A space where family, friends and anyone else can follow our adventures. We are a homeschooling, crafting, music-making, back-flipping wonderfully crazy family living on the coast of Maine enjoying everything life has to offer us!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Raising a Girl

When my daughter was born almost 11 years ago I had never experienced a love so profound.  I can still clearly remember the very first time I felt her kick inside me, and the the first time I saw her naked, wet, pink body when she emerged onto this world.  Back then I truly believed that when it came to nature vs nurture it was surely all nurture and no nature.  I was going to prove it to the world!  When my second was a boy I thought my case would be even stronger, now I have one of each and the world will see that we will raise them as human beings without gender stereo types...How wrong I was!  Sure my daughter played with trucks and wasn't afraid to get muddy or climb a tree.  My son loved the color pink and had a favorite baby doll, but early on it was clear there was something more "Bam Bam Bam" about him that I had nothing to do with.  Nature had something to do with it after all.  I quickly realized that while the influence of parenting and all those around us has a profound effect on our little people, there are certain characteristics built into them that I cannot control.
So on with life we have gone, raising these two little people as best we could trying to teach them right from wrong, teach them to respect themselves, those around them and the earth we inhabit.  Most days it feels that we have done a pretty good job.

Lately, as I watch my beautiful little girl grow and change I realize how self-aware she is becoming.  I watch her examine her every inch in the mirror, she brushes her hair until it's just so, she questions the hair on her legs and compares herself to others...this frightens me. Girls can be so self-conscious and self-critical of themselves and others.  How do I teach my girl to love herself and care for herself in a respectful way.  All of the sudden I feel like I am confronted with a great parenting challenge, one that is so incredibly important and delicate.  As a woman I must model a self-loving and healthy attitude.  While that in itself can be a challenge, there is the world around her, the world she becomes more and more a part of as she grows independent. 

There are young girls all around her going through the same things.  There are girls on the gymnastics team, friend, neighbors, the limited media that she is now exposed to.  Her father and I are no longer the only influence in her life, and she has learned that we may not always be right.  She has learned that she has her own thoughts, opinions and idea.  We nurture and encourage this of course, but are well aware that this is a challenge that has been set-forth. A challenge to us as parents, and a challenge to myself not just as a mother, but as a woman.
I accept this challenge, though it is intimidating at times.  This kind and gentle girl deserves it, together we will grow and change and develop.  We will find strength in each other and ourselves, we will surround ourselves with women who do the same and we will try and help those that don't. 
Funny, how the color pink and playing with trucks seem so much less important now...


  1. Welcome to my world! When I had Natalie, I was determined she would NOT be the typical pink barbie girly girl....once exposed to all of that via friends and school...she turned into the very princess you see on Disney. I admire your efforts Ang and wish you the best. Natalie is 14 now and it was overnight she decided that she doesn't like me anymore and I have to DRAG any sort of communication out of her. Halle is 5 and still likes me and thinks I'm the best in the world. At least I have Halle to balance the effects of a teenager.

  2. Great post Angie!! Your thoughts resonate mine completely, although I have a lot of time before it will matter for me.... We live in such a toxic media environment for women and self-esteem and it terrifies me to think of a time when Claire doesn't look to just us as role models and for guidance. When I think of all the emotional and personal turmoil and angst I had as a pre-teen/teen I realize we can't shelter and protect our daughters from all of that, but you are totally right, the most important thing is to model a woman filled with confidence and self-love and that will be lasting. For now I am happy I can just kiss all of Claire's chubby rolls and cherish this age of almost complete lack of self-consciousness :)

  3. Beautiful post Angie. My eldest, Scarlett, is 8 and thankfully is still in the dreaminess of childhood, but I do see that is not going to be forever. It sounds like Molly is lucky to have such a lovely mama to help guide her and allow her to be the gorgeous girl she is. Enjoy the journey. As for your reference to boys and the whole bam, bam, bam, I hear you! Even though Jairah is only 2 1/2, he is so different even though he is parented the same as the girls. Jacinta

  4. Beautiful Angie. My one and only girl is my oldest and she has grown up to be one of the
    lovest woman I know. My advice to all moms, mom's especially of girls...talk, talk, talk with your children and remember too to listen! Sounds like with all the
    love in your home that you are doing a wonderful job!

  5. I found myself nodding along with your post. Yes. I thought we could outparent gender, too. As you can see from my post today, I've already taken a step back at 4 1/2. My son has never been in the "dreaminess of childhood" phase (lucky Jacinta!), so everything seems to hit us early here. Like you, I try not to panic. And, like Tracey, I think all the love in your home will certainly pull you through. I hope the same for us!

  6. how old is your daughter? we're going through something very similar here with our red bean, she'll be 10 in october and the preening has begun in earnest. i just want to do my best to present a positive role model in regards to body image and hope that she learns to embrace herself rather than ridicule and criticize.

  7. What a beautiful girl you have there!
    Your thoughts very much mirror my own. Mine is only 7, but I am already noticing a shift in her and the way she perceives herself. It's heartbreaking as a mama. I try to remind myself that I survived it and came out thinking myself lovely and adequate in most ways, so surely she will too. But it is just so pervasive. I mean, when you can't even go into the grocery store without being blasted with hyper sexual images...I worry for my girl as well as my boy.

  8. Angie, this is a marvelous post, I so appreciate it!
    Yes, your girl is so beautiful!
    Your daughter is close in age to mine, Ella is a little over 10. I too have been confronted (somewhat suddenly it seems!) with many of these issues as well- it does really put things in perspective, as you say pink and trucks no longer seem so important. My mind has been in this place for weeks and weeks now- the worries over Ella growing up healthfully, my example versus the examples of others whom she sees on a regular basis. It makes me even happier that we are home schooling, I can tell you that! At any rate, I can only hope that I am raising her to be strong and think for herself- so that when she makes decisions that really matter, she makes the ones that are right for her. Oh, it scares me a lot, I tell you!

    And I was like you: girl first, then boy (two more after that!) and so certain I could prove wrong the gender stereotypes out there as well. Yet, they emerged into "girlness" and "boyness" on their own- and I realized a lot of the stereotypes are based on some real things. Not that they should be pushed or perpetuated, at all! My boys have loved dolls- they have long hair, etc. Ella has never been interested in trucks, but loves to get muddy.

  9. This is a great post, Angie! I'm nowhere near to this point with Nora, but I do think about it often. We try to have a gender neutral environment as far as toys and activities, but I'm not one to swear off pink or dresses for her. My hope is that I can raise her to be confident enough in herself that the external pressures will be less coercive, and I do want to extend her childhood as long as possible. :)

  10. This really is a wonderful post, Angie! Thanks for sharing. I'm hoping we're a few years before the childhood innocence starts to fade... We've also seen how different girls and boys are by nature and how very unique children are. Despite all the dolls and dresses that were gifted when E was born she has never had any interest in them but then our next daughter born 17 months later can not get enough of frills, pink and skirts. Our older son would just as happily dress in pink as blue but is a decidedly different child than his older sisters - Jacinta's BAM BAM BAM comment fits the bill for him! I love seeing the differences that nature and nurture build together.
    And as for your beautiful Molly, I'm sure she knows she is loved, she is worthwhile and that she is accepted as she is by a loving family - and those things count for a LOT! xo R

  11. Great post Angie :). I am also so grateful that we homeschool. I have appreciated the extra time we have had to model our values while our children's minds are still so impressionable and innocent to the world around them. I have also been (probably overly) hypersensitive about the messages I send to my daughter via my own actions. My own recovery from an eating disorder has influenced me to never speak of weight, diets, how I look, or complain about myself. How this will translate in her in the future, I have no idea, but I agree that some things are hardwired in females, including the desire to look attractive to the opposite sex :). Uggh, I feel your worry, I do. I just gave a lecture to my husband today about how we can't protect our children from everything, that the only way of truly knowing and growing themselves is by experience.(He may know or not know, that I lecture to myself.) Yet I believe as mothers we too are hardwired to try our best to protect them from pain and suffering. You said it best, we grow and support each other through all of it, no matter what. And I have no doubt that your beautiful daughter knows that she has one amazing mama to help her through it all.

  12. This is a great post. We all have to approach parenting in slightly different ways as all are unique. A set formula to follow would be very attractive at times, but I do love my children's individuality. I used to want to remove outside influences from my children. I now see that my 8 year old is developing skills to handle these influences that make me so proud of her. Long may it last. Thank you for a thought provoking post.

  13. what a beautiful and thoughtful post.
    I love these fun photos, id love to have a go on that tree swing! their patchwork clothes are great, especially the skirt

  14. Yes, these are delicate years filled with discovery, beauty and sometimes pain as they try to figure out where they fit in this world. The most important thing in my experience is to teach them to love others, whether they seem deserving or not, whether they appreciate it or not. The world worries so much about fostering self image (which we do want this to be healthy) at the risk of thier becoming too self involved. When a young woman feels threatened (comparing) is when she is most vulnerable. If she loves and respects others she is less fearful. Of course all the while, her family is helping her to know that she is beautiful and loved. I'm offering a prayer for you and your lovely daughter right now...

    Blessings, Debbie

  15. love this post! I have three daughters so I know what you're talking about!!
    I follow a blog that posted some of the most breath-taking links this week about loving your body - and it has certainly changed my thinking and how I will talk to my girls. I highly recommend it:

  16. I love this post. I do not have children, but can't imagine what it must feel like to know that you are going to be soon welcoming a beautiful boy and girl.


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