3 Things We Did Right and 1 Thing I did Wrong
I was terrified.
That moment that the doctor said “IT’S A GIRL!” almost floored me. What did I know about raising a daughter? And now I have one? I didn’t know what to do.
And boy did I mess up. A lot.
I babied her. I didn’t let her fall. I picked her up before any little misstep. My wife and family told me I was spoiling her but she was my little girl. She was so delicate. Until she hit 3. And all my bad parenting came back at me in the form of a HUGE attitude. Her 3’s turned into a battle of wills that we had to win. And we did. But not without some stress.
I thought I had to treat her one way because she was a girl. And the way I treated her caused her to act out like she did. It was my fault. She wasn’t delicate. She didn’t need protecting like that. I was doing far more harm than good. So as she’s grown I have too. She has taught me lots of lessons in raising a young woman.
She is a great person. She loves Jesus and people really well. She’s kind. She’s empathetic. She’s got a good head on her shoulders. And she knows she doesn’t need a boy to be happy. Her mother had a lot to do with that and they both have shown me some valuable lessons.
Looking back, I can see where we did some really good things and I did some not so good things. But all in all we raised a daughter that has a very healthy sense of self-worth. Today I’d like to share 3 things we did right and 1 thing I did really wrong.
This is one of the main areas all teens, kids and even adults struggle with. Who am I? Am I important? And how do I find the answers? Teach your kids who they are and why they’re here. Listen to how the early church leader Paul says it in his letter to an early church in a city called Ephesus:
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago”. Ephesians 2:10
We are a masterpiece and we’re here to do good. That’s who we are. And it doesn’t matter how much we do or don’t believe that. It just is.
Tell that to your kids over and over and over and over. Memorize it. Write it in places they can see. Live it in front of them. Tattoo it. Put it on t-shirts. My point is make sure they take that to heart. They are God’s masterpiece and he has them right where he needs them to do good things. They are created to be and do good! So empower them to do that.
If a persons’ identity is found in this and not a passing fashion or fad they will thrive.
Think about it…if all we ever told our daughter was how pretty she is where do you think she would find her value? In her looks. Well what happens when someone doesn’t think she’s pretty? What happens when her physical beauty passes? What does she do if culture’s standards change?
But if her worth is found in something far greater and outside of her then nothing that happens can affect that. Because it’s not based on anything she does or doesn’t do. And because it’s not based on her then she cannot alter her worth. Her worth is.
Our daughter is not a risk taker. Our son, on the other hand, is very much so. Their personalities are night and day. Where she was quiet and played make believe, he has always been loud and ran through walls. So it’s was a struggle for her to put herself out there and take risks.
When she hit middle school she wanted to try sports. She had never been interested before but she wanted to try. So we encouraged her like crazy! We bought her what she needed. We played whatever sport to help her get ready. We watched YouTube videos on the sport. We pushed her to try.
And she failed. And failed. And failed again.
Then came softball tryouts. She had literally never picked up a bat or thrown a softball. But we started throwing in the yard and I taught her how to swing a bat. The day of tryouts came and I sat and watched her walk to the plate for the first time in her life. I don’t know who was more nervous. She got in the batter’s box, tapped the plate with her bat (like I taught her) and got in her stance. The pitcher threw the ball and Jenna laid wood to ball and knocked it into deep left field. With each pitch she made contact and her confidence soared!
The coach asked her how long she had been playing and when she told her this was the first time the coach told her she made the team on the spot. She played for three more years before stepping out and trying chorus (another huge risk) and falling in love with music. She even was able to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Push your daughters to take risk. With each try and fail she learned something about herself. She learned it wasn’t the end of the world. She grew a little more resilient. She knew that she could push through disappointment and keep going. Ultimately she learned failure is an event, that is’ not something to fear and because she learned that she is far more likely to take some risks without worrying about failing.
Our daughters will never know how much they can accomplish unless we allow them to put themselves out there and take risks.
Teach her skills
I once heard an older woman tell me that today’s girls aren’t taught proper skills. She said to me “When I was younger, I was taught how to cook and clean and how you’re supposed to treat your husbands”. My first thought was “You were taught how to be someone’s mommy maid”. I’m pretty sure I can do all those things. I don’t need someone to do that for me. I’m a big boy.
There’s nothing wrong with learning how to cook or clean or sew or any number of things. But don’t categorize those skills based on your child’s sex. Boys should learn how to cook and clean and treat their spouse as well! And girls should learn how to change the oil, how to pump gas, how to mow the yard, etc.
We have never taught our daughter “girl skills”. She’s learning skills that will help her in life. We don’t ever want her to feel like she has to depend on anyone to get stuff done. If her tire goes flat, we want her to know how to change it. If something gets broken, we want her to confident enough that she can try to fix it but if it’s over her head to reach out to someone that can.
But how do you do that? Well for us we share household chores. Every night our kids see us clear the table, do dishes, vacuum, take out the trash. I do laundry. Tori can and does mow the yard. There are no boy and girl jobs. There are just jobs. Like who decided that mowing was men’s work and folding laundry is women’s work? Folding laundry sucks. I’m pretty sure my wife would rather mow any day of the week (maybe that’s why men choose that).
Teach her skills but don’t limit those skills.
I really struggle with this topic. I’m not going to lie. It’s because I’m an ex-boy.
I remember what I thought when I was a hormonal teenager. I remember where my thoughts went when I saw a pretty young woman and I hate it. I hate it because now I have a daughter who happens to be a pretty young woman. Of course she is much more than that, in fact that might be the most insignificant part about her but like I said ex-boy here.
When our daughter was young we began laying the ground work for how she should present herself. To give this some context this was during the purity culture that gripped the church for several decades. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about it was a time period where we were taught all boys struggle with lust (more on that next post) and all girls had the responsibility of stopping that lust. So we would show her what was appropriate and inappropriate to wear.
Fortunately, we didn’t stop there. We were also teaching her that her worth isn’t based in looks but in Jesus. And because we did that her self- image is very healthy and she does carry herself with a healthy confidence. Failure doesn’t sideline her and boys don’t make or break the day.
The reality though is that for the longest time I didn’t understand what it does to a young woman when you, I or culture at large tells her that her body is sexualized and that it is her responsibility to keep it all covered at all times lest a young man sees some skin and begin to lust.
I say I struggled with this because I wanted to protect my daughter from pimply faced, greasy haired boy monsters. But what I was doing was sending the message that her turning into a young woman was somehow wrong or sinful, and that by her maturing (as God created her to) she was causing others to sin. I had to repent.
In Paul’s letter to the early church in Rome he said, “Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died.” Romans 14:15b
Paul is talking about not doing something in front of another believer that you know struggles with that thing. For example, it wouldn’t be wrong for me to have a beer with my dinner. It would be wrong for me to have a beer with my dinner if my dinner guest was an alcoholic. I would be causing them to stumble. And this verse is applied to how we dress ALL. THE. TIME.
But should it be? Is it my daughter’s responsibility to know what causes some boy to lust? Is it her job to make sure that what she wears is plain enough? Baggy enough? Long enough? That not too much skin is showing? And what about her shoulders? Or her legs? And since when did a stomach become a sexual organ?
Or maybe instead of teaching our daughters that their bodies are bad we should teach our boys what Jesus said, “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye- even your good eye- causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away…” Matthew 5:29
Notice where Jesus said the responsibility lies? It’s on the one lusting. The one lusted after isn’t even mentioned here. (We will talk about this next week at length)
Teach our daughters to respect themselves and they will. My daughter isn’t dressing to try and show off body parts. She is dressing because she thinks it’s either cute or it’s comfortable. That’s it. We do our young women a great disservice when we teach them that their bodies are wrong and they carry the burden for every person that lusts after them.
Something I’ve come to understand is that my lessons aren’t over. My guess is they never will be. Just when I think I’ve got it figured out life throws me a curveball and I’ve got to adjust. But that’s one of the great parts of parenting! Even though I may have gotten something wrong it doesn’t mean that it’s over. I have another day, another try. And as long as I’m willing to learn then I’ll keep getting better.