Post sponsored by Lunchbox. Opinions are 100% my own
I’ve been blessed with becoming a boy mom (and I’m not one to use the word “blessed” lightly). He is the light of my life, the joy of my world, the apple of my eye, and sometimes, the bane of my existence. But I wouldn’t trade him for anything. I was made to be his mom.
BUT… what if I had a daughter?
We bring a lot of our own childhood experiences to parenting, don’t we? If our parents were yellers, we’re likely to adopt the same style. If our parents were strict and regimented, chances are we’ll bring that to our parenting experience as well. While I don’t have a daughter, I grew up as a daughter and those are the experiences that affect how I see young girls today.
For me, confidence was not a problem. I was smart and I knew it. And I was always up for a challenge. I never saw gender as something that was holding me back or propelling me forward. It simply was part of who I was. And I have to give my mother credit not so much for what she said but what she didn’t say.
She never told me, “Don’t let being a girl stop you. You can do this!” She simply never made gender an issue. When I wanted to excel at the science fair, she helped me with my project. When I wanted to join NJROTC, she never questioned why I wanted to join a mostly male military group in high school. And when I decided I wanted to take a second language at school, she fought with me against the guidance counselor who said I should take something more “practical” like Typing or Shorthand.
Side note: I’m so glad I never learned the fine art of shorthand. Does anyone actually still use it?
That same confidence has carried me through most of my adult life. I don’t ask permission or even appropriateness. I just forge forward and it’s women like myself that I’m most drawn to.
But it wasn’t a perfect adolescence for me. The area where I failed myself was body confidence. As a child, I remember wearing a modest two piece bathing suit and wrapping my arms around my stomach so that no one would see how fat I was (which I wasn’t).
As I grew older and developed (and boy, did I develop), I would wear baggy clothes and hunch my shoulders so that nobody could see my prominent breasts. I felt embarrassed and self-conscious and, unfortunately, that too stayed with me most of my adult life.
Body issues that develop in our adolescence are clearly significant because they still affect me. Even at my over 40 age. I worry about my too-big belly (which is actually much larger that when I thought it was big). I worry about my face, the lines, the wrinkles. And when I complain out loud the women do, my wonderful son is the first to say, “Mommy, I think you’re perfect the way you are.”
Thank goodness I don’t have a daughter because I’d hate to pass some of my self-loathing along to her. Although I recognize that boys suffer body confidence issues as well. I’m working in my family to push the issue of healthy bodies, not perfect bodies.
I do get to “practice” what it would be like to have a daughter in my neighborhood though. When I come home from a conference with armfuls of girl toys, I head out delivering them like Santa Claus. It makes me more than aware of what images we send our girls. And when I attend community functions or even spend time at the bus stop or hanging out at tennis lessons, I get the chance to have real conversations with real girls.
One girl, in particular, is one of my favorites. She’s the older daughter of one of my neighbors and she’s definitely not lacking in confidence. She’s a straight shooter, excellent student, and gifted athlete. And she knows what she wants out of life. She wants to be a doctor and I have no doubt in my mind that if that continues to be her goal, she’ll achieve it.
She’s just now reaching those all important middle school years. Those times when academic confidence and even athletic confidence can diverge from body confidence. An athlete often has a different body shape and type than other girls, like her sister. It must be a natural instinct of females to compare their bodies with others.
I feel confident that with her mother, other positive female role models, and great self-esteem programs in place that she’ll grow up to be confident in all areas of her life.