My husband takes our daughter to preschool. Before I leave the house every morning, I kneel down to look into her bright blue eyes and say,
“Be nice, be strong, be brave, and have fun.”
Recently, she has started saying it on her own when I ask her, “What are you going to do today?”
It was just something I did one day, and it repeated, until it became habit. I didn’t put much thought into it. I just wanted her to leave for school on a good note.
Recently, my sister’s close friend, a mommy to a girl of similar age to my daughter, wrote a Facebook post that made me take a step back. It made me think about why I chose those specific words – nice, strong, brave, fun. The post was a note to her daughter about the ‘yucks’ she feels as her daughter grows older and people increasingly, and well-intentioned, call her daughter ‘pretty’.
The words I chose had a meaning that are currently simply stated, but I hope to define as my daughter grows and have conversations about what they truly mean.
I don’t care what you believe, who you love, what side of town you live on, what color your skin/eyes/hair are, but you better be nice. And I don’t mean at the expense of being a martyr. If someone is crappy to you, go ahead girl, you write them off, you don’t have time for that; that stuff is toxic in the long-term. But at the end of the day, you will feel SO much better about yourself, the people you interact with, and the world if you spread ‘the niceness’ around. It is contagious. For example, one Friday awhile back I rode the elevator with a spunky, life-loving colleague that asked me what floor I was going to, talked to me while we rode, smiled, and said, “Have a good day!” when I got off. My day was exponentially better because of the ‘nice’ I experienced. Be that person, peanut. And when you can’t be that person, because we all have those moments where that feels like a chore, you find those people that can be and you tell them how you are feeling, so you have a crew to fight the dark with you and get you out of your funk. Sometimes we have to do hard work to get out of our own funk, but it sure helps when you have a cheering section.
Keep your voice. I find it so hard to allow that voice when raising a toddler. I am trying desperately to set boundaries, rules, and expectations when she interacts with figures of authority that are to be respected, but I find myself slowing down and trying to figure out what her voice is trying to communicate to me when it is loud, angry, frustrated, and passionate. That strong boundary setting tone [aka yells and sassy-pants toddler bad-itude], is her making rules for the people surrounding her. Rules are important. No means no. Listening to her has led to saying ‘yes’ a lot more than I say ‘no’ and often times changing my plans. I know this looks like her getting to be the boss, and me being run over by my toddler, but I need her to be able to set her boundaries, and feel like she has been heard. Her voice matters; she needs to know it has value.
I don’t want her to be shy about who she is, how she feels, what she likes/loves, or what she stands for. You stand your ground, try new things, listen to your heart, stomach, and head when it doesn’t feel right. Being brave doesn’t have to mean you are a risk-taker; it can mean you walk away when things feel wrong. And sometimes that is the hardest thing to do. Be confident in who you are, speak for those who cannot, protect what you love; that is brave.
Kids grow up too fast. TOOOOOO DARN FAST. You gotta play, get dirty, stay up late, sleep in, laugh until your belly hearts, smile so big your cheeks burn, and explore every inch of the world we have been given. Don’t take anything too seriously. If you want something bad enough, you will get there. Don’t lose your spark and joy along the way. Make it fun.
I felt like she had to hear these words, because she is a girl that will presumably grow up to be a woman.
A woman that is exposed to all the crap that women are exposed to – and how all that crap centers around not being good enough, pretty enough, lady-like enough, submissive enough – the list goes on.
I pray that the leaps and bounds that have been made in my lifetime, so far, will continue for the female gender, but the crap will exist always, hopefully to a lesser extent.
Baby girl, I need you to know that nice, strong, brave, and fun are not all that you need to be, but you definitely don’t need to be pretty, cute, or any other word describing your appearance. Your value lies in where you put it, you define yourself. Make sure you define yourself by the pieces you nurture like your education, voice, spirit, and values. Because you are pretty, gosh darn it, the prettiest if I do say so myself, but that doesn’t matter. You are MORE than that, and you don’t have to be ANYTHING for anyone except yourself. Let people judge, say nasty things, and be harsh if they want to; it is their time they are wasting, and their life that is suffering because of it. You focus on you, the people you love, and the world you care about. And when you lose focus, because you will, we all do, have people around you to find your way back. Those people should support you in being nice, strong, brave, and having fun. I’ll always be here to remind you.