Some of my favorite bloggers and writers are sharing their stories of mothering daughters and being daughters themselves. As the mom of a newly arrived bit of sugar and spice, I can’t wait to see what insights these ladies have to offer.
((This week’s post comes from Kristi James. Writer at And Babies Don’t Keep and mother of three little ladies))
I’m not really sure why, but growing up, I always thought I’d have boys. I pictured fuzzy buzzed heads in summer, wrestling in the living room, and those adorable old man clothes I see in the kid section at Target.
Then I had 3 kids. All girls.
During the first ultrasound, I was hoping for a girl, basically because I liked our girl name better. Obviously I’m a very deep thinker 100% of the time. The second time around, I felt like I was supposed to want a boy, especially because my in-laws had FIVE granddaughters and ZERO grandsons at that point. But as we walked in I realized I really wanted another girl. I’ve never been so happy to see three little lines on a screen. And the last time, I was flat out thrilled to hear we were having girl number three. Not simply because it would be easier to add another to the pack than figure out how to change a boy diaper (!!!) , but because after 4 and a half years of mothering (at that point), I love having daughters.
Now, I’m not saying daughters are better than sons. They aren’t. I’m just saying this lot I’ve been given, this gaggle of girls? It isn’t just my story, it’s my joy. I used to think I’d have a pack of wild boys, but real life looks like a pack of wild and free little girls instead.
Here’s another thing; something I didn’t expect. Having daughters challenged me to take my own femininity seriously. As I stare down the next 18 years of raising women, I’ve had to think through my own womanhood. I’ve grown into myself as they’ve grown. I’ve thought about what it means to be a woman as I’ve been given the task of mothering three of them. Here are some things that come to mind when I think about this enormous, beautiful task.
1. When it comes to how you carry yourself: act like a strong, confident woman and people will treat you like one.
One time a friend of mine was having trouble with her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law had a strong personality and the daughter-in-law was a people pleaser and constantly felt unknown, unseen, and belittled by the way her mother-in-law interacted with her. An older, wiser friend of ours told her (kindly) that if she stood a little taller and acted like a grown woman, instead of the young girl her mother-in-law seemed to think she was, the relationship would probably start to change. She did, and it did.
I think about this a lot, because one of the gifts of femininity is often a greater sensitivity to the feelings of those around them. But one thing I’ve learned, and I want my daughters to learn, is that that doesn’t mean you turn into a dancing monkey, jumping and clapping to keep everyone else around you happy. It means you are kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and aware of how others are feeling, but you also stand tall and stay true to who God made YOU to be. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but I think that’s something a lot of us women have to learn, so I want to start early.
2. When it comes to your emotions: remember that sensitivity is a strength, not a weakness.
Along the same lines, it’s (unfortunately) socially acceptable to joke about women being too sensitive. The reality is, we all have different sensitivity thresholds. Some women ARE very sensitive, and some aren’t so much. I have several friends who cry approximately twice year, while I shed a few tears driving up the hill to Target yesterday morning. More and more I see God using women’s intuition, sensitivity, and empathy for good.
God created us to be emotional beings, and that wasn’t a mistake. So our feelings can of course be misused, mistreated, misread, misinterpreted. But that doesn’t mean they don’t also serve an important purpose.
Because that tendency to feel things deeply, and to be moved easily doesn’t expose a weakness, it’s a great gift. It’s part of what makes women nurturing, it’s part of what endears us towards care-taking. (Of course men are sensitive too, but we but we don’t joke about it the same way.) So I want my girls to be thankful for their feelings, no matter where they fall on the sensitivity spectrum, and to use their emotional awareness for the good of those around them.
3. When it comes to your body: beauty is worth talking about. It’s important to girls, and that’s okay.
One thing I love about the world my daughters are growing up in is that real women seem to want to embrace their own beauty rather than fitting into the Barbie mold. We don’t do that perfectly; I look at my post-baby belly and get frustrated that it looks more like an uncooked Pilsbury biscuit than…anything else. But I’m thankful for it at the same time; it looks that way because it grew three healthy babies (and because pizza but THAT’S NOT WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW OKAY).
So it seems like we all love the idea that all women are beautiful, and that true beauty is about more than physical appearance. But. I think most women have this little voice in their head asking, “Am I pretty enough? Am I beautiful?” As parents of girls, we need to be actively answering that question. Not ignoring it. Not acting like it isn’t there.
“YES, you’re beautiful. And smart and strong and brave.”
The Bible says that we are made in God’s image – we are image bearers. In that, we reflect God’s beauty, making us literally beautiful. Full of beauty. When we teach our daughters that; that beauty exudes from the core of their being, rather than from their skin, eye color, hair color, weight, shape, and so on, so many of the “daughter” questions are answered. But they still need to hear that those physical traits are ALSO part of their status as image bearers. They need to hear that they’re beautiful, from the loudest voices in their little girl lives – those of their parents.
When the question, “Am I beautiful?” is answered, as it is by God from the beginning, we get to see the full expression of who this woman really is. Okay, I’m beautiful. And smart and strong and brave. Now, how will I express that? That’s where the joy of womanhood is really seen. I want to help my girls get there, I want to give them a strong foundation – they are known, loved, and beautiful. And then, when the growing up is done, I’ll send them out with this question –
Now, my little girl, my strong, sensitive, brave daughter – you are full of beauty. Who will you be in light of that?
I can’t wait to watch their stories unfold.
Kristi James is a writer, wife and mom to three pretty spectacular little girls. She blogs at And Babies Don’t Keep, contributes regularly to Thrive Moms, and has been featured on Relevant Magazine.com. She makes a few too many jokes about sitting on the couch eating candy all day. (But seriously, wouldn’t that be nice?)