Recently I read an article titled 17 Things Girls Need From Their Mothers—with respect and gratitude to the original author, I found the piece did not resonate with me as deeply as I had hoped.
It did however inspire me to write a remix of my own.
I don’t have a daughter yet, but someday I hope to and when I do, these are the things I will work hard to build with her. In the mean time, I’m working on many of these same things with my two sons. The lessons included I have learned through trial, defeat and triumph. I owe a profound debt of gratitude to the teachers, mothers, sisters and friends who walk with me along the way and feed my soul with the nourishment I need to grow.
1. To love herself: A girl can’t learn to recognize and value her own beauty simply by being constantly told. I’m sure my mother had days when she felt insecure, but to me she always projected perfect comfort in her own skin. She wasn’t obsessed with dieting or beauty products or appearance. I learned that focusing on the superficial wasn’t important.
Beauty isn’t a thing to be achieved, it’s just who you are, as you are, right now. A daughter learns to love herself by watching a mother who loves herself first. If a woman knows with conviction that she is enough, her daughter will too.
2. To use her imagination: Teach her to be the hero of her own visions. Engineer, scientist, inventor, explorer, world leader. Guide her to know a little ambition and hard work will make her dreams come true.
3. To give service and have compassion for others: Give to yourself by giving to others. Teach her to recognize where there is a need to be filled or a wrong to be righted, and take action. In this way, a girl learns to see how her own privilege can be used to benefit others and make the world a better place.
4. To read your books: Show her things that are interesting and provocative and inspiring. Teach her to question, investigate, analyze, criticize, and come to her own conclusions based on solid evidence.
5. To know she can talk to you about anything: Listen without judgment and advise without criticism. Answer questions directly and honestly.
6. To spend time in nature: Bonding with the natural world grounds us, brings peace and clarity, and reminds us of our connected place in the Universe.
7. To learn about partnership: Relationships, romantic, platonic and professional, are all based on respect, communication and honesty. Model healthy relationships so she can see how to interact with others in a way that leaves both partners feeling strong and successful.
8. To enjoy being alone: A woman does not always need to be in a romantic relationship and being single is the best way to really understand your authentic self. Teach your daughter that choosing to spend quality time with herself will deepen her understanding of her own emotions, desires, goals and perspectives. Learning to comfort her own loneliness will be the greatest gift she can give herself.
9. To not be a bystander: Teach her to use her voice and stand her ground. Show her how to go after what she wants without hurting others in the process. Let her know that when others are down it is her responsibility to help them back up.
10. To be friends with other women: Bring her around female friends and show her that secure women have no room for jealousy, drama, backstabbing, gossip or unhealthy competition. Demonstrate how to deeply connect with her sisters and celebrate all of their unique differences.
11. To be friends with men: Help her discover that platonic relationships with men can be a great way to gain new perspective. Male friends are valuable assets as you learn to navigate the world.
12. To see her mother be successful: A daughter learns how to achieve her goals by watching her mother and role models achieve their own. It’s important to be fully committed to being a mother without forgetting to go after your own dreams as well.
13. To self-reflect: Teach her to seek honest feedback from others she trusts about how she can improve, listen without defensiveness and make hard decisions about how she wants to grow without fearing change.
14. To forgive: Let her know that all humans make mistakes and even the most egregious deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces in the Universe. Teach her how to use that power to avoid becoming jaded and resentful.
15. To be grateful: Practice gratitude everyday. Teach her to see the good in everything and appreciate the present moment.
16. To engage with her community: Discuss politics with her, take her with you to vote, join an organization together or start a movement!
17. To make healthy choices: Eat healthy food together, engage in physical activity, maintain healthy relationships, feed the spirit and exercise the mind.
18. To be exposed to experience: Travel! Go far from home and then come back and explore your own neighborhood. Seek diversity. Let her choose the things she wants to do, places she wants to go and what she wants to learn about and encourage her curiosity and exploration as much as possible.
19. To be fearless: Fear teaches us many important lessons. Show her how to identify her fears, extract the lesson and move on with confidence.
20. To listen to her intuition: Teach her that if a situation or person is making her feel uncomfortable there is probably a reason. Make sure she knows she always has the power and responsibility to protect her body, heart and spirit from harm.
21. To embrace pain with a purpose: Not all pain should be avoided. Some of it teaches us to grow stronger. Having her heart broken teaches her what she wants and needs from the next partner. Pushing herself physically teaches her what she is capable of. Demonstrate an ability to make smart decisions and take thoughtful risks. Show her how to count her scars as badges of courage.
22. To ask for what she needs: Give her a platform upon which to express herself. Teach her to communicate respectfully and make her needs understood by those who are in her life to provide support.
23. To understand happiness is a choice: Show her that she can’t wait for others to make her happy, only she can do that for herself. In every situation she has a choice in how she responds to it. Teach her it is ok to feel things passionately, but never let her emotions run her over.
24. To feel her choices are accepted and supported: You might not always agree with her decisions, but as long as they do not cause harm to herself or others, let her make her own mistakes and guide her to learn from them.
25. Finally, give her a village: As hard as we try, as committed as we are, no mother can teach her daughter every lesson and give her every tool she will need to navigate this world. Make sure you place in her life grandmothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, fathers, brothers, friends, teachers, gurus, role models, art, music, books and other surrogate mothers to guide her down whatever path she chooses.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Ffion Jones/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Graeme Petrie Photography