I’ve said it before, but it’s hard to imagine anything as complex as the Mother-Daughter relationship. The single most important thing for me in raising a daughter has been to raise her in a way that allows her to thrive and be one hundred percent true to herself.
In raising my daughter in this way, I have learned some significant and valuable lessons myself, which has resulted in some of my greatest personal growth experiences.
Raising a Daughter Differently
My daughter turned eleven recently. Sometimes, it feels like a punch in the gut that she’s more than halfway to adulthood.
Raising my daughter has been an absolute joy. As soon as we learned that we were having a daughter, I began planning the kind of mom I wanted to be. Activities she would pursue. How to make everything perfect.
What I’ve learned thus far, eleven years in, is that nothing about raising a daughter has been exactly as I “planned.” In many ways, far from it. And nothing is ever perfect.
But it has been beautiful. The amazing life lessons I’m learning are truly gifts.
Lessons I’ve Learned from Raising a Daughter So Far
Parenting is not as easy.
I incorrectly assumed that raising a daughter would be a piece of cake. How could it not be? I planned to do it all perfectly.
I mean, I thought I had it all figured out before I even started.
Wrong. I don’t care who you are, parenting isn’t easy. It’s just not.
I’m only human.
Listen, I’ve lost my cool more than I ever thought I would.
And I don’t think I’ve been more devastated that the day I completely lost it when my daughter was four and had made a complete mess of my closet.
I yelled. I threw stuff animals out of the closet and into the bathroom. For about 30 seconds, I lost my marbles.
I grew up in a family where there was a lot of yelling. So understandably, I vowed that I would never yell at my own kids.
I never anticipated the effect of life stress and anxiety, combined with unhealthy patterns from my childhood, could quickly erase every bit of good and loving intention I had to do it all right with my own daughter.
Luckily, I caught myself and stopped. What’s even more important, I immediately embraced my daughter and apologized from the bottom of my heart. (Something I rarely witnessed growing up.)
I can’t say I haven’t lost my temper since then. But I can say is that the experience opened my eyes. It helped me to be a lot more mindful of my mental state, and how I respond to things that tend to trigger me.
I don’t have to run the tightest ship.
I envisioned being super diligent about things like schedules and structure.
For instance, a well-balanced dinner would be on the table at 7 p.m. sharp.
She would not drink soda. Excessive sugar – out of the question. She would keep her room in perfect order: a pottery barn styled sanctuary with a clean floor, an organized closet, and a bed made daily.
Sure, this is how we started out. But life happened. Stress and overwhelm happened. I became much more lenient. I evolved into a “don’t sweat the small stuff” mom.
Her room decor isn’t always what I would choose. She struggles to keep the floor picked up. And I don’t even look in the closet.
I’m not saying I don’t make her pick up. I’m just saying I’ve lightened up significantly on what I thought was important in our lives at this point.
These days, all I ask is that nothing is on the floor, trash is picked up (she’s a creative so there is always bits and pieces of all kinds of things scattered everywhere) and that her bed is made, I’m good.
Everyone isn’t going to be friends and that’s okay.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned raising my daughter is the conflict, and even drama, can start at an early age.
We don’t tolerate girl drama around here.
But at the same time, she does not have to be friends with everyone. Now, before anyone gets upset by that, let me explain.
Our rules have always included the following: You have to be kind. Don’t be participate in mean behavior. Be kind to everyone. Accept others. Share. Be thoughtful.
That being said, there have been kids that picked on her. Or bossed her around. Or didn’t respect boundaries. So when someone isn’t being kind or respectful or kind to her, she does not have to be friends with them.
She doesn’t have to hang out with them or play with them if it’s not a healthy relationship or if it means compromising her core values and self-worth.
No child is perfect.
They all make mistakes. We need to give our kids grace when they make mistakes, just like we appreciate grace when we make mistakes.
As much as I would love to say my daughter is perfect, she’s just not. Perfection is a myth and we can’t expect or kids to be perfect when we, ourselves fall short on perfection.
I’ve also learned the importance of embracing imperfection in others. Especially when my daughter gets her feelings hurt by someone or is treated in a way that I feel is unkind or unthoughtful.
I’ve learned that everyone deserves grace.
My daughter is an individual.
She is never going to be my :mini-me.” And in many ways, I don’t want her to be.
I want her to keep being herself, being strong, and knowing who she is.
Admittedly, there have been times I have tried to guide her in directions that I wanted. Whether it was wearing certain styles of clothes, doing a sport I thought she should try because I loved it so much growing up, or just her interests and hobbies.
Now I know that she understands herself better at eleven that I understood myself at 21. And I am so proud of her for that.
I can heal from my childhood by parenting differently.
I think that often, moms want to see their daughters do the things that they actually wanted for themselves.
They also try to heal from their by projecting their pain and anger.
They take the hurt and frustration and anger they experienced with their own mothers, and try to fix it by controlling their own daughter.
I don’t have to project my hurt and pain onto her. I don’t need to live vicariously through her.
I’ve seen it in the generations before me and I’ve seen it in other families.
My daughter will live her life the way she wants to….not the way I decide she should live it.
What About You?
Are you raising a daughter? What are some of the lessons you have learned along the way? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Looking for some books on the topic of Raising Daughters? Check out these recommendations: