Strong women: may we be them. Strong girls: may we raise them. As I silently repeat these words in my head I realize how important it is to teach our girls, from an early age, to be strong in mind, body and spirit. And with a most memorable International Women’s Day this month, there is no better time than now.
Boys and girls each have their own unique set of challenges but, I’m not gonna lie, it’s the girls who stress me out the most. And, hey, that’s coming from someone who’s been a girl. So you’d think I’d have this gig nailed down!
The more things change…
I’m going to share a little story with you. Back in 2011, my bright, well-adjusted, confident daughter (then eight years old) announced, in the middle of a water break at her first dance class of the season, “Mommy, I look fat.”
I’m pretty sure my mouth gaped open in shock. Say what, now?
Four simple words. Four loaded words. Four jaw-dropping words that I never expected to hear from my daughter — least of all at the age of eight.
“Pardon?” I asked, trying to keep the WTF out of my voice.
“In the mirror. I look big. Here,” she says, gesturing to her thighs. Thighs. Of AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD GIRL.
Omigod.Omigod.Omigod. How is this happening?
I was SO not ready for this. Not even a little bit.
- Either I’m doing it all wrong with my “leading by example” lifestyle of (more or less) healthy food choices and (mostly) daily physical activity; or
- I can’t compete with the daily deluge of peers, TV and social media.
If only I could put my daughter in a bubble until she gets through this insecurity stage but the truth is, I wouldn’t be doing her — or society — any favours. I know that we will face bigger and WTFier moments so we need to figure out a system for communicating these feelings.
I’ve found the best way to initiate any uncomfortable conversation is to find a common ground. This might mean you have to step out of your comfort zone and get into theirs. Speak their language. If your kids are anything like mine, their language is Minecraft, YouTube, Instagram and Netflix.
Forget Damsels in Distress: Here Are 5 Ways to Reinforce Your Daughter’s Awesomeness
- Ensure she is surrounded by awesome friends. Knowing her peeps have her back is half the battle.
- Support her interests (as long as they are legal.)
- Teach her to be confident and fierce (but, in a respectful way.)
- Inspire her to move past gender and body image stereotypes without apology.
- Encourage communication and establish a safe and comfortable place to share the “deep thoughts”.
In the end, we are all flying by the seat of our pants with this parenting gig. Regardless of whether your child is 8 or 18, it doesn’t get any easier, just different. The way I communicate with my 8-year old is vastly different from the way I do so with my 13-year old.
You may find, as I do, that you and your teen are suddenly chatting over your fave Netflix shows. Whether or not your gab session has anything to do with the show is irrelevant. It’s the actual conversation that matters. And while there are still moments where we stumble about doing our goofy parent thing, sometimes — sometimes — we nail it.
Disclaimer: I am part of the Netflix #StreamTeam which means I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with Netflix Canada. All views, rants, questionable viewing choices and opinions are my own.