Thursday, April 11, 2013

Validating my daughter

The day I posted about friendships a friend of mine posted the article Make Little Girls' Voices Carry
on Facebook.

I highly recommend reading it. In fact, I'll pause here so you can go do so.

Go on.

In case you don't have the time to read it, the short of the article is that we need to make sure we are validating our daughters - making sure that from a very early age they know we are listening to them and not dismissing their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

The article struck something deep for me. Once I decided to have a child I knew I wanted a daughter. I'm sure I would have been happy with a boy or girl, but I wanted a daughter that I could make sure felt validated from day one and that grew up to be strong and independent and that felt unconditionally loved. And I wanted her to know that as strong and independent as she may be she always would have her family and friends to lean on when needed. 

I didn't always feel that way growing up - you know, unconditionally loved, and so on. I was lucky that I had one stable person that did his best to validate my feelings and guide me through life (you rock, dad), but I had others who said and did stuff that made me feel less than valued.

I had a friend in my late teens that I admired for her confidence. Don't get me wrong - I didn't see myself as insecure, but I didn't know how to embrace life as fully as my friend did. In fact, I would say I was a little fearful of doing so after being knocked down so many times. She always stood as a model of what I wanted my future daughter to achieve - well before I was even convinced that I wanted a child.

I turned out rather well adjusted in spite of everything, but I never want my daughter to go through what I did. I was, and am, determined to make sure that Riley always feels like I've got her back. Even when she's wrong. It's not that I condone when she's in the wrong, but I support her as I guide her to appropriate behavior.

The article was a good reminder of one of the many things I want to accomplish as a parent. And it was good timing that I read it when I did as something happened yesterday morning that played right into the theme of the article. I was saying goodbye to Jesse and Riley at my bus stop, Riley shared that a couple of the kids at daycare were mean to her. Jesse said "no they aren't" and it made me cringe - not because I am a better parent who always says the right thing, but because I know I have my moments where I blow off what she says too. Stuff that's probably really important to her. I quickly jumped in and we talked about it a bit, but didn't have much time as I had to catch the bus.

Jesse and I talked about it later and both agreed that we want to foster this feeling of validation, that we need to be mindful of it, but we also recognized that we can't be perfect all the time. We're human, but we better be at our best when it matters the most. Jesse talked with Riley some more after he picked her up from daycare and apparently everyone was nice to each other and had a good day. But if she mentions it again I know we need to have a deeper talk about it.

And honestly, if I had a boy instead of a girl I would be preaching the same thing. There might be a different angle for boys, but in the end all children need to feel heard and respected. They need to be given options, and be taught how to treat others with respect. It seems like such a simple, common sense thing to want for our children, but far too often I see examples of the opposite.  And sometimes that's me messing up, but I hope it's rare.

I hope in the end, Riley can look back at her childhood and say that we supported her and validated her feelings... and I hope that I can proudly send her out into the world one day as a confident young woman who eventually wants the same things for her own children. 

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