Empower Your Daughters: 7 Things I Wish I Hadn’t Had To Learn The Hard Way
I’ve reached an age I thought my mother was, so I decided it’s time to take inventory of the wisdom I’ve racked up. The result was this
incredibly nonexhaustive list of information I really could
have used decades ago, but had to learn the hard way.
If you love a tween or teenage girl, take a minute to drop this
knowledge on her. She may not listen, I promise she still hears.
These little nuggets will lodge in her brain. Maybe she’ll even
thank you someday.
Your body is your business.
The town I grew up in was so small that everyone seemed to be
connected in one way or another. Adults I didn’t know
legitimately did know me. Maybe they worked with my
grandparents or went to school with my mom and dad. We might
even be distant cousins or something. It really was a great
place to be a kid. My upbringing also included quite a bit of
emphasis on respecting my elders. It didn’t take long to learn
that as a kid, my job was to do as I was told and that there would
always be someone around who knew what was best for me.
As a kid who was born with a physical disability, adults, some
of whom were vaguely familiar at best, like doctors and
physical therapist, had been putting their hands on me my
In hindsight, all of that sounds like a potential invitation to
molestation. I’m certain I would have climbed right into any
kidnapper’s car, because my childish experience said the odds
I’d get in trouble for “not minding” were much greater than me
being in actual danger.
Make sure your kid knows she has a right to her body and
boundaries. Say it early, loud and often.
Respect your eyebrows.
Eyebrow styles come and go. Unfortunately, your actual brows will just go. Sure they might grow back for a while, but if you keep at them, they will eventually give up. And that’s just damage you can do! Even if you refrain from drastic tweezing, time and heredity will catch up to you. We’re practically doomed to sparse brows.
Having said that, there are options now. There’s a pencil, gel, marker or powder out there for everyone. You can even have them tattooed! I thought I was the only one with wonky eyebrows. If someone had hipped me to the fact that everyone else was filling theirs in, I think it would have eased a lot of my teenage angst.
Be a quitter.
As a kid, I strived for the virtues of being consistent. You know,
sticking to it and finishing what I start. It turns out, and listen to me closely here, those mantras only serve you well if you’re on the right track.
To keep going in the wrong direction just for the sake of sticking to the task is only going to put you farthing away from your goal. Taking a minute to stop and reevaluate is not a weakness or a waste of time; it’s the mark of wisdom.
The few regrets I have in life are all from doing the same wrong thing for too long.
Not everything is about you.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but make sure to tell your girl that this one works two ways. 1) Despite the undying love and devotion she deserves, the world does not actually revolve around her, and 2) The way others react toward her will almost always say the most about them, not her.
Not only will this revelation spare her the stress of all that attention and expectation, but understanding that everyone filters the world through their own baggage. Liars assume they’re being lied to, cheaters assume they’re being cheated on, mean girls assume she will be mean to them, and none of that has to have anything at all to do with her . . . unless she chooses to reflect their bad behavior back to them.
When people assume the worst of her, she can relax, knowing that it’s only what they dislike about themselves, and she has a chance to take the high road.
Nobody knows everything.
When you’re a kid, everyone knows exactly what you should do about everything. It seems like everyone has already been in your shoes and has advice. There are tons of excellent reasons for a child to listen to the adults around them: to stay safe, to gain knowledge, to stay out of trouble, but at some point she will have to figure things out for herself.
It’s imperative to provide age-appropriate opportunities for her to practice, not only decision making, but exercising agency over her life. Let her do so when she’s young and the stakes are low. It’s not fair to neglect this lesson, then turn her loose in the world where the fallout could be life altering.
It’s wise to listen to the experiences of others, but she doesn’t have to do what they say. Teach her the wisdom and skill of filtering that information into the path that’s best for her. Make sure she knows that she’s capable and confident to handle it.
Everybody knows something.
This one is very simple. Be humble enough to listen. Know that you’re under no obligation to take every piece of advice anyone hands out, but file it away. Everyone you will ever come in contact with knows something you don’t. You can learn from all of them, even if it’s only that they don’t belong in your life.
Value a strong foundation.
Yes, “remember where you came from”, and “know your roots”. People are always saying things like that to fledgling adults, and it’s not a bad idea, but never underestimate the value of being equally knowledgeable about your undergarments.
The most beautiful outfit can be ruined by what you wear under it. Invest in high-quality bras that fit. Save your skimpy underwear for clothes that are more structured and tailored. No matter your size, shapewear goes under thin or slinky fabrics, or at least something full coverage.
I know this is going to make me sound like a cranky old woman, but for goodness sake, Girl, wear a slip! I know it’s not the current style, but I promise you’ll look a solid 20 percent classier. Just consider it, ok?
Obviously, I could write for the rest of my days, and this list could never be complete. I’m sure you have a similar list of your own. Individual experiences and values make such lists flexible, but what we can’t afford to overlook is the dire importance of listening and talking to our girls.
No matter how good our intentions, it’s never enough to issue instructions. It’s not good enough to just keep her alive until adulthood and hope she figures it all out, and you can’t assume the messages she picked up were the exact ones you intended to send.
* A version of this post first appeared on The We Spot blog on May 16, 2021.