Marion Pellicano Ambrose
When my daughter was an infant, I dressed her in frilly little dresses, sunbonnets and little princess shoes. She always looked adorable with her big blue eyes, pink heart shaped lips and long, silky blonde hair. When she turned 4 ½ , I went away for a weekend on retreat and left her alone with my husband. When I returned, she had a short “butch” haircut and was wearing camouflage pants, a black t shirt and sneakers. She was absolutely thrilled with the way she looked and felt and needless to say, there was no getting her back into “princess” clothing again! At first I was upset, but soon I realized that even at 4, she was making a choice about who she wanted to be, and she was choosing to be active, a little bit tough, and independent, and that was a good thing!
After that, I made it my business to learn more about raising a “powerful” daughter. Powerful girls are more secure in themselves. They make positive choices and think critically about the world around them. They take action when needed and are able to express their feelings, but also be aware and sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others. It seems like it should be easy, right? Well, it isn’t. It takes thought, patience, and a lot of trial and error on the part of both parents. Here’s what my husband and I did.
1. We let her try different interests. If she showed an interest in Ballet, we took her. We went through piano, ballet, tap, Irish Step Dancing, Soccer, Basketball and gymnastics before she found what she loved – Kung Fu, Clarinet and Art classes. She enjoyed Daisies, Girl Scouts and other activities as well, but these three were her passion. When she got older she got involved in Student Government , German Club, and Swing Dancing. Each activity taught her more confidence and rounded out her personality.
2. One of the things my husband found easy and I almost had a nervous breakdown over, was allowing her the freedom to take risks, both physical and emotional. She went to a high ropes course and loved it! I had a stomach ache for 2 days after! She rode horses, parasailed, traveled to student conferences out of state and lived through it all, contrary to my worries. Again, each experience made her a stronger, more confident person. Emotional risks included making choices about friends and boyfriends, choices about our Religious and Cultural traditions (once she was old enough). I’m happy to say that she’s developed amazing skills from her successes and her failures.
3. We made sure we talked every single day. We talked about values, conscience, prejudice, empathy, tolerance, love, intense dislike (we never use the word “hate” in our home), and apathy. We gave her the opportunity to talk about anything without fear. She knew there were consequences for certain actions, but truth was valued highly and lying only added to the consequences. We tried very hard to model the values we talked about, but openly admitted our failures and weaknesses but with the resolve to try harder.
4. We stressed that she was ALWAYS beautiful. When you’re beautiful inside, it shines out through your eyes, your soul and the very pores of your body. We tried to keep her healthy and active, had balanced meals and encouraged her in individual and team sports and activities. I have to admit I was guilty of overdoing it with the cookies, treats for holidays and on occasion, Happy Meals, but we survived all that too.
5. We encouraged her to speak her mind to us and to others, but in a respectful and intelligent way. She became a great debater and an even better writer! She expresses herself so well, she’s been super successful at school and in her jobs.
6. We went through the “clique” rejections, rumor spreading, and exclusion rites of girlhood with great pain and tears, but we talked it out, set goals, made plans and tried to identify strong feelings and learn how to channel them into positive actions. I’d tell her how , when I get upset, I scrub the kitchen floor. I work off my negative energy and when I’m done, I have something positive to show for it – a clean floor. She learned to work off negative emotions by writing, playing her clarinet, and baking. (Unfortunately for me she didn’t pick up on the cleaning thing!)
7. With both our children, we were very particular about what they watched , listened to and read. No violent , sexual, mixed message movies or TV shows. We watched TV as a family. We refused to have cable or TV’s in the kids rooms or our own so we were sure we had this family time. We played board games, watched videos and did arts and crafts together. I read to both children every night. As they got older it was novels instead of story books. For my daughter it was Caddie Woodlawn , A Wrinkle in Time, The Courage of Sarah Noble, all showing girls of strength and character. We read and talked about current events and the media, commercials and magazine ads to be sure she knew the difference between the media’s ideas of sex, women and relationships and the real world according to our family. We were also open and up front in talking about the “birds and the bees’, calling each thing by its proper name and answering questions honestly as they came up. (Too much too soon is as bad as none at all!)
8. I think the most important thing we did was to always be her parents instead of trying to be her friends. We had a close, loving relationship, but there was no doubt that we were there to guide, protect, teach and love her, not to be her best buddies. To this day, she tells us how much she appreciated thatThe last and best thing is to just enjoy the wonder and joy of having a daughter. As a mother, I find that she is the greatest gift of my life. Now that she’s a woman, I often seek her advice and opinion. She’s grown into an intelligent, self- motivated, independent, caring, BEAUTIFUL human being who knows what she wants in life and isn’t afraid to go for it. I couldn’t be more proud of my powerful, amazing daughter!
*Post Script: After re reading my own post, I see that I've given quite a bit of credit to my husband and myself for raising such a strong, independent, beautiful daughter.The truth is, God gifted her with an amazing spirit and heart. With His grace and her own true soul, she would have been the same awesome young lady without us. I just hope what we did helped her on her journey,and that's why I've shared our story with you!
|3 Generations of Powerful Women|
Aunt Mary, Grandma, My Daughter, Nana, Me