Really, these are just the things I try to tell MY daughters every day. I’m absolutely NOT an expert on parenting. I make mistakes constantly and I often feel overwhelmed and unprepared for this task. So, I try to hedge my parental bets with encouraging words. Obviously, words aren’t a substitute for consistent right action. But I hope saying these things everyday will help my girls believe them.
1. I love you
Lucy and I have this little thing that goes like this:
Me: Lucy, guess what.
Lucy: I love you!
Me: Yes, but HOW MUCH do I love you?
Lucy (arms spread): Sooooooooo much.
Me: Yes, but how LONG am I going to love you?
Lucy: Always and forever.
It’s pretty cute. Of course, a two year old can’t really understand the truth of this. But I still want her to hear those words all the time.
2. You’re beautiful
Our culture is obsessed with appearance in a shallow and unhealthy way. But I don’t think the answer to this is to never say anything about beauty. Instead, part of the answer might be instilling confidence and self-respect in our daughters so that they won’t be concerned with the bizarre expectations in pop-culture. Also, my girls happen to be incredibly beautiful and I can’t help but tell them this.
3. You’re smart
I imagine this will be easy for my girls to believe since their mother is smarter than me. But it isn’t easy for a lot of girls in our culture to believe this. Part of this has to do with expectations. A recent study showed that girls who identified their gender before taking a science or math test did poorer than when they didn’t identify their gender. I want my girls to know that we have high expectations for them and believe they are smart and capable of excelling in any intellectual pursuit.
4. You’re fun
Sometimes I don’t say exactly this. I might say “you’re so funny” or “such a hoot.” I want them to know that other people love being around them. That they’re great to have around and people will enjoy their company. There are a lot of Tracy Jordans out there. So we need just as many Liz Lemons to call them out.
5. You’re strong
Whenever I tell Lucy she’s strong, she flexes her muscles. Kind of. She sort of raises her arms and snarls. But she thinks she’s flexing and showing her muscles. I’m not trying to get her to be a bodybuilder or anything. But I am trying to help her understand that she’s strong; physically and in a hundred other ways.
Part of why I try to say these things every day isn’t just for them but for me. These words help me remember to encourage and support them in other ways. I’m also reminded that what I tell my girls can have a huge impact on how other people view them as well. Now, if I could just figure out how to do something with their hair…