I’m going to throw a non-humble mom brag out there. My daughter is awesome in so many ways, I can’t even count. She started traveling alone at the age of 8. She plays flag football. She’s a leader in her school’s Kindness Club. She does Lego robotics. When I tell her to do something constructive, she builds a website or starts a YouTube channel. She has her own debit card and is more responsible with her money than I am. And even though some challenges are met with tears and frustration, she doesn’t seem to realize that many of them seem to come as easily to her as breathing.
I enjoy watching her, mostly because I look at this little human being that I created with complete and utter awe. Mostly because I wish I had been the girl that she is at her age.
A few weeks ago, I took my now 11-year-old to a girls’ craft & create night. I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in awhile, and after I greeted her with a hug, my daughter formally introduced herself, handshake and all, to my friend. It was a seemingly normal event in my book, as my daughter regularly interacts with adults in such a manner. Yet my friend was completely taken aback.
“Oh my gosh, she’s amazing! I have never seen a child her age interact with a complete stranger with such confidence!” my friend exclaimed. A new mom herself, my friend expressed her desire that her daughter would some day be the same way. I couldn’t exactly tell her how to do it, because even I wasn’t so sure how my kiddo found her charisma.
It’s taken a lot of interactions that resulted in responses like this to realize that my kiddo isn’t normal—in a totally good and amazing way. It got me thinking about how the heck she became such a strong and independent young woman at such a young age.
I realized that strong women aren’t born. They are made. But when I think of what it takes to have the kind of tenacity and resilience that makes us strong, I think of overcoming failure, heartbreak, and trauma. All of my favorite women of history have their moments where they overcame adversity to find their strength. It’s the classic hero storyline.While my daughter has certainly experienced some pain in her young life, I couldn’t place a finger on where this Wonder Woman personality came from. And then a friend told me, “you taught it to her.”
It took 30 years of my life, a painful divorce, an accidental pregnancy, and literally losing just about everything I own to be the woman I am today. What on earth could I have possibly taught my young child about being a strong girl? Could it be possible that I showed my child how to be strong without having to overcome a mountain of pain?
Our girls are constantly looking to us to teach them, even when they aren’t expressly asking for a lesson. They learn by watching…
They watch us criticize that extra bit of belly flab we can’t seem to get rid of.
They watch us with our noses in our phones, interacting with Facebook instead of them.
They watch us worry incessantly over whether or not we’re doing this mom thing right.
They watch us overcome challenges with dignity (and also the ones where we fall flat on our face).
All the times that my daughter watched me scrape change together for bus fare, or celebrated with me for landing my dream job, or sat with me while I cried over my parents’ divorce, she learned what it takes to be strong. She learned that failure is okay and always comes with a lesson. It’s what we do with that lesson that matters. She learned that there will always be critics, but as long as we believe in ourselves, no one can take away who we are. She learned that no pain is permanent, but the emotional scars we carry gave us our character. She learned that forgiveness can be the hardest thing in the world to do, especially when the person we need to forgive is ourselves.
We really can teach our daughters how to ignite their inner strength without having to overcome adversity to learn it. What’s amazing is that by doing that, they’ll be more prepared to handle it when life throws them heartache and defeat. And then our girls will rise up and be strong.
This post was originally written for Holl & Lane Magazine.