When I was pregnant and found out I was expecting a baby girl 14 years ago, I was bombarded with the negative comments about girls and how much more difficult they are than boys to raise. I received the "memo" that girls were whiny, manipulative, materialistic and socially brutal - specifically during the middle school years.
My daughter, Avery, is about to begin her last year of middle school in a few weeks and since we are beginning the tale end of the supposedly torturous and socially grueling years of middle school, I want to share some of my reflections about raising a girl over the last 14 years. This is from the perspective of my own experience as Mama to Avery and what I have seen from my clients and what they have shared with me regarding their daughters and "girl world".
- raising a daughter is so much fun...from the second she was born;
- it is true - the clothes are ridiculously fun to shop for and I did feel like I had a real Baby Alive that did more than eat and poop; (my husband keeps waiting for me to stop shopping for the now 5'2" "Baby Alive Avery" but I will admit it is a sickness AND I respect her personal style and love testing myself by styling her according to her tastes, not mine);
- from the get go, she was far more independent than my boys and was headstrong in a way that I identified with... she was not manipulative, whiny or a doormat that could be bossed around;
- she had assertive, kind, loving, positive, leadership energy from as far back as I can remember -(isn't this the epitome of the "sacred feminine" definition?!?!);
- she has been a portal for me and my personal growth journey. As I raise her and notice how much gets triggered within ME as she enters a new phase or goes through the messiness of life, I get to reflect and discuss with her and grow along side her;
- this opportunity for growth of myself as I raise her has created a relationship between us that feels unbreakable. We are both learning and growing and she does not expect me to be the "all knowing" formal mother - in fact, when I share my vulnerabilities with her, the bond strengthens;
- she calls me out (as do my boys) when I get "stuck in my own blindspot" and I behave in a way that is not consistent with the person I aim to become. She has that nurturing, loving and feminine way of holding me accountable that feels supportive rather than dismissive or "judgey";
- most of my unresolved childhood wounds that have been triggered during her middle school years have had to do with my own feelings of "girl world" and the social hierarchy of female relationships. It is very interesting to become an observer in my own mind and figure this stuff out once and for all - especially since I didn't even know these wounds existed until recently!
- social media triggers feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out) in everyone! It feels kinda evil and I treat it seriously when we host Avery's friends. We explain why we take a no posting stance in our household when it comes to parties or gatherings and why it can be hurtful. The other kids seem totally receptive and many have just not thought about the repercussions - I think they appreciate the explanation and the reminder to enjoy each other in person and to be in the moment rather than using the moment to publicly boast about the party you are supposedly enjoying...(but aren't actually present enough to enjoy b/c you're so busy posting and reading the comments of others that are probably at the same party and you both have your faces down attached to your screens posting back and forth while drumming up fomo in all the girls that weren't included - crazy town);
- "no-cializing": this is what we call the act of a bunch of teens in a room together with their faces in their screens not socializing with the people they are physically with;
So needless to say, I think having a middle school aged daughter is wonderful. It can be like intense therapy for the mama if she looks inside herself and surrenders to the possibility of healing and growing. I am ready to take a stance against the female bashing by other women and girls that in my case began even before my baby girl was born. As human beings we have a basic need to belong - we need our sisters. Sisterhood in the form of sacred friendships, where we love and nurture each other and our daughters (and sons), is a big priority in my life today. The funny thing is that it took my daughter being a middle school aged girl for me to be able to articulate how important this is to me.
I believe that middle school is the training ground for female relationships. It can be a rich and powerful experiential time for growth and positive patterns to form. We can choose to learn from the painful and hard experiences as mothers and daughters and grow and learn together. Isn't this what we all yearn for - to be close and connected to our daughters and for them to feel the same way about us? A generation consisting of mothers and daughters modeling positive, fun and empowering sisterhood - wow, think of all the magic we could create.