What Moms Should Remember About Raising Strong Girls
I smiled as she let go of my hand, her confidence slipping between the wooden planks of the ramp with each step towards the classroom door. My daughter was starting a Spanish summer literacy program in preparation for the dual immersion kindergarten she’d start in the fall. A few months before, we sold our home and moved to a different state, just to offer our children this type of education that we deem important. This is everything we ever wanted, right?
At the very last moment, right after I thought we were in the clear, my little girl whipped her head around to catch my eyes in a stare that pleaded to take her home. My arms twitched as I held them tight against my body, resisting the urge to pull her off the ramp and back into my safety. I dug deep in my soul for the strength to push onward, offering an enthusiastic, yet silent, thumbs-up and a promise that all would be fine—great, in fact. With her trust in me and a few more steps, she was gone, free to fail and flourish on her own accord. I let out an audible sigh, realizing I had been holding my breath that entire time.
And then I cried. I said goodbye to the other parents, walked around a classroom bungalow and emptied my heart for the innocent baby I once cradled in my arms. Where once I held hopes and ambitions for my child now existed fear. What if the kids were mean to her? What if she hated the dual immersion program?
What if she isn’t strong enough to do this without me?
It seems there have been inspiring examples of strong women and their accomplishments in mainstream media as of late.
- Recently, as my husband was watching ESPN, I pulled my little girl over to hear about Jen Welter, the National Football League’s first female coach hired by the Arizona Cardinals.
- There’s also Melissa Mayeux, a 16-year-old French girl who will be the first in Major League Baseball’s history to be added to the international registration list. Mayeux has been described by baseball scouts as a “legitimate short shot” and “fearless at the plate,” even when playing with boys older than she.
- And, of course we cheered as our nation’s girls won this year’s Women’s World Cup tournament.
- There’s also been a noticeable increase in movies and television shows that feature really cool, female characters—Tip, the multiracial lead from this year’s animated hit, “Home,” being one of our favorites.
Self-Doubt Inspires Strength
Even with all the extraordinary examples of girls exuding strength and confidence, it’s the work of Kate Parker, a photographer and mom, who has taught me a valuable lesson about raising strong girls. She uses her photography (a series called “Strong is the New Pretty”) to show a side of girls not often portrayed; one that is strong, vivacious and outspoken. However, her project started from a moment when her own daughter experienced self-doubt. Parker said, “I wanted her to remember she was scared and she went through with it, sort of as a memento of her conquering her fear.”
“As moms trying our best to raise strong girls, we should remember the moments that challenged them (and us). By acknowledging the self-doubt and courage to overcome our fears, we give our girls permission to be strong whenever they need to be.
After reading that quote, I realized what my daughter needed from me as she braved her fear of a new school. She needed me, not only to overcome my own fear but to acknowledge it too. As moms trying our best to raise strong girls, we should remember the moments that challenged them (and us). By opening that conversation, acknowledging the self-doubt and courage to overcome our fears, we give our girls permission to be strong when they need to be.
After two weeks at summer school, my girl and I sat down to talk about that first day. I admitted the fear I felt in starting a new routine and the pride I felt in that she conquered hers.
We talked about how excited she is to start kindergarten in a few weeks and ways to summon her inner “strong girl” the next time she feels self-doubt. Of course I reminded my daughter that she’s loved and safe, above all. Ultimately though, what I want my girl to know is that I remember when she was scared and celebrated her persistence to be strong.