Raising a girl to be strong, to believe in herself, to use her voice and skillfully navigate the patriarchal society we live in without losing herself…where to even begin?
We must teach our girls that if they speak their mind, they can create the world they want to see.Robyn Silverman
When I was a little girl, I was taught to be quiet, agreeable. Submit. Obey. Serve. As in, obey and serve the most authoritative man in the system followed by each subsequent man below him.
Questioning authority was not okay. I had to learn to avoid being myself or speaking my truth out of fear my family would reject me.
Then I started to unlearn all of that—and my family did end up rejecting me, but it turns out letting them go was the best thing i could have done for myself.
I’m still working on unlearning all that programming, though—and still learning how to fully be myself.
My Wish for my Daughter
As for my girls, I’ll raise them to think they breathe fire.Jessica Kirkland
So how then do I raise my own daughter to be comfortable with her truth? To know and love herself without being shamed or guilted or pushed into subservient acquiescence?
I want her to feel confident using her voice and speaking her mind while having compassion, respect and kindness as well. These are my hopes and dreams for her.
Sometimes I’m afraid that I’m failing on this mission, but then there are times, like her dance class the other day, when I think it’s okay, she’s got this.
Impromptu Dance Class
It’s Halloween and there are several hours left before the festivities begin. I’m cleaning up the kitchen while my daughter is wearing her dragon costume and circling me like a shark around its soon-to-be victim. She’s impatiently anticipating the arrival of candy and feeling bored.
Her energy is especially kinetic and restless this afternoon as she swoops through the kitchen for the thousandth time then stops.
“Let’s dance, Mommy.” There’s a sparkle in her eyes.
She doesn’t ask if I want to dance or if it’s okay to dance right now. She commands me to dance with her.
I love how clearly and directly she communicates, without fear.
This is such a stark contrast to my own little girl self who lived in absolute fear. I had been conditioned to hide my truth and ask for nothing. I definitely knew better than to demand interactions from my parents.
And as a parent now, I routinely have to bite my tongue whenever old shame tapes replay through my mind. I have to fight off the urge to quell my daughter’s exuberance or dampen her fire.
“Put on some music!” Her voice is authoritative but in a joyful, teasing way.
I laugh and humor her by turning on our Bluetooth speaker and selecting an instrumental drumming track. Immediately we are shaking and grooving all over the kitchen.
I have no dance training, just mix up every move I’ve ever done or seen someone else do and go with what my body feels in the moment. It’s quite possibly highly cringe-worthy, embarrassingly-bad dancing, but I don’t care what it looks like. I just dance.
So there we are, dancing our hearts out and she starts hollering out moves for us to do together, now it’s turning into a strange line dance/square dance situation.
Then she says something about it being a dance class and runs to her desk, bringing back a notebook telling me it’s my “dance book” and she’s apparently my instructor now. She continues hollering out moves and positions and “showing them to me” in the notebook as if we’re supposed to be following some kind of playbook. Where does she even get this stuff?
Finally when we’re too tired to go on, we collapse into the chairs by the fire and she thrusts her feet, heels first, onto my lap. “Be my footrest!” She demands, throwing her head back and laughing at her own irreverence and bossiness.
I ask her if she wants foot rubs and when she nods I give both her feet a little massage. She sighs, rolling her eyes in mock over-satisfaction.
My daughter is not the child that I expected. She is so much more.Brenda Kosciuk
Was It Fun Being the Boss?
The next morning we are on our way home after dropping her brother off at school, (because those wise administrators closed her elementary school the day after Halloween) and she’s reminiscing about some of her favorite moments from the day before. She mentions our dance class/party saying it was one of the best parts.
“Did you like how bossy I was?” She asks with a hint of pride in her voice.
“I did, my darling. Was it fun being the boss?”
She laughs at my question and then gets serious and nods with conviction. “It was.”
by Sarah Caton