I was fortunate enough to be born into a family full of strong, independent women. Raised in their image, I assumed I would have a daughter and do the same.
That presumption changed the minute my dark haired offspring unexpectedly came screaming into this world. Instead of the malleable, impressionable child I expected, I am faced with the image of a person rooted in her world view. While she will consider my suggestions and opinions, she is unmoved by them if they do not coincide with her beliefs. A force to be reckoned with, my daughter is all mine to figure out and support on her journey.
So what do you offer a child born with an innate sense of self? How do you raise a fierce girl without breaking her spirit in the process? It begins with throwing out the old rule book and creating your own. My parenting approach is grounded in three lessons. It is my hope that they will provide her with the foundation to achieve any dream she decides to pursue.
Lesson number one: A strong woman is comfortable in her own skin and abilities.
A strong woman believes she can achieve her goals with or without reinforcement from others. Like the “Little Engine That Could” I want my daughter to approach every situation with an “I think I can” and walk away with an “I thought I could.”
To do this I have to resist the urge to force her to comply and bend to fit in the mold given to her. Instead, I need to provide her with the ability to know her own worth and give her the space to achieve her dreams. I will resist my gut reaction to roll my eyes at pink, flouncy tutus and swallow the urge to call them ridiculous. I want her to know she is supported for who she is; not who she is trying to be or who I think she should be.
Lesson number 2: Strong women don’t exist in isolation.
Being strong does not mean you have to go it alone. Instead, I hope she will follow my example and see that a tribe is necessary to thrive in life. I want her to understand that I can be as strong as I am because I believe in myself and have amazing people supporting me.
At some point my daughter is going to come face to face with a problem she can’t solve. I hope in that moment she will remember that asking for help makes her smart and not weak. Finding people who you can depend on to bridge the knowledge/skill gap is resourceful and wise.
In the end, the strongest women surround themselves by people who show up, root them on and help them along the way. I have achieved a tremendous amount in my life by living this lesson. I hope she will too.
Lesson number 3: Strong women support other equally strong or even stronger women.
This is the most important lesson of all. It is my obligation to demonstrate and teach her how to lift up other women. Mother Earth needs incredible, innovative women who don’t hold other to ridiculous standards of moral superiority so that we can thrive and rise.
At this very moment, the world needs strong women who will bridge the gap and work together despite their differences to fix problems. To vote for each other, show up at rallies and support activists doing great work.
That dream begins with teaching my daughter to love and respect herself. Then she needs to learn how to extend that same love and respect to others. To use her voice and her abilities to help causes that better the lives of all women.
This, along with all I have learned from the strong women in my life, will be my gift to her. In the best case scenario, she will learn from my mistakes and become a better woman than those who came before her. My inherently strong child will know how to trust herself and trust other women. Together, these amazing women will shape the future in ways we can’t even imagine. I can’t wait to see what they do.