Motherhood Moments: Raising a Girl (Not) Like Me

Filed under: Holidays, Opinions, Books for Parents

jenny block and daughter

Jenny Block and her daughter. Credit: Jamie Abbott

I remember being scared. That's what I remember most about bringing my daughter home from the hospital 12 years ago, being scared. She was so tiny and perfect. A clean slate. I was afraid I would mess her up. What if I dropped her when I was carrying her? What if I smooshed her while we were sleeping? What if I cut her while trimming her nails?

After I had exhausted the physical fears, the emotional ones started racing through my brain. How do I invoke self-confidence? How do I inspire inner-strength? How do I support her in her journey without usurping it for myself? It was that final question that stuck.

Ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you I have a very big personality. I know what I like. I want what I want. I have no tolerance for intolerance. And I imagine the world could be a different place if we all put our energy towards peace and justice instead of money and dominance.

I knew I wanted to raise a daughter who believed in truth and equality. But I also knew I wanted to raise a daughter who was her own person. I get so queasy around helicopter moms and parents who mold their children into a hyper-version of themselves. I wanted Emily to be Emily.

The powerful thing about raising an independent daughter is that she grows into her own person.

The painful thing is that, well, she grows into her own person.

My goal has always been to give her information and allow her choices. That's not to say that I let her eat nothing but junk. But I don't force Brussels sprouts when she'll eat broccoli without argument. And I don't care if she wears the same jeans three days in a row. Nor do I bother her if I think her outfit looks more like a costume. So mimics most of what's on the runways these days.

I do care about her grades. But I care more that she cares about her grades. I want her to make friends. But what I want more is for her to be invested in building good relationships. I hope she feels pulled to be a steward of the Earth and a positive force in the universe. But what I hope for even more is that a desire for that grows from within her without my saying a word.

I want her to want to be the amazing person I know she can be.

So, sometimes she gets Cs and sometimes she wears her hair in a way I know she'll regret when she sees pictures 10 years from now. Sometimes she makes bad choices when it comes to friends and sometimes she gets scolded at school. But she always comes out knowing where she went wrong and how the mistakes she made were no one's but her own.

For some reason I have always been particularly sensitive about what extra-curricular activities she was involved in. I didn't want to force her into the things I did -- dancing and acting and arts and crafts. But I didn't want to deter her from those if they were something she was interested in.

So, even when she was small, I showed her the brochures and let her choose. And you know what? She almost always chose exactly what I would have chosen. OK, so she ice skated for a while (and the only place I think ice belongs is in one's drink). But other than that, she couldn't be more my girl.

She's far more talented in the art department than I, but is equally drawn to the materials, as I always have been. She was too nervous to audition for plays when she was younger, but, still, she loves the theater. I didn't create a mini-me; I facilitated the creation of who she was meant to be.

You know, I took her to her first Nia class a few weeks back, and that's when I knew everything I had been working towards was truly coming together. Nia is a somatic-based movement practice. In other words, a dance class that tends to mind and spirit, as well as body. It's all about awareness and intention and listening to your body. The first time I took her I was amazed at how she instantly "got it."

"It's like your whole body is awake," she said to me. "I bet the whole world would stop fighting if they danced together. I don't know why. But I just felt like crying."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

And now, as we dance together, I can see I have done precisely as I have hoped by raising a girl (not) like me.

A former college English instructor, Jenny Block is a freelance writer for numerous print and online publications and the author of "Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage." She is also the bi-monthly sex columnist for Read her blog on Red Room.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.