Sunday, July 28, 2013

An Important Conversation to have with our Daughters

At the beginning of summer, my daughter reminded me of a valuable lesson she had taken away from a class we took together. I had forgotten the advice or, perhaps, I had moved into a time in my life when it wasn't necessary for me to remember the lesson because, for me, it had become an old lesson. I had already figured out how to scale, cross, and mend bridges. My daughter on the other hand is much younger than I.

Surely I know more about handling life issues.

 Then again...maybe I don't.

 
 
I had reasonably suggested that she not attend an event where I thought she might be shunned, rejected, bruised, unwanted. As a child, I was taught there were two options: fight or flee. I would have introvertedly, pridefully turned my back. Who needs drama? Not I. 
 
My daughter, on the other hand, stoically insisted she was going and was going to make the best of it. She insisted it wasn't about fighting or fleeing. It was about standing one's ground.
 
Once again, I was reminded that she is not me and I am not her. 

And a third option does exist. We neither have to fight or flee. Sometimes we simply need to stand our ground.
 
She reminded me of how we, as Christians, are to handle the difficult people in our lives:
 
"South African archbishop Desmond Tutu walked by a construction site on a temporary sidewalk the width of one person. A white man appeared at the other end, recognized Tutu, and said, 'I don't make way for gorillas.' At which Tutu stepped aside, made a deep sweeping gesture, and said, 'Ah, yes, but I do.'

We had both heard the same story. I remembered only the story. She remembered the message.

The fact that she refused to back down to a situation, taught me a valuable lesson even now in my 40's.

My youngest is soon becoming a pre-teen and I've breathed to the older ones that I'm not sure I have the energy any more to handle more years of same. It isn't my children or my teens I dread. They're overall a pretty good bunch of people. It's the negativity that seeps into all the corners of their once brightly cheerful world that I shun.


Sometimes it isn't even the hurt I dread. A hurting world is something we learn to expect and gear up for. I'm used to administering ointment and comforting words. I'm used to listening and girding.

I'm not used to raising daughters who are so headstrong that I find some days exhaustingly challenging. Daughters who won't let me scale their bridges, cross to the other side with them, or mend broken bridges. Instead, they set out to meet gorillas without my guidance and protection as I'm in the background telling them to run for cover and not face those foes.

Perhaps I talk too much.

Emily poignantly reminds mothers of daughters that there is One Thing Your Daughter Doesn't Need You to Say.

I wish I'd had this to read when I was beginning my mothering-of-girls years.

I'm getting to be an older mother but I'm still learning and perhaps one day I'll listen to fermented advice.
 
Emily has taken care of the deed for me. Instead of struggling with these very things (and losing sleep over it even), I can just send my girls Emily's words.

The Holy Spirit is so good about sending mouthpieces down to defective mothers {like myself} to speak when all our words fail us miserably.
 
I've failed. Over and over again. I've been told I don't understand the life of today's teenagers but, goodness, how I do understand. Better than they'll ever know. And yet their pain squeezes my heart more than mine was ever squeezed when growing up.

I am thankful my girls have each other. So thankful!

My girls have each other and they have sis-in-loves who love them for ice cream binges and shoe buying and window shopping and for sleepovers. Oh my goodness! My girls have that. They have them! They are so blessed. I envy them their relationships with one another.

Yet life is full of pain and, sometimes, even after we scrap it off our shoes, there is this lingering smell of oof! that trails behind us. Unappealing.

It's a reminder of the cross and we  must learn to live with it.

It becomes familiar and doesn't bother us...much. Though sometimes it does.

Life just stinks sometimes.
Raising girls is hard.

It isn't really the people-places-things who/that have hurt them in the past that bothers me...much.

It's the people-places-things who/that hurt them today in the here and now.

Those hurt. Eek and Ick!

It's when we look for those cross-bearing Simons in our lives and see only soldiers jeering around us that life hurts anew.

People hurt us.  True.

But when friends hurt us...

Eek!

When family hurts us.

Ick!

Why do people have to hurt other people? I don't know. I can't wrap my brain around the notion of how BFFs can dissolve from forever into finale.

Knowing my children might have, could have, unknowingly, unwittingly contributed to that finale keeps me up at night. I hate to think that my parenting might be defined by the actions of my children and that I failed. Again! Emily addresses that issue too. I once told a friend I never wanted anyone to think that I'm a hypocrite when they see my children acting opposite of what I preach. She told me I was having a pride issue and to get over myself. I did. I'm grateful today for her advice.

My children have a free will and make bad choices but so do their friends. It isn't always my children's choice. It isn't always their fault. It isn't always their pride issue to carry.

I know friends come and friends go. That's no revelation. My age laughs that anything less should happen because life happens. Life moves on. Life goes on. That includes the people in our lives. I can accept that as long as those friends don't outwardly, deliberately, intentionally snub the other for forever into finale.

I want my children to be honest, with themselves and with others. But I want to see forgiveness given when forgiveness is asked to be given. I want them to be true to themselves so that they can be true to others.

The friends I've most admired were the ones who never lost sight that my child(ren) was a valuable asset to their life and the friends who have dropped their bags of prideful issues (much like my own) and come back and said 'I still want you to be my friend."

If I could leave my girls with any words of wisdom I would hand them this list:

1) Embrace your family first. They are your first friends. They are your lifelong friends. They will be your last friends. They share childhood memories with you that others will never ever be able to rewind and view around a kitchen table. Never. Ever.

2) Be grateful for your sisters. You may not always get along, you may argue at times, and you may clash. But just be ever so grateful you have them. The world is less lonely when you have sisters.

3) When you're hanging on that cross of pain and feel as though you've lost your best friend, lean straight into your sisters' arms. They're there to hold you, catch you, comfort you.

4) Remember that people can be gorillas but that doesn't mean we have to be.

Enough of me. Perhaps you don't even know what or why I'm rambling. Just consider that I'm venting from my own little cloud on the internet. Writing is how I "think" and this is my little bubble. I've started a loooong chant without meaning to when, all along, I should have just left you with Emily's thoughts and words and wisdom. She addresses it all. If you want, just forget everything I've written above and read what Emily writes here:
 
It may not be exactly what we've undergone at this stage in our life but it's everything we have gone through or will go through in the foreseeable past, present, and future.

It's definitely something our daughters need to read, as do we mothers: One Thing Your Daughter Doesn't Need You to Say.

* * * * *

"Lucky for me, this particular radio host was deeply invested in the conversation and responded to her in an appropriate way – he told her the worst thing she could do is to try to have it all together in front of her friends.
 
"Instead of trying so hard to be an example, just be honest. “If you struggle,” he said, “say so. If you hurt someone, apologize. Then they really will get to know you and they won’t have reason to call you a hypocrite.”
 
"Brav. O.
 
"When the interview was over, I sat in my room and thought for a few more minutes about the conversation. I kept rolling her words around in my head: “I want to be an example to my friends, but sometimes it’s so hard to be a good one.”
 
"The more I thought about her struggle, the more frustrated I got. I paced my room, made my bed with the excess energy. I thought about what the host said to her and began to think how I would put his response in my own words.
 
"Here’s what I came up with: She isn’t supposed to be an example. Her friends don’t need an example, they need a friend. A real one. An honest one. A touchable one. They  need a friend who doesn’t think she’s better than everyone, but one who knows she isn’t. They need a friend who knows she needs Jesus.
 
"So what about being a leader and setting the example? Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what parents and youth leaders tell students all the time?
 
"The more I think about it, the more I believe this well-meaning statement is not only a manipulative way to try to control our daughters’ behavior, but can also be dangerous to their spiritual health. When we tell her to be an example, we may as well just hand her a mask right there – Here. Hide behind this. Don’t let them see you struggle.
 
"I know that’s not what we mean. I know. But it doesn’t matter so much what we mean, it matters what she hears.
 
"And when she hears adults tell her to be an example, she thinks that means she can never mess up, can never have problems, can never just be a teenager with struggles like everyone else.
 
"She might then mature into a woman who believes being a Christian means having it all together, saying all the “right” things, staying a few steps above everyone else.
 
"She may become a person people look up to, but she will never be someone they can relate to.
She may be successful at managing her behavior, but she will always struggle to manage people’s opinions.
 
"She may have a great reputation, but her character will be clouded with bitterness and anger.
She may be a good church-goer, but she will not know how to be a good friend.
 
"This may keep her out of trouble, but it will suffocate her soul.
 
"But what about holiness?!  I can hear the protests now. Don’t we want her to be a light in a dark place?
 
"Yes. But telling her to be an example won’t let her shine, it will just cause her to shrink.
 
"She already is a light in a dark place, but here is the part most of us forget when we’re telling our teenagers to be an example:
Her light comes from Jesus, not from her awesome behavior.
 
"Do you believe Christ himself has taken up residence within her? Do you trust him with her life – her decisions, her emotions, her relationships? Do you truly believe he goes with her wherever she goes?
 
"If so, then instead of telling her to be an example, how about encouraging her to be herself?
 
"When she is hurt, she can deeply feel it. When she messes up, she can own it. When she hurts someone, she can apologize. When she has doubts, she can voice them. And when she is joyful, it will be from a real place inside her, not a manufactured mask she puts on for show."

* * * * *

Read the whole thing here:
One Thing Your Daughter Doesn't Need You to Say

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Cay. I loved everything written... I am sharing with my daughter who is now the mother of a teenage girl...

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  2. Hi Cay, This post grabs me because I've been on both sides of it. Some daughters have had a lot of friends. Some not too many. Some, to this day, don't care if they go out much because they'd rather be here hanging out with each other. There are few people they really want to be with. Numbers isn't important to them. On the other hand, my one daughter, when she was in high school had few friends because honestly she was hard to approach. The look on her face made people think she was judging them. She was actually feeling insecure about joining the group but that is not how it looked. I told her to smile at people. Years later she let me know that she had taken the advice and that it had changed everything for her.

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