Raising a daughter is hard. And easy. And terrifying. And rewarding. All at the same time.
I’ve been circling around this in my head for weeks, in my heart for years. While my daughter is little in the eyes of some, I can feel the tide changing and know my 8-year-old is on the brink of something new. The days are fading when the biggest worry is what doll to play with or if we want to swing or slide at the park. It scares me to know what is coming and know it is my job to prepare her. But I am capable.
I have often described my daughter as a fireball, she is strong-willed and feisty. It makes for an interesting family dynamic, but I honestly love it.
On the contrary, I was timid, quiet, and stuck to my mom’s leg for most of my childhood. She was like an oxygen tank for me. I couldn’t do too much or go too far without needing to get back to her.
I was prepared for it to be the same with my own daughter, but truth be told, we are more like magnets—stuck together some days or failing to connect on others.
Though it has taken time, I have realized it is my job to turn myself around to guarantee the connection. Because no matter what, I shouldn’t force my sweet girl to change who she inherently is to make my life easier. And as long as I stubbornly hold myself up to my daughter, the more awkwardly we dance like magnets, never really connecting.
So how am I working on turning myself around? Well, the most helpful inspiration has come from an unlikely source . . . a body book, one I bought on a whim to make talking about all this growing up stuff easier.
Snuggled in bed, we dove into a chapter about the importance of exercise—nope, I haven’t worked out regularly in years. How to make healthy food choices—polished off two boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the last week. The importance of not judging yourself against other girls (women)—yep, do that one pretty regularly.
So basically, a book written for 6-8-year-olds gave me a huge wake-up call. If I want my daughter to do these things, feel these things, believe these things . . . I have to model them for her.
While this was not a new epiphany, and I’m sure not the author’s intended purpose for writing the book, the timing was undeniably perfect.
Years ago, when life was all about me, I made lots of foolish choices with limited consequences. Drink all night, sleep all day, with a side of fast food—repeat, repeat, repeat. And you know what, it affected no one but me. But now I have six little eyes watching me (no, my daughter is not an alien, I have two boys as well) and I know I need to turn myself around.
Enough self-deprecating inner dialogue, it will become hers. Enough comparison to other women, she will do the same. Enough eating garbage and feeling like garbage, she will feel the same.
Raising a daughter is hard. Because it has forced me to look at myself. I feel my own sadness and know I don’t want it to be hers.
Raising a daughter is easy. Because I’ve been there and know how amazing growing up a girl can be.
Raising a daughter is terrifying. Because boys. That’s all.
Raising a daughter is rewarding. Because I see her grow. Because I see her strength. Because I see her bright future.
And despite me thinking sometimes I have nothing to do with it, I know I am helping her get there. And she is helping me get there, too. One body book chapter at a time, we will get there together.
(Side note. The next chapter is about body hair. Wish me luck. And humor. And maybe a side of wine. )
Previously published on the author’s blog