Thursday, October 15, 2009

Things I'd Like to Teach My Daughter.

When I was little, I loved to wear skirts. Specifically, twirly skirts. The kind that poof out and dance around you when you spin.

Then, in fourth grade, I scored a part in the chorus of Hansel and Gretel—the play my school was putting on that year. As part of my costume, I got to wear this fantastically twirly skirt. It was green, and it swirled like no other skirt I’d ever had before.

On the day of dress rehearsal, I put it on and began to dance around and around the classroom, delighting in the sheer wonder of it. Until, that is, my friend told me to cut it out. I’ll always remember her words; “Stop that, Amber. You look dumb. Besides, I can see your underpants.”

The music in my mind screeched to a halt, as did my twirling. My joy was replaced with shame and self-consciousness. I don’t think I ever danced in public again—at least, not with that kind of abandon.

Now, I’m always aware of the eyes on me, and I move stiffly, knowing that I’m no dancer. Somewhere along the way, I also became ashamed of my singing voice—I couldn’t tell you why. I almost never sing where anybody can hear me, and if I do, I sing off key on purpose, just so no one will think I’m trying to do it well.

I don’t want that for my daughter. I want to teach her to take joy in her body. To move when the spirit is in her. To never, ever stop dancing. I want her to sing, too. With happiness, with abandon, with confidence.

I want her to believe in faeries, and goblins, and even monsters, if she wants to. I want her to indulge in daydreams, and to thrill in the power of her own imagination.

I want her to believe in her own beauty—no matter what the outside world says. I want her to be able to shrug off careless comments and cutting words, knowing that they’re just the product of small minds.

Above all, I want her to be true to herself. To be strong enough to rise above peer pressure and societal conventions when necessary, and follow her gut. I want her to be able to make her own decisions, and to have the courage to follow her dreams.

I want a lot for my daughter. And to help her achieve those things? I’m trying to set a good example.

We dance whenever we get a chance. I sing to her, loudly, happily (and sometimes tunelessly), just to see her smile. I tell her stories, and spend quiet moments with her nestled against me, chasing the movies in my mind.

I’m trying to be nicer to myself (sometimes more successfully than others), focusing on the positives, and refusing to be blinded by the negatives.

Before making a decision, I’m taking the time to check in with my inner voice, taking my own advice more often than not. I’m standing up for myself more, and being a doormat less.

I’m getting in touch with the me I could have been, maybe should have been. And you know what? I like her. A lot.

So watch out, world. I’m letting loose—and next spring, I’m going to buy a twirly skirt...and I'm going to teach my little girl how to spin and spin and spin...

12 comments:

  1. I loved so much what you wrote! I think most of us can identify with it. Thank you for sharing it!

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  2. Wow! Good writing. That's stuff to show your daughter! I like this post very much. Be yourself is very good advice indeed!

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  3. Wonderful words. I am totally on the same page as you. I also want to teach my daughter to never be that girl that extinguishes another girls flame with words. I can remember someone saying something similar to me about my voice and it totally awakened my self-consciousness too. So I want to teach her to be accepting and encouraging of others differences. Hey - if we were all the same - how boring would THAT be?!?!?!

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  4. shame on your friend for crushing your spirit like that. i'm so glad you are doing all those wonderful things for your daughter! she has the best mom ever! :)

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  5. I love this.

    You know, I keep a journal and write in it for Bea all the things I want her to know about herself at htis age, about me, about the lessons I would like to teach her...

    I am trying to be nicer to me too. In the past, I've struggled with eating disorders and a quest for perfection - ugh, how cliche- but I am so hyper-aware of these things... I want her to believe in her own spirit and self-worth.

    Do you think it's easier to raise a boy??

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  6. I'm guessing boys come with their own challenges...but from a self worth point of view, I'll bet it is easier.

    I don't know. Moms of boys, what do you think?

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  7. It's crazy how the things people say from when we are so young really stick with you and nearly mold the people we become. I feel a great responsibility with my daughter to be as encouraging as I know how and also, like you, to be nicer to myself. Especially now that she's started repeating things--I have to stop putting myself down, even in jest. It isn't healthy for for either of us.

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  8. What a great post - these are things I think about a lot, too - and try to remember when it counts!

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  9. Good for you!!! Twirl to your heart's content, with your beautiful daughter right by your side!

    I would love to say I'll be doing the same, but, uh, I have a son. I think my husband would frown on me dressing him in a super twirly skirt. BUT you've inspired me to talk to my hubby and find out what the boy version of twirling without abandon is, and I'll be doing THAT with my boy. :o)

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  10. Oh! This is so beautiful! It speaks to my heart, and awakens old memories - memories of similar spirit-deflating words spoken by similarly spirit-deflating friends and family. I never had a twirly skirt, because, as my Mama said, "Chubby little girls don't wear twirly skirts, they wear straight skirts." I love my Mama dearly, but she'll never know the heartache I suffered from that mantra.
    Kudos to you for wanting utter freedom and abandon for your daughter, and for recognizing that in yourself. As the song says, "I hope you dance!"

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  11. Great post!

    Can I pretend I wrote it? Or at least that you got into my head and found it there? This is exactly what I'm trying to teach my daughter on a daily basis.

    I had a twirly skirt and have made sure to buy my daughter many of them. She twirls and dances with abandon!

    Twirl on!

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  12. What a great post! I'm visiting from SITS for Saturday Sharefest...glad I stopped by. I hope all of your wishes for your daughter come true. It surely isn't easy to raise a daughter these days!!

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