As most of you know, I have a daughter. I feel an enormous responsibility to instill certain things in her, in a way I suspect my husband feels towards our boys. I worry often that she is seeing certain things reflected in me that she may start to do herself, thinking that it's the "norm". For example, I've had body image issues for as long as I can remember (and that goes back to about age 4). I've always had to fight to maintain a certain weight, and to make peace with certain things about my appearance (though my biggest issue is obsessing over my weight). A few months ago, I was in the bathroom getting ready when I saw her step on the scale, wait for a number to come up, and then get excited, "30! Yesssss!". The scale did say 30.something lbs. But I don't think she knew what the number meant. But she has seen me step on the scale so many times, and either breathe a sigh of relief or step off, completely disappointed with myself. This is not a trend that I want her to start.
One of the things I worry about most, is that she won't take the opportunity to further her education with college and establish a career and life for herself before settling down to get married and have children. Don't get me wrong. Marrying my husband and having our children has been the highlight of my life. But it's also been hard. Hard in ways that I never want her to experience. Hard in ways that could have been prevented by me finding myself before I settled down. I want an easier path for her. And to be honest, I lose sleep sometimes worrying about how I'll explain to her why she should wait to settle down when I jumped right in.
Another thing, and this is a big one. We live in a world of "mean girls" and I don't want that for her. I want her to be a nice girl. Not in a 1950's prudish kind of way (though I won't complain if she's that kind of nice girl, too!). But in a simple "I'm a nice person" kind of way. I do not want her to be the girl that is so jealous of other girls that she can't maintain a friendship with any females. I do not want her to be a bully. I do not want other girls to be wary of her, whether or not they can trust her around their boyfriends, whether or not they can trust her to keep a secret, or whether or not they can safely approach her. I want her to be smart and steer clear of drama, because it will certainly find her on it's own. As women, we have to start raising nicer girls. If not, they're going to end up killing each other (*facepalm*).
As mentioned before, it is so important for her to know that she is more than just a body or a pretty face. She has to understand what it means to be beautiful on the inside, and how much more important that kind of beauty is. Her self worth has to depend on more than her looks. Mine never has and I don't want that for her.
When she decides that she's ready to become "active", she should know how to protect herself, and it's my job that she does. It's equally important that she feel comfortable to talk to me about it if she needs to (though I can't promise that I won't have a nervous breakdown once she leaves the room). It's really important to me that she understands the gravity of this decision (because not many young people grasp this), and the impact of the possible consequences.
It's important that ZoeJane knows that she deserves the best when she decides to settle down. She needs to understand that she doesn't have to settle for anything. It's important for her to know that she's worth the wait for the right person. She needs to know that she doesn't need to be with someone to be happy, but that with the right person, her happiness can be increased. Showing her that she deserves respect is key. And teaching her that she also has to give respect where it's due is also important. Mutual respect is the secret to success in any relationship, especially when it comes time to settle down and share your life with someone.
And finally, something that I'm working on now: She has to believe that she can do anything that she wants. Once she has children (if she chooses to do so), she is not tied down to children and a home. She can choose to stay with them or to be a working mother. She needs to understand that changing her last name doesn't have to mean losing herself. And if she chooses to follow the same path I have, she needs to know that it's never too late to better herself.
So...for those of you with daughters, what is important for your daughter to know?