This post has been brewing in my soul for a while, and lately, so many conversations and events have reminded me of its relevance.
It all started about 6 months ago when I was blogging at Panera. At first, I was annoyed that a young dad and his 2 kiddos decided to sit right next to me. I love kids, but sometimes, I need a mental shutdown because I do a lot of “kid” during the week. I had a lot on my mind to get online for Africa. As I suspected, it didn’t take long for an argument to ensue between the kids, one toddler boy and one young girl. I watched, annoyed [my eyes hurt from rolling back and others probably suspected seizure activity] as he let them continue on. and on. and on. Then, I knew they were seated next to me for a reason. When the kids figured it out, the dad leaned in to the girl, established eye contact and at eye level, began to speak into her life. It was beautiful. Each sentence began with either “You are so____” and “I like the way you were___” and each ended with an internal quality. He acknowledged how kind she had been to her younger brother, how patient. Then he said the simplest sentence that will resonate through her inner being for years to come, “I am so proud of you.”
Soon after, I was out in another environment, when in walked an adorable little girl in a very cute outfit. She must have been 3 years old. Immediately, all the women made comments like “Look at you!” or “You are so cute!” or “I love your dress!” My hair stood up and immediately it struck me. As women, we do this all the time. It’s innocent. We mean well. We are all guilty. I mean, I am sooooooooooooooo guilty when sparkles or a tu-tu is involved. I began to really think about how we talk to our girls.
I’ve never been a fan of large groups of women. I can’t stand the drama, the looks, the comparisons. However, lately I’ve been drawn to passing the superficial layer and the stereotypes and diving in deep with women. I have come to realize that when we peel back layer after layer after layer, we all come with the same insecurities. We all have the same indignation for the focus on the external. It starts with us, women. We have to change it. We have to start now WITH and FOR our girls- our daughters, nieces, students, friends, strangers.
I’m reminded of the young dad’s conversation. It has changed the way I speak to my kiddos at work. I slip up sometimes, but I’m trying to forego the comments about clothes or the products of what they do and focus more on acknowledging their “creativity” or “leadership.”
I recently watched the Sheryl Sandberg interview and was struck by her question that I’m sure we can all relate to: "What if every little girl who is told she is bossy is told instead, “you have leadership skills?”
While I do not have daughters of my own yet, this is important to me for two HUGE reasons. Those reasons have names.
Both of these amazing young women are my nieces and fuel the fire for me to do “woman” better.
Channinge was my first niece and just slid out of the womb wise. She was jovial and gentle and grew up with an increasingly kinder heart by the year. One memory that will never leave me is one phrase she said to me as a young elementary student. She was in the car with me recounting an experience from the school playground that day when some of her friends were making fun of another student who was less popular, overweight, etc. She had strayed from the popular crowd that day. When I asked her how she felt, she said that she’d rather be alone for the right reasons than with a crowd for the wrong reasons. Then, she said something that my dad and I still use in our own conversations to this very day: “Sometimes you just gotta swing by yourself.”
Brady caused a riot coming out of the womb and quickly let the world know that she’d be a force to be reckoned with. I’ve loved watching her morph into a cautious, sweet-spirited, and brilliant 13-year old.
For me, I’m trying on a daily basis to speak toward inner qualities. When we hear these things, it changes us. We become who we are told we are so speak it often.
So find that women you admire, and tell her WHY you admire her.
Find that women you don’t admire and may not even like, and tell her one thing that you see in her.
See others the way God sees them.
Change the world by changing your words.
You were my first niece and set the bar high. I’ve loved watching you grow. How are you in your 20s?!? I remember waiting in algebra class for your birth to be announced. Your desire for family unity reminds me of my desires and endeavors at your age. Thank you for taking the baton and doing it well. Although I could go on for days, I hope you remember that you are smart, creative, caring, considerate, respectful, patient, forgiving, and wise. I love the responsibility for others that you carry. You are awesome. My greatest possessions include the memories of our times together when I lived in Mississippi. You are loved and you love big.
Woah, at all the things you taught me at such a young age. I am a better therapist because of you. I am a better person because of you. You started out fiery and demanded all of us to do things differently than we’ve ever done. You’ve grown into such a thoughtful, open-minded, and tender hearted young woman. Your honesty is refreshing. I love how reflective you are and the consideration you offer to others. I so enjoy our book conversations and the life conversations that they spur. You are loved and you love so graciously.
About the Author: Danielle is a passionate transplanted Southern Belle, hailing from Mississippi and living in California. She is a Speech-Language Pathologist working with children with autism and other developmental disorders. You can find her on the web at http://www.backtosa2010.blogspot.com