Being a mom is something that I take very seriously. It's more than just growing babies and bringing them into the world, and it's more than surviving the early days. Being a mom is accepting the challenge and responsibility of raising good human beings. We actually have a very real chance of being the change we want to see in the world because we have influence with these tiny people from day one. Forget being a social influencer, my greatest influence is with the two little (and not so little) girls who live in the house with me and see everything I do in this world. What a great gift to be able to do this with my life. I used to think being able to bring a human into the world was a miracle but raising a human from scratch is an even greater one.
I grew up with two sisters and many girlfriends. I know the value of having other women in my life. We may be from all different races, religions, regions, lifestyles, and backgrounds but we all share a few universal truths. For better or worse, we are all minorities, and only another woman understands what it means to live within the constraints of the female condition.
From the moment I found out that I was going to have girls, I made it my mission to change the world they would live in because I want better for them. The one way in which I make the world a better place for my daughters — besides being very vocal about women's rights and issues — is by teaching my girls about sisterhood and the importance of having and celebrating other women in their lives. I stress the importance of a tribe. Your tribe will lift you up when the world lets you down.
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My girls are now 9 years old and 11 years old. They are entering that pivotal point in life where I could really screw the pooch on this whole parenting thing if I don't pay close attention to what I'm doing here. This is no time for parenthood autopilot. This is when I should instill beliefs and ideas that will make them strong, independent women's women.
Puberty is on the horizon and eye rolling is in full effect at 11 years old, in case you are not here yet or have boys. The thing is, this is also the point where girls start willfully and maliciously judging one another; these are the critical years of exclusion. This is where the cream rises to the top and separates from the rest. This is where mean girl antics begin to set in, if we allow them to. I will not. I know life is not all inclusive but I also know that you should get to know people for what's on the inside and celebrate each girl's unique sense of style, individuality, and all that is important to her. This is how I am raising my girls and I started when they were toddlers. They are their sister's keepers because we need to teach our girls to have one another's backs and not to see every other woman as competition or a threat.
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Everything is changing in my girls' lives at this stage: bodies, interests, their self-confidence in who they are, and even their perspectives on the world. As they live in this world, grow older, become more knowledgeable about life, and decipher good from bad, accidental from intentional, they react to the world and the people in it differently than when they were small children.
Since they were tiny, we've always taught them that to have a good friend, you have to be a good friend. I see the quiet nuances of change taking place. I see friends slipping away and others growing closer as our girls define the kinds of humans they want to be in this world. I've taught them to not compare themselves to other girls but rather to be their own best selves because the best we can hope for is to be the best version of ourselves. Wanting to be or look like someone else only sets us up for a life of competition and disappointment.
I've tried to put the girls in extracurricular activities that teach them not only that if you want something you have to put in the hard work and effort but also to work as a team to accomplish a greater good. The girls are involved in ballet, gymnastics, cheer, choir, violin, and peer conflict management. These places — along with school and church — are where they will meet the people who will influence them and be a part of their tribes.
Last year, my oldest made the choice to run for student government. She didn't win but I was proud of her for running a clean campaign. Others were tearing their fellow students down in order to win. This was never even a consideration for my girl. My daughter and her friend who was also running helped one another campaign, wore each other's buttons, and clapped louder than anyone else during each other's speeches. I was very proud of them both.
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The thing is, this doesn't just happen. There are a few things as moms that we can do at home.
- Be the example of the kind of woman you want your daughters to be. Let them see you changing the world and let them know they can do the same.
- Tell your daughter that you are proud of her for trying because it takes courage to even try.
- Stress the importance of a tribe. You want your daughter to have her own mind — this is not about peer pressure. A tribe is about a net to catch you when you fall and a hand to help you up when you stumble. A tribe holds you together when you feel your most broken. A tribe is invaluable. Let her see you with your tribe in action.
- Don't measure yourself against other women. Show your daughter that you are striving to be your best self.
- Don't place your value on the way you look or the things you have. You are more than stuff and you are definitely more than the size of your butt.
- Never compare your daughter to any other girl, not even her sister or yourself at her age. It's a kick to the gut that some girls never recover from.
- Let your daughter know that she can be and do anything that she is willing to work for. Nothing is impossible and she is just as valuable as any man and can do anything a man can do — and she can even do some things he can't (such as grow and birth a baby).
- Let your daughter know she is part of your tribe and you are part of hers forever and always.
These are just a few ways I try to raise my girls to be strong, independent women who value themselves and their relationships with other women. How do you help your daughters learn the importance of a tribe?
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