I am convinced that my 4-year-old is incapable of walking from one spot to the next. My time with her is always accompanied with a soundtrack of the pitter patter of her little feet. 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, the girl is on a mission.
The other day, we were at the pool and I caught myself constantly yelling, “WALK, DON’T RUN!” The fifteenth time I yelled it, I started thinking about my words and was overwhelmed by a feeling of dread. Am I letting my own fear of her getting hurt trump my desire for her to pursue her interests with gusto? Do I want my daughter to go through her life tenaciously or with tentativeness? Am I teaching her to be afraid?
When she is in a situation where she has to dig deep and push through anxiety, fear and doubt, what voice do I want her to hear in her head? As a mom of two young girls, I am constantly negotiating my role as a protector with my role as an 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 usually leave me feeling confused and disjointed.
When I find myself in 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 being barraged with messages teaching them that they are not good enough and that they should be submissive and take a back seat, I understand the urgency of supporting and 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. In the words of Hellen Keller: “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”