Earlier this year a blogger and mother wrote a post about “Things I Need My Daughter to Know,” where she gives advice to her future daughter in a blog. The post received lots of accolades. And no doubt we can all relate to the fears she speaks of regarding selfies posted to social media sites, and the various difficulties that arise along the path of life from childhood onward. From the messages girls and women receive on beauty and behavior, to intelligence and sex, we could absolutely live in fear of our daughters making the “wrong” decisions in life. Fear is a strong motivator for trying to tell our kids what to do and how to live.
There are lots of things I might need my daughter to know, and other things I might want her to know. But in all honesty, it doesn’t matter what I need or want her to know because who my daughter is and who she becomes has nothing to do with me. All I can do is create the conditions in which she can grow up knowing she is loved, she is worthy, and she is capable. So while I have lots of ideas on what might help my daughter in life, many of them I’m going to simply bite my tongue on so she can come to me in her own time and space. And in that time I will create the space to listen, to reflect, and to listen some more because in the end I know deep down that she will figure it out.
So, here is the letter I would send to my daughter.
One day you may decide to read what I’ve written about our time together – the way we played, the way we navigated emotions and mistakes and the many lessons I’ve learned from you. Certainly none of it will be new, because these are really a lifetime of conversations. They’ll be the “oh yeah, that’s so my mom” because these are conversations we started when you were in my womb and I imagine we’ll continue to have in various forms for the rest of our lives.
Conversations on making mistakes and learning from them, rather than beating ourselves up for them. Because we all make mistakes, and no one deserves to be shamed for making mistakes while they’re learning about life…or ever.
Conversations about speaking our truths even when it is difficult. And finding ways to speak those truths that is respectful of ourselves and to those with whom we speak them.
Conversations about what beauty is, how we’re more than our looks AND how we’re more than our behavior.
Conversations about being our authentic selves even when other people want us to be someone else or act a different way.
Conversations about surrounding ourselves with people who build us up, and who we can build up in return. Hurt people hurt people, and while we can certainly offer love and support, some people will need us to have stronger boundaries with them than others.
Conversations about body ownership, because your body is your own whether you are 6, 16, 26 or 96. Your body is your own regardless of what your mother, your doctor or your partner says. Whether it’s tickling, diapers, medical procedures, sex, or anything else. You get to decide who touches you, when, where, and how. Every. Single. Time. No one but you. And likewise, the same respect is offered to others.
Conversations about intelligence and capability, because there are many intelligences in life, and many ways to be capable. You don’t have to make all A’s or be the star of the soccer team or chess club in order to be “worthy.” And because you have the space to try, to make mistakes, and to try again without fear of punishment, you will continue to grow in capability throughout your lifetime.
Conversations about dating, relationships, love, sex, family and marriage, because I’m a sex-positive parent and I believe that talking about these things openly and honestly will help you make the decisions that are right for you; not for me or your grammy and papaw, or society at large. You. And again, because you have ownership over your body, this will make these conversations all the more comprehensive.
Conversations about education, because a formal education can help you in life, but learning to learn, and to think critically, and to question everything is a true education. Curiosity is a gift; let’s nurture it!
Conversations that empower you to know you can make decisions about your life without owing anyone an explanation. Anyone. And no matter what, I will always, ALWAYS love you and accept you for exactly who you are.