Monday, July 29, 2013

Raising daughters to be who they are

This is one in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Darcel from The Mahogany Way. Darcel agreed to tackle a topic I never get to address due to the Y chromosomes swarming my house: raising daughters.

Guest post by Darcel of The Mahogany Way

Raising daughters to be who they are == Hobo MamaAre girls easier? That's the question I was asked last week while shopping with the kids. I wasn't sure how to answer that question. My children are still quite young at 8.5 years, 6 years, and 3 years. My oldest was recently diagnosed with Aspergers, and my thoughts on raising her haven't really changed. In fact, I feel even more strongly about supporting her interests and helping her shine.

I wonder if there was such a big hoopla about Barbie and Disney Princesses when I was growing up? I remember spending days with my friend, taking turns on our front porches playing house with our Barbie collections. The top bunk in my bedroom was like a Barbie Utopia. Now there are Bratz dolls, Monster High dolls, Winx dolls, La La Loopsy dolls, and I've seen complaints about all of them. How none of them look like real women. I think it's safe to say that no doll looks like a real woman. Waldorf dolls certainly don't…they barely have a face at all! I don't know about you, but I'm not relying on a child's toy to be my girls' role model for anything in life.

My oldest daughter started watching iCarly just before the show went off the air. Now it's on Netflix, and she can watch from beginning to end. Her new favorite shows for the tween age group are A.N.T Farm, Jessie, Austin and Ally, and Good Luck Charlie. I watch all of these shows with her, and one thing that really bothers me about all of them is the female lead is tall and thin. Austin and Ally and Good Luck Charlie really throw me because their best friend is ethnic and on the curvy side. I've kept these thoughts to myself. I mean, I should be happy that there are any people of color, right? My girls need to see someone who looks like them, so why am I complaining? I have nothing against women who are on the thinner side, but what would be wrong with a show for our young girls where the main characters were a size 10+ and not a size 2?

Raising daughters to be who they are == Hobo MamaAgain, I'm not relying on the girls in these shows to be role models for my girls, but it is more likely for them to choose a human being over a doll to model themselves after. I do my best to let them know that women come in all shapes and sizes and real beauty comes from within. I don't mention my strong dislikes to them because I don't want to push the way I feel about these characters off on them. I think that right now they are watching strictly for entertainment purposes, and it's so sweet and innocent.

I'm bothered by the sexualization of our young girls. About four years ago I noticed booty shorts in a size 4T. Why? I was in Target the other day and for girls ages 10-14 there are midriff shirts and booty shorts/daisy dukes or whatever you want to call them. Companies make panties for little girls with the words "flirt," "sexy," etc., across the front and back. Why? No one is going to see their panties! Yes, my girls play with Bratz dolls and watch the cartoons, they watch YouTube videos of girls making themselves up to look like the Monster High dolls, and they will probably want to be one of these characters for Halloween. We've even done our own character makeup here at home, but they know it's for fun and play. I often wonder when/if it will turn from innocent child's play into something more as they get older. I could say no to the dolls and cartoons, but I don't think it would be right for me to keep them from these dolls and shows simply out of my fear. I don't want to do fear-based parenting. I think if we shelter our children too much they will grow up and run wild with everything we told them they couldn't have and do.

Raising daughters to be who they are == Hobo MamaThe best way for me to raise my girls is to be the best role model for them that I can. To answer their questions and not force my adult thoughts on them. These dolls and shows aren't all bad. They actually learn some pretty valuable lessons from them about not being the mean girl and accepting people for their differences.

My daughters see me putting on my makeup from time to time, but they know I'm not wearing it for anyone but myself. Makeup makes me feel extra special…like wearing a new outfit! I am definitely a girly girl and have no shame about it. Sometimes you'll see me dressed in heels, earrings and makeup; other times I'm in jeans, a t-shirt, and flats.

After saying all of this, I really do think that sometimes we can go overboard with our worry. I mean, who cares if girls want to wear and play with all things pink? Pink is one of my favorite colors. It's easy to get wrapped up in making sure our girls know they can be construction workers or soldiers, play basketball, be President of The United States, and run major corporations, but let's not forget that it's also perfectly acceptable for our girls to want to grow up and be ballerinas, makeup artists, beauty queens, and mothers. In the midst of all the plans we have for our daughters, it's important to remember they are already who they are going to be. They were born with their personalities, and it's our job to be here to guide, love, and support them. I want my girls to grow up to be the kind of girls they want to be, not who or what I think they should be.

Raising daughters to be who they are == Hobo MamaDarcel is a mother to three. She writes about Motherhood, Birth, Breastfeeding, and Unschooling at The Mahogany Way.

You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, instagram and Google+. Also check out her new group blog for Mothers of Color: Mahogany Motherhood.


Laura said...

"I don't want to do fear-based parenting."

I totally agree with you... the more you time you spend fussing over what you DON'T like the more attention you give it. So I strive to set a good balance in our home and seek out the books that emphasize the strong characteristics I want my daughter (and son!) to emulate. I feel like the more I stand back and let my children grow and develop at their own pace, the more I get to celebrate WHO they are.

And with a daughter, I will be proud of her if she chooses a career in STEM or if she wants to have a dozen children and stay home. I just want her to have strong character and self esteem... regardless of what she looks like, what her favorite sport is and whether or not she chooses to wear briefs or bikini! said...

Great points Darcel! I have 2 girls aged 5 and 10. I notice with my 10 year old we have begun discussing images and what and how women, black, women are portrayed. This conversation was started by me. I think it's important to get her thinking critically about what she chooses to watch. That said I see your point of not raising her in fear etc and not puttin to much emphasis on this. I was raised by a Muslim faster who did not allow us treat pork...and what did I do the moment I was out of his sight? Go have a ham and cheese sandwich at the deli. So i get that.
But I am annoyed by the images. I think the show Goodluck Charlie is so cute but I see what you see conccerning her overweight bestie. So often we are portrayed as fat and funny.or having a smart wise cracking mouth ( remember Dee on what's happening?) we have worn out 2 CDs of Brandii as Cinderella ( so rare to see the black girl as princess)
I know that the bulk of their world consists of in real life women who are every shape size and color and as Christians I raise them to see God in all. I have no qualms with pink or stereotypical play items. I love the fantasy of ballet and unicorns and don't think girls should be steered away from it in favor of a chemistry set. Certainly I want my girls to have access and exposure to all but if she isn't feeling something I see no reason to push so hard. You're right when you say they are born who they are...our job as mothers is to guide, nurture, and protect the gifts they were already born with. Sometimes our " opinions" can simply just get in the way. I could go on and usual Darcel you've got me thinking and for that I thank you. Happy to see you as a guest poster!

Nicole | Pharr Away said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. My little girl is only 17 months old but I already think about the things you mentioned (i.e. dolls, shows, etc.) and wonder how I'll go about making sure she's comfortable in her own skin with her natural hair and whatever shape she grows into.

I definitely plan to be her role model and I also plan to let HER interests take the forefront. I was a tomboy at first and didn't care for dresses/makeup until college and have a degree in engineering. She on the other hand is already a girl-girl and I am perfectly fine with that. I plan to expose her to as much as possible early on in regards to sports, the arts, and what she'd like to be when she grows up to give her options to choose from.

My job is to make sure she's prepared no matter the course and confident in herself! Whatever path she takes will be embraced!

Darcel {MahoganyWayMama} said...

Thank you all for reading and commenting. I think a good majority of mothers worry about the things I mentioned. I'm always looking for books and movies that are all about girl power/and have a focus on young black girls. Raising girls can be scary, but also a ton of fun.

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