Hey Mamas and Mammas-To-Be,
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what Evelyn’s future will look like and adversity or biases she may face because she’s a girl. When you have a child, you want to protect them from pain you’ve experienced, past regret and mistakes. Like any millennial parent I try to be cognizant of the food I feed her, non-toxic toys, avoiding gender stereotypes, promoting diversity, inclusion and kindness.
I see her getting more observant and find myself daily seeing teaching moments. I’m also seeing her become observant to the gender norms of our society. The other day I was putting on makeup, she watched me in the mirror and then picked up a makeup brush and started to mimic me wiping it on her face. It’s something I expected with a girl would be a bonding moment for us but instead I was surprised when I felt a pit in my stomach instead. A simple and small gesture that spoke so loudly to me saying, “It’s starting.”
She has this book she loves that teaches body parts to your little. One line in the book is “I have chubby legs.” I’ve started saying “strong legs” instead. Because she does. She has strong, solid thighs that allow her to explore and climb and she should be proud of that. Strong legs are a gift. There’s nothing wrong with being chubby. But to me it’s already something being put in her face making her aware of body image in a superficial way.
I’m her mom so I may be bias but I thinks it’s clear Evelyn is beautiful. But outward beauty is a blessing and a curse. Growing up I was strangely self confident in some situations and then no confidence in others. I cared what people thought. I felt my value and self worth came from attention from the opposite sex. It caused me to make a lot of decisions I regret. And so, I’m so conscious of that as I raise Evelyn. I try to not say “you look so pretty” too often. Of course she needs to hear that too. But I want her to hear equally if not more, ” good job,” “you’re so smart,” “try again,” I’m proud of you.”
What I’ve learned is it’s so dangerous for a girl to grow up thinking her value is in her appearance. In this age of social media and the perfect photo of your family you are teaching your children, especially your daughter, that her value comes in looking put together and pretty. That “likes” matter and putting out an image of perfection is the goal. As mothers, we should be teaching our daughter’s their value and worth is so much more than skin deep.
I’ve given up on buying Evelyn nice clothes sticking to hand-me-downs and consignment finds. I never want her to be afraid to get messy. I don’t want to say, “don’t get your pants dirty.” I never want her to feel she needs to hold herself back because of something as superficial as how it might affect her physical appearance. It’s in the messiness of life that you often find the best parts as well. She wants to splash in puddles and try to eat dirt and practice climbing on anything she can. And I want her to stay curious, to constantly challenge herself. I want my daughter to have just as much of a chance to get dirty and climb, to learn to problem solve and to shrug off falling down and getting back up as much as all the boys on the playground.
When Evelyn falls, she almost never cries. She’ll look to me and I always give her a confident nod and if she needs it I’ll help her up but otherwise I let her do it. She knows to wipe her knees and her hands and I always say “When we fall down we get back up and try again.” And she grunts and goes to do whatever it was again and often again and again until she gets it right.
When you have kids there’s this “fear of failing as a mother” that often gets talked about. I see so many amazing qualities in Evelyn- curiosity, outgoingness, intelligence, determination, perseverance. I feel such an awesome responsibility to try to help her hold on to those qualities. Growing up I also was super shy and afraid to fail. It held me back from a lot of things. Evelyn on the other hand loves walking up to strangers to babble, or jump head first down a slide. I want so badly for her to keep that spirit. Every child is different, so what one needs might not be the same for another. For Evelyn, I feel I’m holding her back from her potential if I chose to be a helicopter parent. It turns out that living full time in an RV is exactly what she needs. Being outdoors is where she is the most at peace. And so we spend our days exploring, getting dirty, learning about the world around us first hand.
All that said, I don’t know if any of these things that I’m doing will protect her, empower her, encourage her. And you’ll never know until they are an adult- Did I do OK? Did I fail you? Evelyn, I tried, i’m trying. You have worth, you matter, you are loved.