Teaching a girl to be a woman is not as easy as it might seem.
You want to teach them to be strong and independent, but you also want them to be tender enough to lean on their partner and to allow themselves to grieve Life’s rougher times. You want them to believe in themselves and in their ability to take on the world, but you also want them to feel strong enough in their self-esteem to acknowledge when they have been defeated and be okay with being wrong.
I had a moment with Sarah today when I had to choose which path to take – teach her she can stand on her own two feet or teach her that holding on to someone else is okay. I’m still not sure which path was right, but, hopefully, I didn’t mess up a great opportunity to steer her in the right direction.
Despite all her princessy ways, Sarah has always been interested in motorcycles. This morning on the way to take the girls to school, a man riding a trike passed us (in case you don’t know, that’s a motorcyle with two wheels on the back). Sarah, of course, pointed it out.
“That’s cool, Mama. Look! We need to get that,” she said.
“Don’t you think Nana and Papa should get one,” I asked. My parents have often looked at them, and I wondered what Sarah would think about that.
“Yeah! They should get one. Nana can ride on the back part,” she said.
I had a choice to make – just let it go or teach her that women can ride motorcycles, too? I decided to take a teaching moment and reaffirm that Nana would make an awesome biker chic if that’s what she wanted to do.
Sarah liked this idea and got a grin on her face.
“Yeah! Nana could drive, and Papa could sit on the back. He could hold her so she wouldn’t fall.”
What do you say to that? Either she thinks women aren’t strong enough to take charge or she thinks my mom can’t do anything without my dad’s support.
She was so serious when she said that. You could feel the sincerity in her words. In her mind, Papa would either have to drive the trike and let Nana ride or Nana would have to have Papa riding behind her to hold her and keep her safe.
I was so torn on what to say to her next.
What a beautiful picture she has in her mind of my dad being the protector who holds up my mom and ensures her safety! The idea of his holding onto her so that could be stable and protected is very intuitive on Sarah’s part as she seeks to label my dad as the family leader.
But I don’t want her to think that women can’t do anything without being supported by a man. So what do you say?
I simply said, “That would be so nice of Papa to help Nana like that, but I bet she could do it on her own if she wanted to and then sometimes they could take turns driving while the other one rides on the back. What do you think about that?”
Sarah just stared back at me and didn’t respond. She was set on her idea that Nana could drive and Papa could hold her. I could see in her eyes that the idea was set in stone, and she was pleased with her conclusion, so I let it go.
She’s four years old. There is plenty of time to teach her about self-sufficiency, inner strength and sharing your life with an equal partner. For today, she can hold on to her idea that Papa needs to hold Nana up on the trike in order for them to ride together.
My parents have always held each other up, no matter who or what is driving their lives, so maybe Sarah has it more right than I thought.