Saturday, July 21, 2012

Notes on Raising a Daughter

I am on number four. The first three were borrowed from my husband's ex-wife, but allowed me to guide them, nonetheless.  Much of what I share now comes from my own observations as a girl, a daughter, a woman, a friend and most importantly, a mother.  I believe the following tips to be SO important that I encourage all who are reading to please share this information. Create a ripple that spans the globe with the loving influence of mother to daughter.

First, a couple reminders about who your daughter is and what your role is as her parent and guardian. Your daughter is NOT you. Read my blog YOU ARE YOU to illuminate or refresh this concept in your mind.  As Kahlil Gibran said in The Prophet,

 "your children are not your children.
 They are the sons and the daughters of light longing for itself.
 They come through you, they are not from you,
 and though they are with you, they belong not to you

"You can give them your love but not your thoughts. 
They have their own thoughts. 
You can house their bodies but not their souls 
 for their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow,
 which you cannot visit
 not even in your dreams. 
You can try to be like them
 but you cannot make them just like you."

This means that we guide them as children by what we say and more importantly, what we do.  We do not own them, not their bodies, and certainly not their minds. We can tell them very specifically what to do up to a certain point but as they approach their teen years, we must trust that our guidance has been effective and step back. Never shame your daughter into being just like you. This will hurt her and the relationship you want to have with her.

My youngest daughter has recently turned twelve. I acknowledge to her that she will need to keep her head on straight to take care of herself while she enters the world of Jr. High and beyond. At this point, I can't be there to make good choices for her, so I must trust that she is capable of making these good choices on her own for herself.

 There's a very important element that I encourage you, as a parent, to add to her box of tools now. You are her ally. You are her confidant. You are now her partner in solving the problems that arise from here on out.

  • Tell your daughter that you love her. Tell her that there is absolutely NOTHING she can do to diminish the love you have for her. Tell her she can ( make a laundry list of worst-case scenarios) fail a test, fail a subject, make horrible mistakes, get pregnant, be gay, crash the car, not go to college, date a dropout, you name it.... think of any "horrible" thing you can come up with and tell her you will still love her.  NOTHING can change the fact that you LOVE her. Give her this. I bet she will make mostly good choices because she will never be afraid to tell you what is really going on in her life. She will confide in you because she will know beforehand that she can never lose your love. TRY THIS. This will be her greatest tool. You.

I have done this with my oldest three daughters. I have said it over and over again. I have said it when they were poised to drop out of their Ivy League university and finish their degree elsewhere. "You are not your degree. You are not where you went to college."  I have said it to their friends, who needed a maternal figure to tell them they were not bad when they lost their virginity at 15. " You are not a bad girl. You are a human being living fully. We must make mistakes (lots of mistakes) in order to learn and grow. You are worth loving, now get on birth control pills!"

I can feel the struggle you might have with this concept, but try it. Looking at the reasons and rate of teen suicide, I believe if most of these kids had this knowledge firmly in their heart, they would KNOW that dropping out college, or getting pregnant, or failing a class in school, or crashing the car, or getting hooked on drugs or alcohol, or making any wrong turn in life wouldn't disappoint their parents to the point that they would rather DIE than face the anguish of losing their parents' love.

This also means checking your own heart. Maybe there is a teeny tiny part of you that would love your child less if they fucked up royally. If this is true for you, get a baby picture of your baby. Tell that baby everything I said to tell your kid. Tell that baby that she can grow up to be a homeless trash artist who subsists on the scraps from restaurant dumpsters and you will still love her. Tell her she can be pierced and tattooed and purple-haired with those giant earlobe tubes that stretch out the earlobes permanently, and you will STILL LOVE HER. Tell the baby. Now go find the baby in pre-teen or teen or young adult form and tell her. TELL HER there is NOTHING she can ever do that will make your love for her die even a little bit. If you are still having a hard time with this, find a baby picture of yourself and do the same thing with her. Tell her you love her, no matter what . Tell her she is lovable, no matter what. Even if she hid a bottle of gin in the back of the toilet in order to make it through the day, tell her you love her, no matter what.

After this, listen. Shut your mouth, and listen. Create some safe words for your daughter to use when she needs to confide and confess. The safe words can be something like "mom, I need for you to not get mad right now',  and promise to just listen and not get mad. Set the safe words up before she might need to use them. Give them to her at age 9 or 10, or whenever you open up this dialogue.  Any problem she confesses, you can now face together. as a team of beloveds. The most powerful team that there could ever be.

Now apply the same techniques to your son.

Let me know how it goes. and if I can help you in any way. LOVE to you!!!


my beautiful daughters 

1 comment:

Kaminski Family said...

Beautifully said. bravo!!! well done.