26 April, 2007


"It's a girl!"

These words were a mixed blessing for me. As most expecting parents, I simply wanted a healthy child. The sex of the baby was completely out of my control. That said, the thought of having a girl scared me to death. I was a girl, am a woman, and am fully aware of all that the future holds for this little being. How could I prepare her in such a way that her experience would be more positive and less devastating than that of every woman to whom I spoke?

Since having my daughter, I have found other mothers have the same concerns. Perhaps it is generational n that I don't know that my mother thought "how do I best raise a daughter to overcome the challenges of society?" I think that she had kids. She wanted those kids to be healthy and contributing members of society. She wanted them to be confident and be able to succeed and provide for themselves and their families. I doubt the idea of societal pressures entered her thinking, or that of my dad.

One of my primary goals in parenting is to do what I can to support my daughter in her development as a strong, confident, and well adjusted child so that, when she hits the years of peer pressure, she will (hopefully) feel more secure in saying "no" and doing what she believes to be the right thing.

At age 4 the girls in her class teased her about having curly hair. She would cry and cry. She would brush at her hair to try and rid herself of those pesky curls. The girls that teased her all had straight hair and... were her friends.

By the age of 5 the same girls liked her hair but now they were worried about their weight. These are 5 year olds! One day my daughter came home and announced that she was fat because a little boy said she was. I was shocked as this child was anything but fat (if you can find an ounce of fat on her body...I would be amazed)

Last summer one of the girls at the pool asked us to tell her if she was skinny. She was 7 at the time.

Last week my daughter came home and asked if pizza would make her fat. Sigh...I explained that eating too much pizza is not good for anyone, but that a piece of pizza is not going to make her fat. The idea is to be healthy - exercise and eat healthy things. These are things she does every day. She enjoys an active lifestyle.

What puzzles me is that young girls - little girls - are worried about these issues and are passing judgment on their peers. Granted, in some circumstances, they don't always understand what they are saying. When a five year old calls another five year old fat, they may or may not understand what "fat" is. The little boy sited above determined that my daughter was "fat" because he couldn't lift her off the ground.

Currently an older girl at dance class is attempting to take positions away from the younger girls. If a younger girl is the leader of the line in the production, this girl will attempt to "trade places" despite the fact that the instructor "assigned" the position. My daughter was the focus of this effort yesterday, but she held her ground. YEA!

Is it my imagination or, are girls, just mean? Not that women are always nice, but honestly, these are single digit girls.

I realize that I have to allow my daughter the opportunity to live her own life and learn from her mistakes. It is just that I want her to have the most solid foundation possible. I want her to understand, in the very heart of her heart, that she truly is an amazing person despite what she is told by others or how others behave toward her.

This year, boys started entering the picture. That, sigh, is another world entirely. Oddly enough, I feel more equipped to deal with the pressure that comes from the boys than that which comes from the girls. perhaps it is because boys/men, in general, don't baffle my mind to the extent that girls/women do? perhaps it is that the motivations behind the behavior and words of boys/men are more easily understood and, maybe, more easily explained and resolved?

I enjoy hearing about the girls that finish high school and succeed in life. I think it is amazing given the horror stories that circulate regarding how girls treat one another in person and via technology. It demonstrates the inner strength of women (and we are pretty amazing!) I love hearing about the strong relationships shared by women with their mothers or daughters. As confusing and complex as we are, women truly are amazing. And that gives me hope for myself and for raising a daughter in the 21st century.


Bre said...

It's so awful to me that girls of that age are so body conscious.

The best I can say is that the very real, honest conversations you have with her will surely be the things that remind her that being a woman is about more that fawning over boys and obsessing about losing 10 pounds!

Anonymous said...

Good luck! I wish your daughter success and happiness in her life and I am sure you will raise her to be a strong, confident, kind young lady.

sandra said...

I read somewhere that anorexia is starting to show up in kindergartners. It's so sad -- but it sounds like you're raising a strong little girl, who will love herself.

Chloe said...

You are so right. I have a son and boys aren't less cruel. Even with body image issues. My son is 9 and he is already asking if he is fat, or whether I think he is too skinny.

JustRun said...

I cannot imagine the pressure of raising a girl today. I know they say parents adapt and I hope "they" are right but that does little to reassure me. From this post, though, I can imagine that your daughter will find herself more fortunate than most. Her mom wants to teach her, and that counts for so much.

Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

The Exception said...

Each of these comments was nice to read. I am trying and doing my best. She will, I am sure, doubt herself increasingly in the years to come. I just want there to be a voice of truth in her heart that will remind her of how exceptional she is... she is my daughter after all! ;)

Carrie said...

We are mean to each other, aren't we? I can't for the life of me figure out why... it seems as if little girls today are getting an onslaught of negativity from everywhere... which is why YOU are SO important in her life. You're her hope, even when you don't see eye to eye.

Sarah Ashlee said...

What an amazing read! I wholeheartedly agree with you that raising children in previous generations was considerably different than raising girls in today's world. From this post, it is obvious that you are equipping your little girl with the foundation to meet the world head-on. Lucky her and kudos to you! If only all little ones could be so lucky...