Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Are Knees Necessary?

She has knees.

We thought she wouldn't.

Well, I mean yes her legs did bend and all. But as a baby her legs were cute in a chubby baby sort of way. Perfect for six months. But we worried about sixteen.

In fact, if I remember correctly "she has my knees," is one of the very first things I heard her dad say about her when she was born, as we finally got to look at her. Jim has fine knees. For a football player. And a man. But I wasn't so sure how Sami would feel about her football player man knees. And so "she has my knees" began, on her very first day of life, to repeat itself in my mind and cause me to scrutinize her chubby knee-less legs, again and again and again.

I thought I wasn't going to be one of those mothers.

It didn't matter how she looked, I would raise her to love herself. Her inside true self. I would teach her that who she is matters the most and how she appears is irrelevant. Before a daughter ever began to bud inside me I planned, if ever I became a mother, I would grow strong daughters.

That was before the knees issue and me attempting to answer how I would help her be okay with fullback knees.

Because, for a long time, I wasn't okay.

My knees were fine but it was the rest of me that I was uncomfortable with. And I wore my discomfort all over me.

I was in my mid-twenties before I began to lose my baby fat. (I don't mean pregnancy baby fat). I was the awkward teenager whose insecurity made me vulnerable and overly sensitive, who ran the other way when boys were around, who spent most of her teenage years in tears and most of college too shy.

But really, it wasn't about my babyfat.
And it's not going to be about her knees (though I am thankful as she's grown she's gotten them).

The problem wasn't friends not choosing me or boys not liking me. The problem was me not liking me. The path to finally liking me was long.

I can look back and be thankful for my painful growing up experiences. My brokenness drew me to God. I learned humility, compassion . . . and I wonder sometimes whether it wasn't necessary to go through utter loss of self before I could ever learn true confidence; to experience self-loathing before I could fully accept myself and find true acceptance in the Beloved. To be lonely before I could become okay with being alone.

In this sense I cannot regret, though there are regrets.

I do not know how accurately to prepare my daughters for the inevitable struggle to accept themselves. Some friends and I were discussing this the other day. Is it the father's job to instill self-worth? The mother who teaches confidence by her own example? A stable home? Enough affirmation? Freedom to express herself and be understood?

Yes, all of these seem vital to a healthy development.

But I wonder how far parents really can go to give their daughters confidence. I will do anything I can to protect my girls from low self-esteem, to build them up, to give them space and freedom to develop. But I cannot protect them from every slight or rejection, from every broken heart. Maybe these are even necessary, all a part of God drawing them to Himself, making who they will become.

In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know.
And what you own is what you do not own.
And where you are is where you are not.
T. S. Eliot

Any advice? How do you raise strong daughters?


Heather of the EO said...

I'll give you a big fat I DON'T KNOW.

What you listed is all very important (the stable home and confident mom and self-worth building dad,etc)

BUT I totally hear you on your fears that we don't REALLY get to the place we need to be without struggling first. And I'm terrified of watching that in my kiddos.

Another great post!

Betty said...

I don't even have words Jess. This and the last post have left me speechless and thinking. Sometimes when I read your blog, I feel like you are writing about me. I have the same trust issues infused with self consciousness. And today's post...having a child of my own with "baby fat", I always wonder if we're doing enough, encouraging enough for him to truly understand who God made him to be and recognize his inner self. I allow imaginary judgement from others on me as a parent to interfere with focusing on his tender little heart. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST!!!
p.s. forget my opening line...I think I found my words!

malloryelise. said...

I don't know how exactly to answer the question... as there aren't any baby girls I'm raising lately. But, I'm commenting you because my goodness! This post was wonderful. So so so wonderful. You are such an amazing person and your mind is so beautiful and honest. I think those qualities are going to help your girls out the most because I have a feeling they're going to inherit those very things.

charrette said...

I wish I had an answer here. Although I think the very most important thing is to instill in each child (son or daughter) a deep understanding of their spiritual parentage...that they are literally children of God.

I think we must be doing okay, because our daughter seems to be far more beautiful, more confident, possessing a stronger sense of self than I did at her age.

pleiades said...

i've been thinking this same thing but for a boy. already i've seen quinn stop doing something b/c he fears people's reaction. i have no advice and was hoping to find some in these replies.