Last night, some girlfriends and I were chatting about parenthood around my kitchen table, specifically about parenting our children during their pre-teen and teenage years. We related our fears of raising them in a world where they can be exposed to so much at an early age; much more than we would be comfortable with.
It’s scary, y’all.
We talked about uncertainties such as when is the right time to talk to our kids about their bodies and the only people allowed to see and touch them? When is the right time to talk about their natural changes? (Don’t look at me, my oldest is only three. I most definitely don’t have the answers.)
Then a very taboo question came up: when the appropriate time comes for our sons, how are we supposed to preach “responsibility” and “safety” without giving them the impression that we condone those actions? What a tricky conversation to have, telling your teenager he should not be sexually active while also wanting him to know if he was to stray from the pack, if he did find himself in a situation where his basic human desires got the best of him, that he needs to protect himself. My mind explodes every time I think about it. Scary, I’m telling you.
Then, if possible, an even scarier thought came to mind: how am I supposed to have this conversation with my daughter?
Please don’t misunderstand my thought process here; I value both of my children equally and feel they need the same guidance from both my husband and me. I guess it’s just that these thoughts have had 3+ years to brew while I’ve watched my precious boy grow from a baby to a raving (but still precious) toddler. My husband and I have spent years talking about how we are going to raise him, what morals and values we want to instill in him, and how we hope he will react in certain situations. My daughter, however, isn’t even a year old yet. While mixing bottles, changing diapers, and finding pacis, I haven’t had time to wrap my mind around the idea that I’ll have to have these intimate conversations with both a boy and a girl. It was only last night that it hit me, and it hit me full force. There will definitely be some sensitive mother-daughter talks to come.
Whatever conversations the future holds, there is one I believe is most important to have with my children: the conversation about self-worth.
The conversation about their morals, values, and finding strength within themselves to know that they are enough without the opinions of others. The conversation that leaves them wanting to strive to be their best selves, wanting them to root their decisions within their faith. The conversations that result in their understanding that what they have to offer is astounding, and that they are both a treasure beyond all treasures. As a mother, I want to make sure I have that private conversation with my daughter and I know my husband feels the same way about our son. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter which parent has which conversation with which child; these conversations are dire.
I believe it is critical to sit down with our children and talk to them about their value. They need to be told that every facet of them is valuable: their minds, their bodies, their souls, their goals; everything about them is a treasure. Every night when I tuck my son in I tell him the same thing: “You are good, you are smart, you are funny, you are handsome, you are nice, and I love you.” I might not always list those qualities in that particular order, but I am always sure to call out each one. I want my son to know that he is great. It never fails—every night when I tell my son these things he reacts as if it’s the first time I have ever told him. He smiles and hugs me, because it feels good to feel validated, even if you are only three-years-old.
I will to tell my daughter these things as well, and will continue to tell both of my kids these things for the rest of their lives. Trust me, their misbehavior will not go unnoticed and unrecognized, but I will always validate my children because they need to know that their mom is in their corner. Through the toughest, most confusing times, they will know that I am there cheering them on. They will know that they are loved. And they will know that they are valuable.