It’s Zara’s 13th birthday today! She is the light of my life, my built in best friend, and the soul of our family. A quiet girl, but she’s also the one that can bring us to our feet for impromptu dance parties, make us actually ROFL with her dad jokes, and get us all into Frank Sinatra karaoke in the car. She’s all heart.
She’s also the girl that challenges me the most. Not in the normal “teenager” way. In a way that challenges my beliefs and ideologies. She asks me hard questions, and is the first to call me out if something I said doesn’t match up to what I’ve always told her about being kind and supportive to other women. She pushes my creative boundaries and my comfort zones, but in a really great way. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always roses and butterflies, we are two strong willed women with big opinions and big moods, we have our days.
In honour of Zara’s thirteenth birthday, I’m sharing 13 (completely) subjective rules about raising girls.
- She might not be the type of girl that you expected. The best part of living in the time we do is that girls can be whatever they want! Let go of whatever expectations you had of the type of girl that you wanted, and embrace the one she is. (This applies to the type of clothes she feels comfortable in, the sports she wants to play, the ballet classes she might not want to go to, and the music she prefers.)
- Yes, her moodiness will always be directed at you. As long as she isn’t crossing the line and being disrespectful, allowing her the space and grace. You are her safe space, and she knows you’ll still love her in a few hours when the mood passes. Just don’t take it personally and feel less than, this is a mother-daughter thing. Who are you most likely to snap at when you are mad? I’m guessing your mom or MIL.
- Make her build Ikea furniture. And lift heavy things, take out the garbage, and do tasks that are usually deemed appropriate for dads and brothers. If possible, do them in front of her yourself. That way she won’t look for a partner that does ‘guy things’ but rather focus on more important characteristics in the future.
- Accept that she doesn’t want to be like you (yet). This one is hard, and I don’t know how to explain it, but sometimes girls just have to express their independence from their moms. It’s not you, it’s a phase she’s going through.
- Speaking of phases, she’s going to go through them. Some of them are fun, some of them are hard, but all of them will pass.
- Be on standby as her friend. Some days she’s going to want to spend every minute with you, and some days she’s just going to want to chat with her friends, or watch TV all day. Like I said, you are her safe space and forever plus one. Just wait patiently, and when she needs you, or wants to hang out with you, activate BFF mode.
- You told her she can tell you anything, and when she does, DON’T FREAK OUT! Some kids in your fifth grade class are dating? Okay, I guess their parents are okay with that? A kid in your grade is vaping? Well, I’m sure his/her parents are on that. In my experience, that isn’t the moment to say, ‘hey, you know vaping is bad, and you’d never do it right?!’. Instead, use that time, just to listen and remind her that you are a safe space. And then make a mental note to offer a refresher on the dangers of vaping next Sunday, and regularly check her bag for signs of vaping equipment. (Kidding about the last part because…)
- Don’t violate her privacy. If you trust her enough to give her, her own room, a diary, a purse, or a backpack don’t go snooping in it. I mean, I suppose if you were 100% sure that she did something wrong/dangerous you could, but otherwise, trust her judgement and respect her privacy. If you think going through kid’s things is your right, tell them ahead of time, don’t ambush them. My kids know that their internet browser history is fair game, and until a certain age, I have to know their SM passwords, but I won’t check their messages unless there was an emergency. (For the record, I’ve never broken the rule and snooped).
- Trust her judgement, even when you know she’s wrong. Okay, this one comes with a caveat, as long as she’s safe. Sometimes, you have to have your kid’s back and let them make a bad decision, even if you know there will be consequences. Let her learn from her mistakes, with a safety net called mom there to catch her. It’ll make her more courageous in the future.
- Teach her through your actions that she is equal to her brother. Self explanatory.
- Tell her every day that she has agency over her own body. If she doesn’t want to wear pigtails don’t make her. If she doesn’t want to shave her legs, it’s her business. Just because everyone else is curling their hair and wearing lip gloss don’t push her too. Having a sense of control in these day to day choices, will make her a better advocate for herself and her welfare later in life.
- Love on her hard, even when she pushes you away. Tell her you love her, even if she doesn’t say it back. Make her, her favourite breakfast even if she’s moody and doesn’t eat it. It’s about showing her that you are there consistently. Even if she goes away, you’ll always be there, like a lighthouse. (This one of course comes with the rule; you can be moody, but not disrespectful).
- Love on yourself hard. Teach her that you aren’t just her mom, your world doesn’t revolve around her. You have hobbies, and friends. You have goals and dreams that have nothing to do with her. You are a whole woman and you are happier because of it. Free her from the cycle of martyrdom that moms have faced for generations. Give her wings.