02 Mar 2014

Be careful what you tell your daughter because she’ll believe you

“I wuv you mama, you my BEST fwend,” she mumbles from the sacred dark.

She has one tiny palm pressed against each of my cheeks and she smells of baby lotion and her dad’s Doritos. The night light shoots stars and the moon into orbit around about her and I’m star struck to be her mother.

The girl who never wanted a daughter. The girl comfortable in her world of sons and boys and not a scrap of pink in her wardrobe.

This tiny, wisp of a daughter of mine, she has soothed my scars and kissed me better from the inside.

She is a unique.

And while she sleeps I click through all the ways the world wants to tell her she’s anything but.

In 2013, the media taught loud and hard and brash that she’s a product– marketable and disposable.

The beauty industry told her from its glossy pages and store front ads that in the eye of the beholder her appearance must fit into a teeny tiny little size zero box with its edges tightly, perfectly manicured shut.

That women are literally shrinking before our very eyes.

How does a mom strap that Hello Kitty backpack onto her only daughter’s tiny frame and send her out the door, down the three front steps and into the world when there are so many wolves abroad?

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Maybe that mom models brave, instead of fashion. Maybe she dresses her daughter in words that wrap her around with confidence and courage and bellows into the wild dark – “You shall not pass!”

Maybe that mom writes love letters with every ordinary moment between the helpings of macaroni and cheese that say in so many unsaid words:

Daughter you are more than the sum of your limbs and hair and eye color; you are a living, breathing galaxy of wonder. I am awe struck by your eyes.

You are wildly loved and crazy brave especially on the days you choose to live out loud even when you are terrified.

You are sneakers and high heels, you are mud and princesses, you are not playing dress up when you model grace and forgiveness.

And you are not alone. Your sisters Madeleine, Malala, Sarah, your big sisters Nadine, Maud, Ann, Antjie, Christa and Stefanie, my mother and your soul sister, Jo – they’re just up ahead.

Follow in their footsteps daughter.

Sing your own song. Make your own art. Make it messy.

We won’t be afraid of the chaos of a girl growing into all her divine, God-given potential. We won’t box it in or try to keep the world out. We will fling open the windows and dance in the rain storms.

Grow, daughter, grow.

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Throw back your hair and don’t worry about your legs being too skinny or to thick.

Worry about them being strong so they can carry you across borders and boundaries; over divides and barriers into the lives of the beautifully different people that will always reflect the corners of your soul you most need to get to know.

Run daughter, laugh. Lift up your eyes and remember the sky is always brighter than the shadows would have you believe.

Sink your teeth into new ideas. Reach your roots down into the soil of this family and revel in the boring ordinary of the familiar. It will give you the guts to venture into the strange and awkward.

You are more than the sum of your closet and less than the inflated importance of the award shows.

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You are going to fall. Lay down your embarrassment, right here, beside me. I will treat it with care and kiss your bruised parts and send you back out tomorrow. And tomorrow. And the day after.

Keep going back out into the fray daughter so you can learn for yourself what you’re made of. No sugar and spice, no over worrying about what’s supposed to be nice and correct and acceptable. But test the truth by how it ends up treating your neighbor.

Speak up daughter. Test your voice. Use it for the left out, the lonely, the unchosen. But don’t forget to love the popular in all their desperately insecure unhappiness. Let your lunch table be a welcome place. Your freedom a great gulp of hope to the girls who try to fit into the skin of models who don’t exist outside the pages of the glossies.

Remember that meanness is a symptom and not a condition.

And that love is the gift that can’t be outgiven.

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Fight me, disagree, storm out but don’t ever stop knocking your way back in. My heart is your home and you can’t outrun your DNA. I am the start of your story and you can’t write me out of the ending even if you spend years trying.

I will always come for you.

When you don’t know where you’re going. When you’re the most sure of yourself you’ve ever been. When you’re holding onto faith with just your fingernails.

Daughter, I will come. And I will always say the words that need saying even if they terrify us both. Even when we’ve both gotten it wrong.

I will not stop telling you what I wished I’d said yesterday.

I pray tomorrow you’ll still believe me.

Comments

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  1. 1

    “Speak up daughter. Test your voice. Use it for the left out, the lonely, the unchosen. But don’t forget to love the popular in all their desperately insecure unhappiness. Let your lunch table be a welcome place. Your freedom a great gulp of hope to the girls who try to fit into the skin of models who don’t exist outside the pages of the glossies.”

    Yes…I join you in giving our daughters this great big gulp of hope and may we breathe in that grace air for ourselves!

    And those photos? OH MY WORD! Those toes? Too cute! Give that girl a big hug (and your boys too) and have a great week with your kids!

  2. 2

    Oh, Lisa-Jo, these words. These words! They touch my soul today. I read this and want to memorize your words to tell my own daughter. So much lies in this ugly world just waiting to devour her and somedays I wish I could freeze her little three-year old soul. I just thought that yesterday watching her jump and run and play. So innocent. So full of life. I appreciate your words and your heart. They touch me. And help me. Blessings to you and your littles this week…Meredith

  3. 3

    I am so in love with this post. I cried. Perfect words for my daughter also. Thank you Lisa Jo, for such beautiful words!

  4. 4

    Beautiful words for a beautiful truth. It begins right away, when the first thing we tell a little girl is that she’s pretty or her dress is cute, even though we’d never think of commenting on a little boy’s appearance or clothes. From the day our daughters are born we need to teach them that they are so much more than what can be seen on the outside.

  5. 5

    So much of the same that I want for my little boy! Beautiful!

  6. 6

    I love this post because it is so true. Your little girl is so tiny and precious but they say (whoever they are) that your child learns nearly everything it needs to make it through life by the time they are four, so encouraging her now will only help raise her up later. There was a lot of abuse in my family when my dd was young and she is now in grade 6 and this is the first year that she spoke to her teacher within the first month of school, she had actually talked to him on the first day and we were beyond surprised. She also proudly stocked the class fishtank and maintains it and she did all of that within the first few weeks of school and I prayed and gave praise because finally she had tossed that shroud of abuse off and used her voice and didn’t care that it was to a stranger! As she moves to the highschool next year I am actually excited because this year has been such a breakthrough for her and our family. Abuse she doesn’t even remember had cut her down and we have worked so very hard to build her back up. As a result we have a young lady who is proud to wear modest clothing as HER own choice, she won’t wear skirts or dresses because they can show under them, she is never rude to others, she has an opinion and can be stuck in her ways, she is doing well in school and she has friends who love her without her feeling like she needs to change to be a friend. Her confidence has really grown, her grades went from C’s to A’s and while meek she is also proving to be a leader. God works in miraculous ways and if I could go back and take away everything that had caused her to shut down to start I would but I can’t and I love the person who I do have, maybe even moreso than if things had been ‘good’ because not a day goes by that I don’t think about how close to the end we really were. Love your daughter, teach her to be who she is and not who you want her to be. It sounds like you have done a great job acknowledging the blessings of being a mother to a daughter! Praise the Lord for what us mama’s learn every single day!

  7. 7

    Love love love this. You write so beautifully and achingly honest on motherhood and I am in awe and inspired. Being a mother terrifies a me, but you give me a glimpse into a world that is hard but sacred and I am thankful.

    But most of all, thank you for writing your truth and for sharing your stories because for just a moment there, I think I can and you give me courage to try.

    Saving this in special place on days where I am not sure or when I have no clue what to do.

    Thank you.

  8. 8

    I love the thought that went into this

  9. 9

    Thank you so very much for sharing your heart with us and knowing the needs of women everywhere. My daughter is not little anymore, she graduates from high school in just 3 months and she needs to hear these words now more than ever.

  10. 10

    Yes, I so agree with this sentiment. Having 2 daughters, I’ve seen the message pummel them – the wrong messages. It definitely seems that women are losing ground, especially in the media. But I don’t want to start a war with men, just remind my girls that they are valuable because they were created to be so… and it has nothing to do with their looks, their brains, their stamina or their skills. Their value is simply in being. The rest is just frosting on the already perfect cake!

  11. 11

    Thank you so much for your post! I was searching for something to soothe my soul, and I believe your post was exactly what I was needing. I have a daughter, and sometimes it’s just so hard to keep going, I always need to remind myself that there are Greater things in the world, things that may not meet our eyes, but they sure touch our soul. This post made me cry, made me smile, and it gave me hope! Thank you!

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