The mother/daughter relationship can be one of the strongest bonds in a family, or it can be the weakest. I’m certainly not vying for Mom of the Year award here, but as Sierra gets older I have learned how lucky I am to have the mom I do. Along the way she has taught me some incredible lessons, and I have certainly passed some of these along to Sierra. Each child is different, however;I have learned so much about parenting from Sierra herself. In this post, I have listed some of the rules I try to live by to forever strengthen the bond Sierra and I share. These “rules” are guidelines for both the mother and daughter, even if written from a parent’s perspective. If mama doesn’t know it or do it, how can she pass it on? Learn together and strengthen your bonds!
1. Know how to throw a good punch (or twenty). As a former boxer and former volunteer self-defense teacher, I CANNOT stress enough the importance of being able to defend oneself. However, with a sense of strength comes responsibility. Know the difference between being independently able to defend yourself versus being a bully and hurting others, whether physically or otherwise. A false sense of empowerment doesn’t get you anywhere, and robbing others of their dignity is not a cause for pride. Considerate actions leave more of a mark on the human psyche than a punch ever will, but there are times….and you should be ready.
Learn how to defend yourself.
Teach your daughter how to do the same.
2. Know how to change a tire and jump a battery. There are probably only a few times when you will need to know this, but both skills are invaluable in those times. Aside from ensuring that you won’t be stranded down some lonesome stretch of road with no cell service, understanding the importance of vehicle maintenance by taking care of your car will take you a lot further in life than just waiting for a passing motorist to give you either a hand or a ride ever will. If you do need to accept a ride (from anyone) I hope you have mastered rule number 1, just in case.
Know how to do this.
Make sure your daughter knows how to do this, and do it safely.
3. Don’t dress alike. Ever. I will never understand the thought process behind moms and their tots being twinsies. For the most obvious reasons, I feel, this is a big no-no. One is an adult and should wear adult clothes; one is a child and should wear children’s clothes. Little girls especially are pushed into growing up too quickly and it doesn’t help when mom brings home matching velour jogging sets with words across the butt. Sierra’s outfit combinations are rarely what I’d describe as boring, but she dresses like herself. It fits. As she grows and changes, so will her attire choices. At least they’ll be her own.
Nothing about this is okay.
Let your daughter be beautiful, unique, and herself.
4. Appearance DOES matter; looks do not. I don’t care if your nose is dead center or your eyes cross. I don’t care about your waistline or chest measurement. I do care about seeing people up and dressed for the day. Nothing makes me crazier than seeing people wander around in sweatpants or pjs. Put clothes on yourself. Don’t pick up or drop off job applications while wearing a ratty sweatshirt. Don’t go to class looking like a zombie. Your teacher was up and presentable for you; reciprocate. Realize that the clothes you choose are a reflection of you, whether you think it’s fair or not. Inspire others to have confidence in you, and put some real pants on.
5. Use your voice for good, not bad. Women can easily get lumped into this category or that one. When labels get tossed about, remember that you have a voice, and remember to use it well. Teach your daughters about their voices. Understand that while voices can change things for the better they can also cut like knives. It is imperative to respect the voices of others and to respect what voices can do, both good and bad. Feed the good.
6. No two people will ever make the exact same mistakes. Parents always seem to hope that their children will somehow be exempted from mistakes. No kid will make the exact same mistakes as their parents. Some will be similar, some will be different. Some will be more spectacular, some less. You should never fear mistakes nor avoid making them. The important part is to learn from them. Always.
Truth is truth.
7. Respect one another if you expect it from one another. When I was in that angst-filled-hate-your-mom phase my beautiful mom said this to me: “There will be times when you do not like me. There will be times when you downright hate me. That’s fine. Just know that there will never be a time when you are allowed to disrespect me.” I have never forgotten that, and am proud to say that I have instilled this to Sierra as well. But, it is a two-way street. Respect must be given as well as received, and it seems that parents need to remember that more frequently than their children do.
8. Know your role. If you are the parent, be the parent. Always. So frequently I see kids absolutely OWNING their parents, and that is wrong. I am not Sierra’s friend; I do not need her approval; the parent/child relationship is not a democracy. I am her Mama. She comes to me for protection, love, and food (not necessarily in that order). She listens to what I say because otherwise she will face the consequences. However, no parent should become a tyrant. Kids can distinguish between a parent who means what they say and a parent who is just mean. Be the first kind, and have both consequences and rewards for your kids.
Do your daughter a favor.
Be her parent.
9. Use words and explain. I definitely feel that children must understand reasons for specific things or behaviors. Direction cannot be given without definition. When a child asks why, explain or show them why. Don’t make stuff up and don’t lie; if you don’t know, find out. Find out together. This week I was remembering Sierra at around 18 months. She wanted to go to the park but did not want to wear her mittens (January or so), because, well, what kid ever wants to wear mittens, right? I tried to get her to wear them, but she refused. I didn’t push it; instead, we went to the park without her mittens. After about 10 minutes her hands were red, chapped, and swollen from the cold and wind. She was crying because they hurt, and wanted to come home. I told her that we could go home, but that she had to carry a fistful snow in each hand until we got there (about a three block walk). She cried the whole way home and I can only imagine how much those frozen hands must have hurt. I explained that the mittens are designed to keep hands warm and dry in the winter, rather than cold and wet and sore like hers were. We never had another mitten get left behind. I am a student of English, so I confess a bias when it comes to the importance of both the written and spoken word. Kids need to know how to express themselves, so talk to them, not at them, and listen when they talk to you. Write together. Keep shared journals. Bask in the glory of linguistics with your child; the spoken word is one of the triumphs of man. Communication skills will never replace computers and compassion, and affection will win over adversity.
10. Laugh. Never, ever forget to laugh. Laugh with each other, laugh at each other, and learn to laugh at yourself. Be silly, be loud, be wild, be absolutely free. Take jumpy pictures, splash in puddles, have mud and leaf fights. Tell stupid jokes, tell stupid stories, and make up nonsense words. Laughter unites people, but it also ignites a spark, and even in the blackest night, a spark glows like a beacon and shows us the way home.
Laugh, love, and always seek out the light in this world!