My 4-year-old is incapable of walking from one spot to the next. It doesn't matter if she is getting out of the car to go to school or getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, it's clear from the pitter-patter of her little feet that this girl is on a mission.
The other day, we were at the pool and I caught myself repeatedly telling her to slow down. About the fifteenth time I yelled, "WALK! DON'T RUN!," it hit me. Do I want my daughter to go through her life tentatively or tenaciously? Am I teaching her to be timid or to be bold? Do I want my daughter to walk through life, or do I really want her to run?
As a mom of two young girls, there are times when I play the role of protector while there are other times when I need to be their advocate, cheerleader and number one fan. I want my daughters to speak up but also want them to be polite. I want them to be unabashed but within a safe space. I want them to be fearless while discerning. The dichotomies make my head spin and leave me feeling confused and constantly questioning my abilities as a mom.
When I find myself mothering on auto-pilot, I recognize these fear-based admonishments flowing. You know the ones, right? "Shhh, indoor voices!" "Take a deep breath, you are acting crazy!" "Wait your turn!" "In a minute!" "Not so fast!" Sadly, the list goes on and on.
In a world where our daughters are regularly exposed to messages (some obvious, some more subtle) teaching them that they are not good enough and that they should be submissive, I understand the urgency of empowering our girls. As their mother, I have the biggest influence on the women my girls will become and they are learning lessons from me with every interaction we share. I want my attention to be focused on sharing with them what makes them special, why they are important and how to harness their gifts to contribute to the world instead of teaching them to slow down, play it safe and be quiet.
My hope for my daughters is that I can lead by example and set them on a path of self-confidence, exploration and adventure. Sometimes they will fall down, and sometimes they'll get hurt. I want them to have the courage to pick themselves up and try again and again until they reach their goals knowing that their mom will always be there supporting them. In the words of Helen Keller: "Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."