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Girl Power!

Recently one of my Facebook friends posted this article from PBS.org, entitled "Raising a Powerful Girl": http://www.pbs.org/parents/raisinggirls/powerful/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Fanpage&utm_campaign=PBS+Parents 
Of course I was interested. I have a young daughter. I couldn't wait to learn from the "experts" about how to make her grow up to be confident, strong and successful. (Girls rule, boys drool!) I read it immediately.


What a disappointment.


Not that it didn't have plenty of good ideas for how to raise your child. But for a panel of experts they sure didn't have anything unique to say. Let her make her own choices? Encourage her to join a team? Tell her you love her even if she is fat? Really? Is this the best you could come up with. Some cliched parenting mantras I could have learned from a pamphlet at the OBGyn?


Why won't people just say it? Girls are different from boys. Maya wanted to play princess long before she had ever seen a Disney movie and clearly she didn't get the idea from her jiu-jitsu playing mother. And four year old boys love nothing more than to slam and shoot each other. (My brother was not allowed toy weapons when he was little so he made them out of broom handles and plastic silverware. Nature finds a way.) You can kill yourself trying to teach them to  "play nicely" or you can just make sure that Johnny has a nice soft mat underneath his head when his brother tackles him.


What the article lacked, (and please excuse the inappropriateness in a post about girls) was balls. Not to worry, I have my own set of completely unfounded opinions. I am no expert, but here are my additions to the article:


"Encourage your daughter to pursue a passion. "
Well that's easy. How about you encourage your daughter to pursue every passion. And I do not mean in the over-scheduled, Upper West Side kind of way.  If she likes to dance, have a dance party in your living room. Let her make her own costume out of old clothes and face paint. Force the grandparents to watch it. Hell, sell tickets. When she wants to learn more about bugs go outside and dig in the dirt. Answer every question she has, no matter how many there are and how annoying they get. (Mommy, I know you are sleeping but I was just wondering why the sky is blue? Oh and where did I come from? And can I have a cookie?) At one point Maya wanted to open a restaurant in her room. Before that it was a clothing store. Whenever we allow her to pick out her own little treat for doing a good job she buys crayons. Then she dumps them all on the floor and plays "kids" with them, a game where they are all the children in her class and she is the teacher. She can do this for hours.


"Encourage her to take physical risks."
Like sticking a bobby pin in an electrical outlet? Oh, you mean like letting her climb to the top of the jungle gym without hovering under her with a crash mat. Or try flag football. Or learn how to properly execute an arm bar. You should wrestle with your daughter often.  Let her get beat up a little. Then teach her what to do the next time she gets beat up. Even better, teach her the skills she needs to completely destroy all the kids in her class, make sure she knows that she must never, ever use them, and then teach her to project a confidence so blazing that they all know not to mess with her anyway.


"Let your daughter know you love her because of who she is, not because of what she weighs or how she looks."
Well of course. But while you are teaching her this you may as well tell her that there are others who will love her for exactly what she looks like. And that there are even those who will tell her that they do not like how she looks, and that this will feel awful and she should tell them to fuck off and then tell daddy who will have them killed. But also let her know that there are some situations where looking good does matter (like a job interview) and that even though everyone deserves to be loved, it is most important to be healthy. Anorexia is not healthy but neither is obesity. So have some broccoli with your cookie and most of all, find an exercise that you love and do it every day. Because feeling good and looking good go hand in hand. Finally, when she catches you watching Toddlers and Tiaras (which happened to me last week) you will have to somehow explain why those girls on TV who are wearing those beautiful princess dresses are actually horrible, evil creatures that she should under no circumstances want to be like. 


"Help her process the messages in the media."
It's all bullshit. Nothing you see on TV is real, not the women or their boobs. Even the news is really just entertainment. (Remember Hurricane Irene? Me neither. But I remember the hours of Soap Opera like coverage . And how many more times do we need to watch the twin towers fall anyway?) 


"Allow her to disagree with you and get angry. "
Got this one covered. Maya is well on the road to power. Next.

"Enjoy her!"
 "Try to keep this connection as she gets older -- if times ever get tough, you'll appreciate this special bond you share!" This is directly from the article. I left it alone.

Sometimes I try to picture Maya all grown up. What will she be like? What will she do? Who will we be to each other? If I had my way she would be four forever. I love this age, the bright eyed curiosity, the sheer joy in everything life has to offer. The fact that she still wants to sit in my lap, to hold my hand, to accept my hugs and kisses. I know that there will come a time when she is embarrassed by everything I do, when I "just don't understand" her, when she wants me to "leave her alone." But I know there will also come a time when we are two adults,  meeting over coffee or a glass of wine, sharing the stories of our lives. If I am lucky it will be a meeting of two happy women, full of love for each other, and so powerful that the room positively glows with our presence.

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