By Eliska Counce, TSB Columnist
Well, it’s that time of year at Chez Counce: the birthday season is upon us. Yes, my baby girl is turning six next week. I simply can’t believe my chubby toddler is now a very grown-up young lady. Raising daughters is a special privilege. It’s easy to get all worried about her, though. How do I make sure she’s strong and confident in a world that will hyper-sexualize her? How do I make sure she writes and lives her own story, without constraints or limitations? Is it even possible?
Here are some keys to making sure our daughters develop the confidence in their abilities to think and cope, to be happy, to feel worthy and deserving, entitled to asserting their wants and needs and to enjoy the fruits of their efforts:
Help your daughter form an identity as an achiever. It’s important she thinks of herself as an achiever as a pre-adolescent, and to achieve for the right reason: her own internal satisfaction. Provide her activities she can use to learn to articulate and define who she is. Expose her to role models and strategies for successfully mixing career and family. Help her appreciate herself as an individual based on who she is, not gender roles.
Help your daughter develop a hardy personality. Teach her how to recognize and tolerate anxiety while acting anyway. Separate fantasy from reality: being a princess is not a career. Set goals for her. Teach her to ask assertively for what she wants and to trust herself and her own perceptions, to make choices consistent with her values and goals. These skills make sure your daughter approaches life with enthusiasm and weathers challenges well.
Remember the parental rules of thumb: Unconditional love. A physically and emotionally safe and secure environment. Respect for her individuality. In the end, your relationship is more important than if she goes to school with purple hair. Time and attention: step away from your electronics and pay full attention. Open and honest communication. Flexibility. And provide good role modeling. Learn to listen. When your daughter tells you something, be aware she may be looking for approval or recognition.
Teach her work is fun, that she is a good worker, that she can be anything she wants to be. Send the message that a woman needs to be able to support herself financially. And most important of all? Teach her she can do it! Career awareness begins in childhood. Take a girl to work! Encourage her to be a leader. Acquiring skills in sports, games of skill, conquering the outdoors, activities like working at computers and building models is a definite boon to self esteem.
Happy birthday, baby girl. May I be able to provide you with all of the above. I leave you with Tina Fey, who sums it all up for me in a prayer:
First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.
May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.
When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.
Guide her, protect her: when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.
Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.
What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it.
May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.
Grant her a Rough Patch from 12 to 17. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long.
O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers and the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.
And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that. I will not have it.
And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.
“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.