I was a “boy mom” for six years. Life was dominated by naked parades, potty humor, wrestling, sports, and Nike basketball shoes.
Then I was propelled into the world of “girl momdom”. I didn’t know if I was qualified for the job. But it was my new title, and I had to learn how to fulfill my duties. Three years later, even though I may be a perfectionist who rises to every challenge, I realize I haven’t been trying hard enough, and think I might actually be failing.
Lark is turning three in a week. My baby is no longer a baby, and signs of who she will grow up to be are shooting up faster than the sprigs on the trees in my backyard as we finally head into Spring. She is headstrong, fierce even. She is smart as a whip, has a sense of humor way beyond her years. She is communicative and even eloquent when telling you what she wants you to do. And she wants to get her way.
But oh how she can whine! And the tantrums, how long they can last! She isn’t the first girl to exhibit these behaviors and she certainly won’t be the last, but as her grown ups, we haven’t given her the right tools to avoid them. It’s much easier to give in to the third child, and much harder to drum up the amount of patience needed to sit beside her stoically as she throws herself around a room, snot smearing all over her red-tinged cheeks of fury, until she finally dives into your arms for a deep breath and a reprieve from the frustration. So we’ve done a lot more of the former, and a lot less of the latter. Which creates a vicious cycle. That ends today.
And don’t be fooled into thinking her strong personality means she is impervious to the pitfalls of toddler social development. Just like so many of us women, her confidence can be easily called into question when immersed in groups of other girls. It hit me this weekend at a birthday party when my little monkey who moments ago was scaling a playground and flying down a slide from high above me, came running with her tears and her Pippi braids, broken and deflated that she wasn’t wearing a dress like her buddies. She didn’t feel pretty. She wanted to go home.
I knew she was part of a trio of gal pals in nursery school, and I heard they were exhibiting some behaviors of exclusion with others in their class, but I didn’t think much beyond that. I remember how those relationships always fared for myself growing up. Three is never a good number. And even though I was happy she made good friends, why wasn’t I questioning the cliquey-ness that was emerging at such a young age? That also ends today.
When did this happen? How did I miss it? Did we actually create it? Did we put too much emphasis on her outfits, did we let her chew too much gum, did we allow her to “just try” that lipstick one too many times? Did we, dare I say it, forget to remind her that what makes her beautiful isn’t on the outside at all? Is she even old enough to understand that yet?
Yes. She’s ready to hear it. And hear it she will, starting tonight, and every night that I lay with her in her bed, reading, singing, telling stories. No more empty meaningless chatter. It’s about to get serious, and I have some major mommying to make up for. She is going to matter. She is going to have a purpose. Her beauty won’t be about her long straight hair (seriously, though, where’d she get that hair from because it ain’t me?) or her dazzling blue eyes. Her beauty is going to be about her overflowing with graciousness toward others, empathy for those not in her immediate circle, and certainty that what she thinks and knows isn’t inferior to anyone around her. Ever.
I’ve been a pretty great boy mom so far. And there was a time pre-2014 that I made a lot of promises to myself about how awesome I could be if I was ever given a daughter. I have volumes of winning woman wisdom to impart on someone, but I put those tomes on a high shelf and haven’t dusted them off in three years. I’ve been slacking at the most important job I’ve ever been hired to do, but that ends today.
Today I am going to Mom Up, and I am going to give my girl the power she will undoubtedly need to forgo the pretty dress and the diminutive labels and the store bought confidence. Today she starts to learn to truly love herself. I’m sorry I’ve been a slacker at this job, but I think I caught the error of my ways before I got fired.