bad person.
- You do not have to become a mother. Your contributions to society can be extremely valuable without creating new humans. That choice is yours, and yours alone. In no way will I ever pressure my children to make me a grandmother. But if I do become a grandmother, I will love and cherish those babies!
- Morality is subjective. You can be a good person and not go to church. I know plenty of awful people who think they are good just because they park their butts in a church pew every Sunday. Likewise, laws can be immoral. Just because a law is on the books, doesn’t make it right, especially if it strips people of basic human rights and bodily autonomy.
My daughters are no longer girls. They are young adults. They are, quite simply, amazing humans. As one is wrapping up her college career and the other is preparing to begin hers, I couldn’t be more proud of them.
I hope that my guidance has prepared them to be successful in pursuing the only goal that really matters: to find what lights your soul on fire and be happy.
Did you find that you had certain themes in your parenting style? I’d love to hear about it!
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.
5 thoughts on “A Dozen Life Lessons I Taught My Daughters”
I agree wholeheartedly! Both of your daughters are amazing. Smart, multi-talented, kind, emotionally intelligent, expressive and assertive in the best ways.
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Thank you! 💚💚💚
I like all your points here, but I can’t resist sharing something about the lessons taught. My children are all grown up, and some have their own children. We always had good relationships and trust and everything, and I thought I tough them right. A couple of years ago, we had a night out with my daughter, and we had a long and deep conversation and then she said: you know what the most important thing you taught us is? You never have to finish your drink! Do not take me wrong, I agree that it’s an important thing but… out of everything about life, heart, and soul – you do not have to finish your drink!
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That’s another great piece of advice!
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I heart everything about this. ♥️
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