On raising little girls …

Mike and I have always known that we wanted to raise our girls to be nice little girls. We’ve tried our best to teach them right and wrong and how to treat people with respect. We want people to enjoy being around them. I can say that we’ve succeeded at that so far because people do enjoy being around them. We can take them in public and they behave. Not all the time, we’ve had some parental missteps and blunders, and the girls are not perfect. But for the most part they are usually pretty darn good.

Now that they’re six and going on seven …. I’m starting to feel a shift into … girlhood. Into some catty, girlie, sometimes bratty sassy type behaviors. And honestly it freaks me out. I’m starting to get more and more worried about shaping them into fine young ladies. I’m starting to get worried about that responsibility, worried that I won’t do it right. The ground work has been laid, but from here on out it could go south!  Ahh, the pressure!

I read this interesting article about how to talk to little girls … Read it here – it’s a quick read. I’ll wait ….  do dee doooo …..  Ok then. The gist of the article is that instead of commenting on a little girl’s looks first thing, such as “aren’t you a cutie?!” instead ask them intellectual questions, ask them what they like to read, what they like to do, etc. Don’t put the focus on their looks. Because when girls get so used to hearing compliments about their looks it makes them more apt to be more concerned about their looks than anything else. As in looks are what’s most important.

I’m guilty of giving the cutie cute comments to little girls, aren’t we all?  Probably nine times out of 10 the first thing I say to a little girl is a compliment on how cute she is, how cute her outfit is, her hair, her jewelry, etc. We were at a family wedding this weekend and as small talk goes, small talk is always centered around how cute Arlene and Lydia are. Yes, they are quite cute. We know they’re cute. What little girl isn’t cute, eh?  After about the 100th time of someone telling us the girls are just “so cute” it gets irritating. We kept thinking it would be awesome if people talked to them. Ask them things like how they liked school. Get to know them. The girls are of the age where they can communicate, they have opinions and they’re pretty funny once you talk to them. As I said though, I do the same thing!  It’s just easier to be surface level without going into depth.

I worry about this whole fixation on looks and I worry that it’ll consume the girls as they get older. I’ve been struggling lately with my own self image … and I struggle even more because I’m conscious about hiding my struggle. I don’t want the girls to be consumed with image. Not yet. They’re only six. Give me eight or 10 more years of innocence!  Right now they have spurts where they act all grown up and sassy but for the most part, they’re just little kids. Little, funny exploring kids who are fascinated by the littlest tiniest thing.  But I know it’ll happen soon … they’ll start being more concerned with their looks … or the shape of their bodies. I’m not as thin as I was in high school or in college. I’m not happy about that and there’s days like when I go try to find a swimsuit (!) when I wish I was a smaller size and I get sad about it. But, for the most part, I’m pretty OK with how I look. I’m perfectly OK with the other stuff going on with my life, so I try to not focus on looks or appearance and I certainly try hard not to get upset about it. Besides, I have a husband and two wonderful girls who love me just the way I am. We try to teach the girls that, that it’s what’s inside that matters. It’s what’s in your heart and your head that matters most. I hope we’re doing it right and that it’s sinking in. I worry though that sometimes my worries about my appearance will rub off on the girls.

The girls are developing their own little styles and their own little ways. It’s so, so neat. Lydia likes to be by people, and she’s a bit shy. At the wedding, she liked to dance but only if she was dancing with her sister. Arlene’s a boogie machine. That girl never once left the dance floor, and she gravitated toward the older girls, the ladies getting their grove on. She danced with the bride and thought that was just about the coolest thing ever. I can see that she admires older girls, that she’s studying them and picking up on mannerisms and styles. That type of thing sticks with her. Not so much with Lydia. Lydia goes along with the flow and as long as she can stick by your side, she’s good. It will be interesting and at the same time I’m sure terrifying once they reach their teenage years. I kind of want Arlene to slow it down a little, even now. To slow her roll and still be a little kid. It’s OK to be fascinated by the older girls, just don’t try to act like them, not yet!

I hope that I’m a good role model for the girls. I try to be. I try to express the importance of being kind and showing compassion, of being considerate and of working hard. What I know I can focus on more is fostering their social and emotional intelligence. Trying hard to not put emphasis on looks or body images, to try hard to not let my own body type insecurities show through and be passed onto them. And, personally, I’m going to try to do what that article suggests, to instead ask a little girl an intelligent question, rather than comment on her cute hair. And, the next time someone tells me the the girls are cute, I will reply that they’re also getting to be quite good readers, and Arlene’s favorite subject in school in math and Lydia really wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

No matter what, raising little girls is terrifying in this age of shorty shorts, bouncy hair, texting, internetty craziness. I can only hope I keep myself grounded and stay true to my principals and do what’s right by the girls.

Mothers of girls, any advice you can offer?  Are my worries normal? Should I not worry so much?

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