Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rules for Raising Daughters

By way of Pinterest and Facebook recently I've seen a "Rules for Raising Boys," piece that I fell in love with.
So I created my own ... for raising girls.
It's my best privilege to date- this whole raising a girl thing.
I'm one lucky Mama.

Photo courtesy the Lovely & Talented Auntie Mo!

1. Let her make decisions.
Even if they're ones you don't agree with ... she has to carve her way in this world and it starts with her tiny independence. And respect those decisions. If she wants to rock her purple plastic sparkly headband for yet another day, allow it. It's her decision. If she wants to wear flip-flops in 6" of snow, it's yours.

2. Remember you're her mirror.
You're the first person she's going to glean all of her habits from- so be gentle on yourself. When she tells you you're pretty when you wake up, are sick, or just got home from a run, simply thank her for the compliment. Don't make a habit out of pointing out everything about yourself you dislike. How is she supposed to learn to love everything about herself if you can't?

3. Teach her the correct terminology for all her body parts.
Yes, everything. Because when her entire bikini-area is referred to as her tushie, things will get confusing.

4. Accept all of her self-expressions.
Eye rolling. Audible sighs. Stamping her feet. Teach her that yes, she owns those movements, but there is a time and a place to use all of them. Like when she's imitating characters or dancing. Not when it's time to leave her bestie's, the library, or when she can't get candy at Target.

5. Take her to the library.
Get her face into books- real books with pages and dust jackets. Teach her to appreciate what a gift the library is, that somebody trusts her enough to borrow books and music and for her to respect the things that aren't hers.

6. Let her break rules.
But minor rules. Like staying up past bedtime on Fridays, wearing Christmas pajamas year-round, and having a quick snack before dinner. Adhering to policy and procedure 24/7 is difficult and just plain impractical. Show how that often, we make little alterations to each of our days and lives in ways that don't hurt the big picture.

7. Explain equality.
This one is large. Begin with your household, adopting an everyone contributes strategy. If Mama starts the laundry, Daddy puts it away. If Daddy makes dinner, Mama washes the dishes. Everyone helps everyone, and no one is exempt from belonging. Explain how grown-ups and children are alike and different. Explain how males and females are alike and different. Explain how cultures are alike and different. But- the root in all of this is equality. We really are all the same.

8. Encourage her relationship with her Dad.
And do not step in and "show" either of them how it's being done incorrectly. Trust her Daddy enough to take her to appointments, birthday parties, swimming lessons, and shopping for Mother's Day.

9. Give her something to look forward to.
I'm 31 and I still function better if there is something on my horizon that makes me smile thinking about. Instill that in her as well. It can be the littlest of things, which we all know are actually the biggest. Making cupcakes after work. Sleeping in on Saturday. A roadtrip to love on our peeps. These little bursts of sunshine sprinkled in here and there will encourage her to look beyond her day in case it's going really, really crappy.

10. Take her on roadtrips to see her peeps.
All I ever wanted to do when I was little was go to my grandmas'. Not much has changed. Realize and rejoice with your daughter that family really is everything and take the time to prove it. And, let her go on solo visits as often as she can. You have no idea how many people think that is the most wonderful gift ever to spend time with your girl- so share it!

11. For every time you tell her she's cute, tell her she's smart.
Aibilene Clark's character in The Help has the best lines of the book- "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." Beauty is left out of the mantra, the compliment. She's your flesh and blood; of course she is the most gorgeous creature who ever graced the planet. That's every Mama's right. But fostering what truly is inside is how you can really make her shine on the outside.

12. Be patient.
She really is little. She really is new at life.

13. Drop the "supposed's" from your vocabulary.
She's supposed to be potty-trained. She's supposed to be rid of the pacifier. Writing her name. Reciting capitals. Buckling herself in. Being polite. Wearing ponytails. Into Barbies. Not into tractors or glitter or plain spaghetti, sans sauce. Why? Or better yet, who said what your child is supposed to be doing? She's supposed to be eating and sleeping and finding joy where her joy is found and being loved unconditionally and allowed to be her, right here, right now.

14. Share your traditions while making new ones.
Since we grew up in our parents' homes, it makes sense our foundations probably mimic our roots. When I moved into my first home, I wanted my silverware drawer arranged like my Mama's. It's our jumping off point for so many things as we grow up, which is understandable. Which is fine! But it's also completely fine (and crazy fun) to make your own traditions as a parent. Confetti pancakes for birthday breakfasts and Italian for Valentine's Day? You and your daughter should both have a say in that!

15. Respect her allies.
You're only as strong as the people who stand behind you- trust that your kiddo is going to find the same village to do her backing as well. You should hope for that, actually. If her ally is her bestie, her dog, her sibling, her Grandma or her nanny, it makes no difference. You'll need to understand the relationship she has with her people and respect who she is to them.

16. Expose her to music.
My tangible desert island item is my iPod, no question. I can't even peel a potato at the sink without turning on the radio. Music just is ... everything I love and I make it a priority in my house. And always play it as loud as she asks you to!

17. Send handwritten thank you notes.
She's never too young to learn how important expressed gratitude - and snail mail - truly is in this world.

18. Let her fail.
This one sucks. It's hard, and it hurts. It's a fine line of watching your daughter fail which makes you feel like a failure as a parent. It's true: this society is trending towards-ribbons-to-everyone-for-trying. It's hard to make her follow the rules in CandyLand just to get beat. It's repeating the same level of swimming lessons for the third time and you accepting it. It's grace in how she gets up and moves on.

19. Delay gratification.
Akin to giving her something to look forward to, resist the urge to buy her or give her what she requests on the spot. Explain to her what earning means, which then stems into appreciation. Make a satisfiable model in your home where time and effort are recognized towards what she wants and needs.

20. Tell her you love her everyday.
Life really is short. The days seem long, and on the days that seem the longest, she needs to hear your reaffirmation the most. When she is crabby. When she is disrespectful. When she is belligerent. When she is intolerable. When she is at her worst she's still your very best. Tell her so.

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