There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my daughter, which is why I am instilling empowering values coupled with an open line of communication from the very beginning.
Just the thought of my 14-month-old daughter, Everly, incites an emotional reaction that’s more powerful than any feeling I’ve ever experienced. Heck, I’d bet money that writing this article will make me cry at some point during the process because I just love her so damn much. She’s cutting a particularly difficult tooth this week, and, aside from a fever, this is probably the most uncomfortable experience of her short life — something I know, after more than three decades of being alive, will someday seem insignificant.
I grew up in in the ’80s and ’90s and became an adult in the early 2000s, all decades I like to consider sweet spots when it comes to having just enough technology to improve quality of life, but before social media was so powerful that a single slip-up could become life tarnishing. Today, our goals for raising girls are similar, yet with the prevalence of privacy-invading apps, extreme Photoshop, and a media obsessed with celebrities and stardom, we have a relatively new set of battles to face.
And while each of us may handle these situations differently, there’s something you and I can both agree on: we want our daughters to be happy, well-adjusted people who are confident in themselves! Because of this common thread uniting all mothers of little girls, I thought it would be beneficial to highlight some of the more important things I plan to teach my daughter about life.
1. Assume Everything is Photoshopped
Today’s standards of beauty are unrealistic. The flawless, poreless skin you see on the cover of Vogue isn’t real. The insane cleavage on that Victoria’s Secret poster has likely gotten that way through the use of something the lingerie brand’s former resident photo retoucher, “Sarah,” likes to call the insertion of “chicken cutlets” into the bras and swimwear.
When preparing images for print, she told Refinery 29 that she was instructed to make the Victoria’s Secret model’s breasts larger and retouch areas where hair and stubble would normally be, reminding readers, “They come to these photo shoots and, like, they have their arms up in the classic beach pose, and they have, like, hairy armpits. They all have stubbly pubes — all the normal stuff [non-models have].” So there. You’re beautiful, girl, pubic hair, stretch marks, scars and all!
2. Your Sexual Orientation Doesn’t Matter
Your sexual orientation doesn’t matter to me and neither does the gender you choose to identify with. I’ve already considered that my daughter may be anything other than straight. She may not even wish to keep her body the way it is, but if you think I’d chastise her for being who she is, then you’d be mistaken.
Expect that your daughter may one day come to you about these issues, too, and when she does, prepare to support her. The American Psychological Association published a study showing that LGB teens who experienced parental rejection grew up to be “8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to have had unprotected sex than LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.”
3. Know Your Body and Explore Your Sexuality
One day, we’ll have version of “the talk” and I’m not dreading it. In fact, I’m looking forward to being open with you from an early age, teaching you to identify your genitals by their proper names, and hopefully helping you feel comfortable coming to me with anything. When that day happens, this is what I want you to know.
You have a vulva and a vagina and a clitoris and they are glorious. They will serve you well to masturbate, look at your vagina in the mirror, and enjoy who you are as a sexual being. Don’t be like me and not masturbate for the first time until you’re in your early twenties, explore and discover your body sooner, rather than later. Heck, do this before you even consider having a sexual partner — you may find that the urge to have sex is greatly diminished, or even subpar to what you can do for yourself.
Like Joyce McFadden, psychoanalyst, speaker and author of “Your Daughter’s Bedroom: Insights for Raising Confident Women,” said, “If we don’t teach girls to understand and respect the capacities of their bodies, and help them navigate the complexities sexuality can impose on their social lives, it takes a toll on their self worth and makes them lose faith in us.”
4. You Don’t Have to be Famous to be Important
Okay, okay, I’m totally biased, because you will always be important to me, but in the grand scheme of things, and contrary to what the media might have you believe, you don’t have to be rich or famous to be important. Whether you’re a kindergarten teacher, a nuclear physicist, or a stay-at-home-mom, the job you do contributes to society in a positive way and is meaningful as long as it makes you happy.
I say this because society’s infatuation with celebrities has become so out of control that there is a bonafide psychological condition known as celebrity worship scale (sometimes known as syndrome), or CWS for short. While individuals with these disorders are among the more extreme cases of celebrity obsession we hear about, there is a similar, less intense attitude that spans many media outlets. I mean, our country did just elect a celebrity into office, for crying out loud.
And if you think our teenage girls are exempt, then think again. Psychology Today released details showing a “correlation between the pathological aspects of CWS and poor mental health.” Although it cautions that most of the studies have been conducted on adults, “studies relating to body image have also included adolescents, and have found that among teenage females (aged 14 to 16 years) there is a relationship between intense-personal celebrity worship and body image (i.e., those teenage girls who identify with celebrities have much poorer body image compared to other groups studied).”
5. Take Social Media with a Grain of Salt
It may seem like your life revolves around what your friends are doing on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and all of the other cool apps your mom will be too old to understand, but there’s one thing I know about life, and it’s try not to believe everything you see or read on social media. The majority of people only post what they want you to see. Sort of like a really good magic trick, social media has invented a platform for us to create an illusion of the perfect life.
I also know this may be asking the impossible, but try not to worry about how many “likes” you get or followers you have. You’re worth so much more than a click or double tap.
And please, for the love of God, don’t post that partially-clothed selfie. You will be grounded, young lady. For life.
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