Judgements are good and can improve a girl’s outlook

I finished watching the Conversation with Amanda de Cadanet, episode 8 called “Parenting and Perserverance“.  This series has prompted me to do a lot of thinking about how I want to raise a girl.  Gweneth Paltrow speaks about how she does not want to be judgemental in her daughter’s growth, how she wants to give her the chance to become the person she is going to become rather than force her into an ideal that the parents want.  I absolutely agree.  To be fair though, most parents do have an agenda when we teach our kids.  Usually, we want to teach them the tools to be happy, secure, and to be successful in life.  I am thinking of purchasing the series so I could have her watch this when she’s fourteen, then I’d like to talk to her and see what she thinks.  Even if DVD’s won’t be relevant in another thirteen years, the message will be.   Anyways, I kept coming back to “how do I be non judgemental about her growth” because the statement is a bit of an oxymoron.  If I want to be “non judgemental”, it means I have to judge what information to bring in and keep out of her life.

Dress her in purple

Obviously, raising a daughter is very different than raising a son.  The first few years, the true difference is anatomical and physical.   Some would say pink clothes and long hair are neccesary, but that is simply a societal norm that’s deeply embedded.  There’s an interesting experiment where a couple from Toronto are not divulging the sex of her child so her kids can grow up gender neutral.  They are heterosexual too, in case you are wondering.  Even though the story is over a year old, I still find the story fascinating.

Does sex really matter in a person’s identity?  I say yes due to the impact of hormones and how estrogen levels tend to impact traits such as empathy, nurturing, and the drive to make social attachments.  While I’m not going to keep her sex a secret, nor do I plan to never let her wear hot pink, I also don’t think it’s healthy to build a relationship on excluding such basic information as sex.   Certainly, I don’t expect my daughter to be framed by stereotypical feminine words such as weak, passive, or self critical.  She can still be ‘little miss Barbie doll’ without having to believe external beauty should be linked to poor self esteem.  It’s funny though, this idea of what a ‘girl’ is, is so intrinsic that our actions are subconsciously different.  I’ve noticed that some people do tend to be more delicate around her and tend to be more sensitive, so my goal is to be as aware and hopefully give her some freedom beyond expectations.

Storytelling

Annabelle is beginning to understand language.  I’m starting to look at the type of narratives I want to share with her.  For me, that simply means, what books do I choose to read to her?  Do I skip the princess classics about the character whose sole purpose in life is to find a prince and get married or do I choose the rewritten classics so she understands that there are other options. I’m a little stuck between wanting to share the stories I grew up with and giving her a chance to start with a new paradigm.  What I am concerned about is that getting married and having kids is an important part of a woman’s life and I don’t want to disregard that part of the woman experience.  Then I wonder, we don’t read marriage stories to boys do we and they seem to do just fine.  For me, the answer seems to lie somewhere in the middle.  It’s heady stuff, wondering if reading Cinderella will change how my daughter feels about marriage.  Which begs the question, why do we put such a heavy topic on our little girls’ shoulders?   While I’m sure she will have her ‘princess’ phase, I plan on just reading the updated princess stories like Brave in addition to sharing other stories like Shel Silverstien, Dr. Suess, Uncle Remus, and maybe even the Grimm fairy tales if she doesn’t get too scared.   If you are looking for great books to read to your child, here’s a comprehensive list.

Introduce her to many things

There is a scene in the Titanic movie that I absolutely love.  It’s near the end of the film, and old Rose is sleeping on the research vessel, Akademik Keldysh, which has found the Titanic wreck.  The camera focuses on her sleeping and then pans across all the photographs that she brought along, of her riding horses, as a pilot, and basically doing whatever the hell she wanted to do.  I want Annabelle to have pictures like this.  I have a strange concern though with this … which is I don’t want to rob her from the ability to discover things, I don’t want her to become complacent because she thinks her  parents will do it for her.   And yet, if I didn’t show her, she might not ever know it was there.  So I quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson to my neurotic self, ‘There is more faith in an honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.”

The other thing I want to introduce her to is different viewpoints.  I think it’s important and I want her to explore humanity by talking to people from all walks of life, like her grandparents, aunts and uncles, and people from other cultures.  By being open myself, having adult friends from all over the globe, and also living in a place that is incredibly diverse, I am hoping to give her this opportunity.  She is so curious and already loves interacting with people, so my fingers are crossed that this won’t be too difficult.

Allow her the freedom to say no, sometimes

There is a fine line between wanting to introduce your kid to everything and forcing your kid to do everything.  While I certainly want to encourage Annabelle, I want to be careful not to overstep the bounds into a forced march (excluding her future chores around the house, of course!).  Anyways, I read somewhere that it is better to help give your kid choices and consequences under your tutelage (parents) so you can control the consequences and help them learn from them as well.  If a child has no choice at all when growing up and is then thrust into the adult world where they have to make choices from sun up until bed time, it’s highly likely that they will not make good choices.  (Either The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee or Parenting With Love And Logic,both of which are excellent books)

Be truthful

Ignoring conversations is one way to assure that your kid will pick up ideas & judgements from everyone else besides you (from NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children).  Many parents don’t talk about ‘hard topics’ with thier kids like race, sex (from having it to what is gay & lesbian), politics because they don’t know what to say and some believe by not saying anything, that kids will find the ‘right way’.   The problem is, by ignoring the conversation of race, Annabelle might pick up her information from another kid whose parents are racist.   Anyways, I’m not even sure what or how to address some of these topics, but I do plan on starting a conversation about it.  Also, by telling her the truth about topics, I hope to foster an open relationship where she feels she can talk to me about anything.

 Conclusion

All of this is just a theory for me, prompted by watching the Lifetime show Conversations.  As my daughter is only a year old, I am using my own childhood and books that I’ve read to at least create a ‘conversation road’ for our family that I’d like to travel down.  My goal is to give her the skills to creat a life  For those of you with daughter’s, what kind of ideals do you want to share?  For those of you with older daughters, any words of wisdom?

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