My Convertible Life

Monday, August 7, 2017

Raising a strong girl

One of the kindest, smartest, loveliest women I know assures me that she was a total bitch to her mother growing up. She emphasizes this fact with words like "awful," "unrelenting," "horrible" and "embarrassing." She uses a capital B.

Today this same woman loves her mother deeply and profoundly, and I am confident her mother knows that. I can't even picture her being horrible to anyone, except maybe in a Julia-Sugarbaker-put-you-in-your-place-bless-your-heart kind way that's actually just badass and they probably deserved it.

This fact gives me no small amount of consolation in the present moment and tremendous hope for the future. Because if being unrelenting in tormenting your mother as a young person is an indication of greatness as an adult, then Pippi is going to be one spectacular grown-up.

It's no secret that I didn't want to have a girl -- at least not if you've read this blog or attended the first Raleigh-Durham Listen to Your Mother show. Actually, just to be clear, that's still a secret from my daughter, so no one tell her.

As I admitted back then when Pippi was only 5 years old, I was right to be afraid. Like so many girls -- even rule-following pleasers like myself -- she saves her worst behavior for her mama. (Thank goodness her father seems to bring out the best in her.) Four years later, she's even more amazing and more challenging than she was back then. There are times I'm able to unravel her thinking and understand for a moment. But there are so many more times when I send myself to my room to keep from losing my ever-loving mind with her.

That's when having a village of other mamas also raising strong girls is so critical to survival -- for both of us. Do not underestimate the value of being able to text a friend in a moment of desperation and getting back a message that I'm not alone and that I'm "raising her to be strong and that ain't easy."

After reminding me of my daughter's many good qualities (and there truly are many), my father recently told me that Pippi had picked the right mom. I shook my head in doubt, feeling completely unprepared for the task. "You let her be herself," he said. "And you won't try to break her."

Honestly, I don't think she would let me. But I treasure the idea that he sees us both that way -- as a strong, beautiful girl and a mother who loves her just as she is.

So tonight, instead of pouring myself a glass of wine to recover, I'm turning to this neglected blog instead. On the off chance that someone else out there just survived dinner and bedtime with a stubborn, defiant young girl (or boy, for that matter) and is feeling beaten down, know that you are not alone.

It takes a damn good village to raise a strong girl, and I am ever grateful to have both.