My Experience with Raising Daughters

 

Raising girls is terrifying!

 

As a teacher, I see the struggles our children face today on a daily basis. We live in a very different world now than when I grew up in the 90s. I remember my biggest worries were getting my hair high enough, having the right clothes and worrying if the boy I liked, liked me back. While hair, clothes and boys still trouble girls, today it feels magnified 100%, with iPhones and social media playing a big part.

 

With a magnitude of information readily at their fingertips and the ability to humiliate each other with the push of a button, our already sensitive girls—dealing with puberty and self-identification—are thrown into the lion’s den at such an early age.

 

I watch the guidance counselor at my school run ragged as she tries to help her students deal with the multitude of issues surrounding their middle school lives…detached parents, broken families, drugs, self-harm, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bullying (in school and on social media)…it’s terrifying!

 

Will every adolescent face these challenges? No. But, how do we ensure our kids stay happy and content? The answer is…we can’t. That’s hard to say as a parent, but it’s something I’ve had to come to terms with, otherwise I was going to make myself crazy.

 

We have to remember that our job as parents is to instill in our children the values we deem important, teach them right from wrong and arm them with the tools they need to be self-sufficient, contributing members of society.

 

We hope when they are ready to fly off on their own, we have done enough for them to make the right choices. In the meantime, we have to model this in our own lives.

 

One night, after putting my two girls to bed, I sat to reflect on the day. That morning, I had dropped off my older daughter at summer camp. As she ran over to her group, I watched her say “Hi” to two other girls (mind you, they were 5 at the time), one girl smiled, but the other turned her back on my daughter, then the first girl followed suit.

 

For a moment, my instinct was to run over, comfort my daughter and tell this little girl that what she just did was not nice. But I waited, I hung back to see what my daughter would do. At first, her face dropped and she looked deflated, but after a minute, she picked herself right up and walked over to another little girl who was sitting all alone. I couldn’t hear what she said to her, but they both smiled and started a friendly-looking conversation.

 

I was so proud to see that she didn’t let this incident affect her, but also, that she decided to seek out another girl who was being left out as well. I smile and turned to leave, knowing she would be fine.

 

As I turned around, I caught another mom looking me over. You know that look…it’s not a friendly look, it’s that look which says, “Ugh, what is she wearing?”

 

Well, if you must know, it was 8:00 in the morning and I had my 3-month old in tow, so I had on leggings and a baggy tank with my messy hair on top of my head, and honestly, I don’t even think I had brushed my teeth yet. But who cares? Well, apparently, this woman did. I was so taken back by the look, it stopped me dead in my tracks, I couldn’t help but stare right back at her. You know that stare…that, “What are you looking at?” stare. When she caught my glare, she gave me a fake smile and turned away.

 

The whole way home, I kept thinking how rude this mom was. I was just recently talking to a friend about how adult women are so quick to knock each other down, when we should be supporting each other instead. I was sad that my daughter had to deal with exclusion at such a young age and I was sad that an adult was passing judgement on me, a total stranger to her.

 

Later that day, when I went to pick up my daughter from camp, a friend waved me over. As I walked up to say greet her, THAT mom from the morning was standing next to her. My friend introduced me and guess who’s mom she was…THAT girl’s mom! Huh, I should’ve guessed that one, right?

 

So, as I sat on my bed that night, reflecting, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought about that mom and her daughter and I started to feel sad, for both of them. Sad that neither of them had a model to exemplify acceptance, kindness and overall good nature. They didn’t know any better because it was all they knew. I came to realize that I had to model for my daughter what I preached to her.

 

The next morning, I had a discussion with my daughter about what happened at camp the day before. How the little girl turned her back and how that mom made me feel. I explained to her that I would never want to make anyone feel that way, so when I was introduced to that mom, I smiled, said it was lovely to meet her and engaged in a polite conversation.

 

My daughter asked me why I was so nice, even though the woman hurt my feelings. I told her that maybe if someone else shows her compassion, even when she was mean, that maybe she’ll be compassionate in return.

 

I told my daughter how proud I was that she made a new friend because everyone deserves to feel included. I also told her that we are all human and humans make mistakes, but it is how we deal with our mistakes that makes the difference.

 

Finally, we ended the conversation with me telling her that we will always meet unkind people in the world, but as long as we stay true to ourselves and show kindness in return, it will be okay.

 

Jen

Formerly a publicist, Jen Billeci changed careers ten years ago to start teaching. After receiving her Masters Degree from Fordham University, she spent six years as an elementary teacher. For the past four years, she’s been teaching middle school English & Special Education. She believes the best part of teaching is seeing the sparkle in her student’s eyes as they develop a love for reading and writing. A wife and mother of two wonderful little girls, Jen enjoys everything from gardening to practicing yoga and traveling with her family.