Daughters Day She Lived in a Shoe

Wed 07 December 2016

This post was inspired by an new campaign that Dove® launched recently. They are continuing their social investment with the #GirlsUnstoppable campaign for building self-esteem in teens. I love the idea. You can visit their page for resources here. Am I going to purchase their products based on this sort of advertising? Yes. Yes I am.

Mother’s Day came and went again. I never think of it as Mother’s Day. I have largely given over to the idea that it is more a day about being someone elses daughter than about a special day for me. I mean, if it was my special day I’d be waking up 24 hours later in Vegas wearing a strange wedding ring, with a baby I didn’t know anything about and Mike Tyson’s tiger locked in the bathroom. Gather But I don’t. I go and schedule lunches with anyone who wants to see me. I will also admit that lately, I do it with little or no grace whatsoever. I spend the day thoroughly annoyed with myself, mainly because I lack the ability to just leave others to go and hang on their own expectations of me.  Still, it’s only middle innings in this search for personal empowerment, so I might just get there yet. Maybe by next year.

I suppose that’s what I mostly thought about as I made my way through the mothers and daughters that populate my life this last Mother’s Day.  And on this day of Women, I also reflect that I have always felt that it was expected of me that I would be a bit more daring in life, a bit more dynamic, a little more one of those women who are not so “well-behaved” – but it’s hard to be one of those women when you are raised in an atmosphere where compliance is a highly valued commodity.

This line of thinking bothered me most of the day, until, as is often the case, my 13 year old daughter made me see the bigger picture. The realization that this behavior had transmogrified through me into something positive. In the wonderful furnace of generational transference, I had taken something that I felt stigmatized me in my own assessments and remade it into something of great value to give to her.

It had become the gift of giving her the word “No.” I like to hear her use that word. I like to witness her staging her many small rebellions as she becomes a young woman. The word “No” is, in my opinion, a salute to the growth of her own personal independence. And anytime she uses the word, I will often challenge her for reason and certainty with gentle arguments and resistance before giving way and letting continual small victories wash over her. This afternoon, as I did that, she noted in the most offhand way, “C’mon Mom, you know I get that from you!”

WoW. Just wow.  It is amazing to me that she thinks so. But it simply isn’t true. I am still all too uncomfortable forming the word “No” in my own mouth. Telling the world at large that I am planning on doing whatever it is I please still seems like an act of absolutely foolhardy bravery in my mind. You can teach a child to respect the rules a little too much in life just as easily as you can teaching them to respect them far too little. It’s yet another one of those fine lines in parenting. Either way, I have always wished I was on the other side of it. I have far too great a respect for other peoples needs and far too small a respect for my own.

And that is why I allow these little rebellions from her whenever possible. She is a good and sensible girl and I don’t want her to turn out like I did. I don’t want her to be compliant. For me at her age, and still today, all forms of rebellion came at too high a cost for me to be easily convinced that they might worth it. I will tell you that the knowledge of that makes me a little sadder about the woman I am today. I was far too well-trained to be compliant, to be convenient. I am the Mouse that Roared…with a lifetime case of laryngitis. That’s how I feel, how I’ve always felt, and I don’t want her to ever, ever feel that way about herself.

The real truth is, she didn’t get that from me. She got it because of me. I raised her to be mouthy. To talk back when she felt her boundaries weren’t being respected, even by me, and I hope it sticks with her for the whole of her life. I hope she refuses to behave the way people expect her to, often…Very often.  I hope she will say “No” when she means to and let the devil take the hindmost. I hope she will be kind, but also that she will own her whole life all to herself, because I trust her to share herself with others when it is appropriate, but I also need her to know what to keep for herself so that she will wake up with her sense of self intact with every sunrise she greets. That’s how I am creating my own