"One of the best gifts we can give our daughters is a strong sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves, first to God, then also to others." p.12
Since I read Raising Cain all about raising boys I thought it was only appropriate that I read a book about raising daughters. The one I ended up reading, Growing Strong Daughters, was great! It wasn't revolutionary for me as the boy one was, thought it was excellent. This was because of two main reasons: 1. I am a daughter myself, so I already understand B a bit better than T. 2. My parents did a great job of seeking to raise me in the ways this author describes. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend it to anyone with a daughter who is hoping to raise her in a manner so that she knows she is a valuable co-steward of creation and beloved daughter of God.
The author, Lisa Graham Mc Minn, discusses the tension women live in between being limited as to what is expected of them as participants in society while still exploring the broadened opportunties that are available. The author herself has a pretty rounded perspective by having stayed at home raising her three daughters and then going back to graduate school ultimately to become a sociology professor. She strongly believes that women also bear the image of God and, "As image-bearers of God we claim with confidence the lofty goal that our daughters will be wholly directed to God, committed to serving and loving others, and active participants [co-stewards] in caring for creation." She purports that we can encourage this in many ways which she describes as "messy" rather than an easy to follow plan. Some of her focuses are on promoting confidence in our daughters by validating their voice and ability to think and share ideas, encouraging risk-taking and decision making (within reason), and helping them to become competent in their areas of giftedness. It also encourages us to make sure we are providing positive role-models and discouraging negative stereotypes of women.
McMinn also uses a distrubing quote by Joel Schumacher, a movie director who has worked with Julia Roberts, Demi Moore, and Sandra Bullock, "I have never worked with a beautiful young woman who thought she was beautiful or thin enough." What a terrible state of affairs. This section was especially convicting to me as J and I often discuss our disappointment with our weights and phsyiques thereby perpetuating and encouraging just the exact thing we don't want B to focus on or feel pressured by. She will face it in the world, but she should not have to hear it at home as well. Instead we are trying to focus on being active and all of the amazing things our bodies can do. Unfortunately avoiding being critical is much easier said than done, especially in regard to ourselves.
Spending time together is critical, as is listening well and encouraging all of our daughters' emotions while guiding the way in which they express them. Having dialogues is one of the best ways to concretely meet these goals. "Our goal was to balance respect for authority, and for the faith and values we held as parents with respect for our young adult daughters who were striving to figure out how to become responsible, thoughtful, world citizens" p. 106. This is a bittersweet goal as it gives up total control of your child for guidance, but creates autonomy that is needed to function as an adult. McMinn left me with a great comforting thought however in the overwhelming sea of parenting by saying, "...rest in the knowledge that your daughter belongs primarily to God, not you. God loves her more than you do, has her best interests in mind, and is an expert at restoring, redeeming, and pursuing" p. 166. Amen!
The author ends the book by discussing how much more clearly we can see God's perfect love on such a deeper level as we experience such incredible love for our children. We have such a great responsibility in that "...what a mother believes about her daughter can come to be internalized by her daughter as true" p. 197. In one of her last anecdotes the author is asked by a friend if being a mother to girls was what she expected. She answers like this:
"'Mostly. We don't bake as many cookies, stroll thorugh the park, and pass the time in the rocking chair as much as I thought we would, and we have more messes, noise and frustrations. But mostly mothering is what I thought it would be.'
'Do you like it as much as you thought you would?' she asked.
'Sometimes I don't like it much at all, ' I replied, 'but mostly I like it more than I thought possible.' p. 195"