Since becoming a mother, it has taken me seven years to appreciate just how much I would learn from my first born, my daughter. Just as we fumble through the maze of motherhood, we, as parents, are supposed to be a fountain of knowledge. We are expected to be armed and ready to answer just about any random question our children throw in our direction. It often feels like a version of mastermind that's stuck on repeat. A recent question was "when does fog become mist and when does mist become fog?" she enquired. It was a good question. I talked about density and tried to fumble my way through the answer whilst driving home but I really didn't have the foggiest idea (excuse the pun!). Although we don't always have the answers to some of their questions, I took a moment to realise just how amazing their little minds are.
As she asked me questions, she hopes I am listening. But I will be honest, sometimes I am listening and sometimes I have zoned out; either through tiredness or my mind just wanders. I start to make mental notes of other things I should be doing or remembering, as my mind has become clogged with lists. As I briefly zone out or if I have my head down in work emails, I have only just realised how annoying this must be for her. Probably as annoying as when I call her name dozens of times, only to also get no response. It would seem that we are both as bad as each other. What kind of relationship would we have if we spend all weekend together but if we aren't actively engaged with each other? My daughter would feel she is being cheated.
As parents, we know our children look up to us. I have always tried my best to teach my daughter to be strong, to be confident, to stand up for herself, trust her abilities and to believe in herself. However, the funny thing is, I'm not sure how much of this was influenced by me in the first place.
She's strong and determined in ways that I'm not sure I was at her age. Agreed, there is a long road ahead and there will be plenty of challenging times ahead but I will be the first one in line to tell her that cute guys will come and go. Some might knock your confidence, tell you that you are not pretty enough, but I will remind her that she is good enough, pretty enough and that true friends will be there for you.
I'm no longer worried about her not having the confidence to succeed; I'm concerned about the person who might be standing in her way. But I know I must not be naive. We haven't conquered puberty yet but when we do, I know it will be another challenge as part of this journey. Many young teens go through a period of experimentation, self-expression, and self-deprecation. At fourteen, partly due to the dominance of social media, society tells us that beauty is great hair, flat stomachs and a pretty face. For teens, few things are more important than popularity, fitting in, and being pretty. During my early teens, I had, what we fondly refer to as 'train track', braces on my teeth for years and I mean...years. My weary smile ensured I never showed my teeth out of fear of being called Jaws from James Bond.
This lasted two long years, with extra fittings for bedtime. Looking back, my self-esteem was low at that time, but now with my straight, white teeth, I wouldn't change it for the world. Fast-forward and I can now confidently say that I understand what real beauty means. As I look at my daughter's face, I see the kindness in her eyes, peeking over her tiny glasses. The strength in those thighs and the amazing things the female body can achieve.
My daughter isn't afraid to try anything physical and she recognises that her body is strong and beautiful. I want her to grow up knowing that she can do and be whatever she wants. To have the option to be a CEO, an engineer, a scientist...or whatever else her heart desires. And that her male colleagues don't look at her differently in her career choice just because she is female. She does it because she's good at it and she is the best person for the job, regardless of her gender. So as I look in the mirror, I reflect on the three things my daughter has taught me:
1. Everything gets better, when you practise
You can't be good at everything so focus on the things you are good at. It's a saying my daughter understands and often reminds me of. I love that my daughter is currently focused on three key subjects at school rather than trying to be good at everything. They are the three things she is really good at and make her feel confident. She has a mature awareness that she is not top of her class and nor does she need to be. Everything else will improve in time...with practise.
2. Be in the moment
Sometimes we are together, but I just don't hear her. I can often be present, but I'm not really present. My mind is elsewhere. When she tells me off, I know I am in the wrong. She wants me, not just my time.
3. Try something new
I love how my daughter is willing to try something new, whether it is a new sport or something different, her approach is always to 'give something a go'. No matter how old you are, it is always good to try something new and opportunities don't come from comfort zones. By trying something new, even if it doesn't work out long term she would have learnt something from that experience and in turn, that cultivates wisdom.