I am the mom of two tween girls.
It feels like we are standing at the bottom of a steep cliff, we have no choice but to climb, and all I see when I look up are sharp rocks and wild monkeys throwing poop.
I am also a full-time pastor. At work, I don’t just bring my heart, I also bring strategy and goals so that the people in my church will grow in leadership, spirit, and health.
But when it comes to my daughters, I am less strategic. I want to relax at home. So, I react to teachable moments and huggable moments but do not provide enough proactive practice and tools for what lies ahead.
Can you relate? Are you more reactive than proactive? with your children? with yourself?
I’d like to change this in my life and I invite you into the process with me because it may help you with your own daughters or it may just help you.
To My Girls: Courageous and Brave,
Watching Series of Unfortunate Events with you makes me happy. I love when we all find something that makes us laugh and think. That’s the best kind of art: the thinking and laughing kind. It also has me thinking, though, that I need to adapt my skills in this mothering-thing now that you are older.
See, I want to keep you safe… separated from aggression, porn, contempt, and those little comments, looks, sneers that will carve up you heart and body. People can be rough. Our own minds can be rough.
You are setting out on an adventure that will mark you. You will be changed in the next few years. And all I can do is give you the best knowledge, training, and armor I have to offer so that your big, beautiful, precious soul will be strengthened and grown during these years of transformation rather than sliced and diced.
There is no perfectly right shape to your body or soul, but there are right practices that will help you know your own healthy inner & outer shape. These practices help you see yourself from a loving, supporting, appreciative perspective rather than the view of someone outside of you who is unable to understand the shape of a young woman. Young women are hard to see sometimes. They are like flying hummingbirds or the sun. They are so alive and beautiful, complicated and deep, wrestling with the best and worst of life, constantly growing … and still stopping to love tiny animals in the midst of universal struggle.
You will feel human, complex, mysterious, funny… you will study history and practice math. You will set goals and reach them. You will grieve and celebrate as life throws you all kinds of obstacles and you bravely face them. You will draw beautiful pictures. Friends will break your heart and others will mend you … and you will feel human: stardust animated by the breath of God.
And then someone will treat you as just an object – women are often confused as objects – an animated body for someone to judge, separate, and manipulate. It’s a little like treating a baby animal like a stuffed animal. Real animals require more care and have their own needs. When we treat them like stuffed animals, they get hurt. The hurt that takes place in you if someone confuses you for an object can take a long time to heal.
This is where I come in. As your mom, I got to be there to guide and help as you learned all kinds of things. Sometimes you hated having my help and sometimes you loved it. As you learned to walk, climb stairs, talk, put on your shoes, etc… sometimes you would cry for help and sometimes you would demand to do it on your own. I expect it to be the same now. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I kinda feel like you are going through a second toddlerhood. Both toddlerhood and puberty are hard work.
Life is still spiky, at every age, and we heal quicker when we know how to roll when we fall; so I am staying in this with you whether you like it or not. The more time you spend learning to roll, building your hope, love, beauty, and courage… the less time you will spend healing from other people’s actions and opinions. This is my goal. I’m the mama and I’m still setting goals.
In our family, we will have words, practices, and values for you to call your own. This is my vow to you: to give you simple, sturdy, creative life practices for you to use as needed.
Here’s a few action values I see myself implementing. We will come back to each of these in more detail in the future, but here’s a start:
Movement is important. Move that body. Maybe you will like movement that is bendy and smooth like yoga or dance. You may like running or swimming. No matter what you choose, do it often. You will grow to trust and know your body as you move. Strength and connection come through daily movement.
Prayer is important. Be still and present. Meditation is another word for this. Prayer helps us understand ourselves in the light of God’s love. Hopefully, you will spend time loving the body you live in AND the complicated soul that lives in you. The location of this “You” will sometimes wander from body to soul to infinite imagination and back again. Do not worry to much about what “You” is yet. Just be aware that all of it is YOU. And You are a freaking miracle. Prayer is a good place to ponder all of this.
Creating is important. Make things that connect with your inner self. Draw. Play music. Work at an art until that art can express your heart.
Writing is important. Journalling changes everything because it forces our minds to process feelings and events from the back of our brain all the way to the front and then out of our fingertips. Write it all out. Follow writing prompts and free-write too. Your voice matters; develop it. Ask your soul questions and let it answer. Ask God questions and let God answer through your hands too. You’ll know it is God because you’ll be all torn up one day, ask a question… demand an answer, really… and a voice of love, calm, reason, and challenge will rise up in you to answer.
Desire is important. Everyone’s development is different. Every. One’s. You will wake up to desire on a new level over the next few years. All I will say for now is this: notice it, witness it, write about it, pray about it, talk to me about it anytime you want. If there is an exploration with your own body you want to take, take it gently, cleanly, and in privacy. Anything involving other people needs to wait. Scientists say a key factor to happy adulthood is the ability to want things and delay getting them until the right time. So, wait. Remember, you are a living, breathing animal and you are dealing with people who do not know how to see and understand all of you yet.
Those are some important things I needed you to know. Lots more to come. We’ve been watching “A Series of Unfortunate Events” so I’ve been thinking that I need to do a better job than Violet, Klaus, and Sunny’s parents to prepare you for my absence.
Here’s to all of us being “remarkably brave and bravely remarkable” women.
*Lemony Snicket is also very wise.
**Read by first-born daughter and approved for publication.