My Heart, Your Home: Raising girls into women   

Monday, 17 June 2013

Raising girls into women

As a child, a teenager, I was so desperate to be accepted, anywhere, by anyone. I was so eager to be liked. I was terribly fragile and incredibly trusting and completely confused. I had no real sense of "me". Always feeling like I was the ugly duckling and the left one out. My Sister had amazing story telling abilities, she was fun and carefree and beautiful. My Brother, the baby, smart and handsome and talented. I always felt like I was not quite as beautiful, no where near as fun and by no means, smart. I was just me. Just the middle child with no true talents or likeable characteristics. Boring, self conscious, quiet and horribly shy with just... nothing to offer the world.

I wanted, so badly, to be seen. To be heard. I ached for a group of girlfriends who would just accept me as a part of their friends. I had friends, of course, but never a group. A select few from different parts of my life. I was an acquired taste. The girls that didn't like me, really didn't like me. Threatening me as I walked across the school yard. Following me and screaming obscenities at me. Pulling my hair as I walked into my class rooms, or trying to push me down stairs for looking at them the wrong way. Treatment, that to this day, still makes me tear to think about. Mostly, I just wanted to be friends with them, which made me feel more and more ashamed of myself. "How can you want to be friends with people who think so poorly of you, Jess?".

Because of this desperate need to fit in somewhere, I started turning to the wrong people. I made friendships, with the people who were giving me attention. The wrong kind of attention. I allowed myself to be swept up in the sweet words of boys. Swept away by the unpredictable and amazing highs of drugs. Carried away with parties, with a drink behind me I felt fun, confident and sometimes even beautiful. I became less liked by the girls who already didn't like me and never truly found my place. Being a teenager was a difficult time, a long lesson in life.

A lesson that I am still learning from today. A lesson that causes me great concern when it comes to raising my own two Daughters. I worry about Evelyn and Zalia going down the same track as their Mother. I want my girls to keep their gentle and trusting natures. I want them to believe in the world and in people. I want them to trust that there is good. But, how do you teach them all of those things, all the while teaching them to be wary? Not everyone will do right by them, not everyone can be trusted. But how do you teach them this without them becoming timid and frightened? 

I want to instil a confidence in my Daughters that never allows them to become so desperate to be liked. I want them to know that they are liked, they are loved, by me and their Father and that there will be people who love them just as much. Anyone else is not worth their time or their patience. I want to teach them to have faith in themselves and to believe. Believe that there are people who will accept them. Believe that they are worth those people, don't settle for just anyone. But how to teach them this, without giving them an air of snobbery or arrogance?

I want my children to know that they are beautiful, both inside and out. I don't want that to ever be a question. I want them to love their bodies in any form they become. I want them to both have confidence to show their inner beauty to the world, to know that what they have to offer is worth something, that it is beautiful. I want to teach them that beauty is about how you feel, not about how you look. 

I want my Daughters to know that they have and will continue to change the world, just by being themselves. Just by being in the world, they have made it a better place. I want them to know that just by being in my life, in their friends life, they bring sunshine on a grey day. 

Young girls are so fragile. So naive. So trusting. So impressionable. How do you teach them? How do you teach them all they need to know to survive in this world, to survive high school, without taking away their very core? Without breaking their vulnerability? Without breaking their trust and their hunger? 

I think about how I am going to raise my Daughters every day. I worry about how my decisions will affect their outcome. I am terrified that I will not be able to teach them the skills they need to be strong, but gentle. To be trusting, but wary. To be passionate, but guarded. To be confident, but humble. Raising girls into women will be my life's biggest challenge... and achievement. It will be a forever changing adventure, full of lessons and stories a long the way.

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