I want my daughters to fail.

by Alicia on April 6, 2015

I want my daughters to fail.

I want my daughters to fail so hard.

While you talk of not burning bridges, I whisper to my daughters “maybe just take the river route”. Bravery starts at the breath right before the moment where fear renders you immobile.

Alicia, Annika, Maëlle, IsabellaI mother from a place of comfort with failure. I like the answer “I don’t know.” There’s so much beauty in admitting we don’t know. It gives us both permission to be imperfect, and the opportunity to learn something new. And it offers a gift with purchase to your neighbour who then holds it like a free pass to admit that maybe they don’t know either. And on and on that goes, better than any pay it forward coffee line you’ve ever been in.

It’s scary to be wrong. It’s scary to fail. There’s a fear in letting my daughters see that I have cracks and flaws and I’m just making shit up as I go. Growing up I always just wanted to be a grown up, someone who knew everything and how to succeed at every small and large task. I remember sitting in the picture window of my old house, staring at a young woman walking her dog on a leash down my street. I thought to myself, “I wonder in which grade they teach you how to walk a dog.” I thought adults would teach me the right way to do anything. Then I became an adult. Who owns a dog. And no one ever taught me how to walk the damn thing.

Some of us fall into a trap as mothers. That trap looks like perfection. It looks like every Homes & Garden landscaped yard, surrounded by a picket fence painted the perfect shade of seashell white. Inside our motherhood trap there are always peonies in vases, Pinterested Whole30 compliant recipes on the perfectly clean stove, and an adorable kitten perched whimsically on an afghan you crocheted last week sometime between volunteering at the soup kitchen and chairing the PTA meeting. Look a little closer at that woman in that trap. SHE IS ON FIRE. Her eyes are dead because her insides are a mass of flames from the trying so damn hard to make it look like she doesn’t even have to try to be perfect, she just is… That woman is a mother who is terrified someone will point out her flaws. She’s certain her own mother was always smarter than this.

I intimately know this woman’s inner monologue, because I was her.

 

I am mothering potential mothers. Whoa. I want them to know that the bar of motherhood isn’t that high…in fact, it doesn’t even exist. We just fabricate it, and then end up resenting what we’ve made. We’re trying to mimic the perfect, putting on the face that we’ve got this whole thing under control and there’s no need to challenge. (Oh sweet hell please never actually challenge it, I’m weak and vulnerable and terrified and wrong, so very wrong all the time…ignore me, envy me, exalt me, just please never ask me.)

So I’ve decided I’m burning more than bridges. I’m gonna burn that trap down too. I’m standing up and saying I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING HERE…so let’s just figure it out together. I’m teaching my daughters that they can tell their daughters the truth: that moms don’t really know everything and that’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. That moms can learn from their kids in real time. I’m telling them that vulnerability will make them more friends than faking it ever will. That bravery is built on weakness, and growth is a product of bravery, and knowledge is the seeds of growth that you dropped when you failed. So, to fail is to be brave. And what’s more brave than stripping off the armour of perfection and standing there asking for help?

I want my daughters to fail so hard. Because I hope they teach their daughters, and their mother, that it’s brave to fail.

 

 

Speaking of failure…I auditioned for Detroit’s 2015 Listen To Your Mother show with this piece & didn’t get in. I still love the piece so much, and still think Listen To Your Mother was one of the most moving shows I’ve ever watched live. Absolutely worth going if there’s one in your area. 

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They DO grow up, eh?

by Alicia on March 18, 2015

I mean, that’s why we had kids, right? So we could watch them grow up? Participate actively in their development into functioning adults who hopefully contribute to society as a whole?

So why the long faces when they do something that their entire life has been propelled toward?

When my girls each started walking, I was thrilled for them. Hell, I was thrilled for me! Mobile daughters was a lovely milestone in my life, it brought lots of independence and some amusing moments that only can belong to a newly toddling, somewhat pudgy, babyfaced kid. I didn’t “want to push them down” or “sob at their baby phase going away”. Yes, it’s bittersweet, realizing that I am seeing a lot of these milestones for the last time. I have no more babies, they won’t happen again. But then, Bella only ever took her first steps once too. And Nik only got one first day of school. Maë had one first word, just like every other kid on the planet. So I’m technically an old pro at watching milestones come and go quickly and, by that logic, so is every parent.

May2013-March2015 All three girlsI read this article the other day, the message of which resonated very much with my view on parenting and my own constant growing up. My struggle doesn’t lie in the act of them growing and doing new things, but rather in the guilt that I don’t get attached to those things. I’m usually really excited about them. Signing each of my kids up for Kindergarten was thrilling! I worried a little that they’d have a period of struggle, but I was already prepared to feel secondary victory when they found their way through. I don’t stress about first nights spent away from home (to be fair here, our families have been the recipients of each of our kids’ first sleepovers, so that helps ease my mind), I had the start of the menstrual discussion with Bella in the hallway between my front door and my kitchen without much fanfare, they’ve each had their ears pierced and that didn’t affect me at all other than I thought they looked super cute. But then I look around at  my social network and 3 out of every 4 moms is having an emotional crisis at their kid reaching some milestone in their life like first days of school or bus rides or report cards or whatever. And it affects me, because I feel like maybe I’m broken, or that my kids are missing some important facet of the parent-child relationship and they’ll require therapy for the fact that their mom didn’t seem to give a fuck about their first school concert. (I didn’t, by the way. I laughed through it and didn’t even think to invite a grandparent because it didn’t seem like a big enough deal to travel for. It was cute, but they do cute shit all the time at home and I don’t invite anyone there either.)

I want to see my kids grown up. I was never comfortable in the baby stage, I find my groove in each real conversation I get to have with my girls. I grow as a mother in the moments I can really feel them trust me. And, to learn what trust means and how it looks and how it changes, they have to grow up. They have to have experiences they can’t really share, to learn where their threshold is for opening up. I struggle with the term “lean on me” because it implies they need me in order to succeed. They don’t. They need my guidance, but they needed it before that moment. In that moment I’m not there. My lessons are, hopefully, if I’ve done my job. But that moment of jump? They can’t lean on me, they are all alone. And that doesn’t scare me at all. It gives me those little tingles of excitement because it means I get to glimpse who they are, who they’re turning into, how they deal with struggle, how they express pride and joy and defeat.

I got into parenting for the end game. And I’m ok with that, but am I missing something? Genetically or emotionally am I missing a piece that I’ll regret later? (Can you regret your personality?) Am I trying to justify the plain fact that I don’t actually feel very emotionally attached to the moments they have? Prove I’m a good parent? Profess to the ether that I provide them stability and confidence in other ways? (And who even cares? I guess I care if my daughters care, but by the time they can tell me that they do, I’ll have screwed them up already, soooooo…::saves for therapy times three::)

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“Oh. Maëlle has taken on her sister’s sense of style, I see…” was the genuinely good-natured comment offered by Annika’s teacher on a pick up one evening with two other Ladies in tow.

My daughters’ choices of attire are sometimes usually always just left of traditional and would really never be found in a magazine or Pinterest spread. But they do have their own infrequent hashtags on Instagram. They have full and easy access to all pieces of clothing that may or may not currently fit them. They are instructed each morning to “eat breakfast, get dressed, brush your teeth and hair”. Unless the parents are whine-asked to help, they come down the stairs in whatever getup they’ve pulled together. We have two rules:

    1. Cover all your bits. (both weather & modesty dictated)

    2. No rips or stains.

That is it.

The thing is, it’s helpful in more ways than just a time saver. Ryan and I don’t have to fuss & argue about clothes in the already crazy morning routine of getting three littles ready for school. (Sidebar: whyyyy is it always a shock to them, every day? ‘I have to brush my teeth?!’ YES. Nine years running now, child. So slow on the uptake.) We don’t fight with them about their decision to wear 7 shirts and a slightly too short pair of pants with a long pair of socks pulled over the bare skin. We wouldn’t wear it, but that’s ok because they never asked us to wear it. We teach our daughters that they need to be respectful of their bodies by covering the parts that are private and obeying school dress code rules. We respect them enough to let them reveal a part of who they are in how they dress. To represent themselves in a way they are proud of, or just plain like. They can change their minds. They can mismatch, they can choose two different socks on purpose, they can put a dress over a long sleeve and a short sleeve shirt. I.Do.Not.Care.

I dress the way I like. It’s maybe too out-there for some, and that’s ok. I like my body and I want the girls to see that confidence.

#noddlefashionshow

 

FAQs

Do they look ridiculous? Yes, sometimes.

Is it what I would have picked out? Very rarely.

Does it embarrass me? It used to, but not at all anymore. I used to think it made us look like we weren’t able to take care of our kids. They have clothing, I’m taking care of them just fine.

Do I ever pick their clothes out for them? For very special occasions (family photos, funerals, fancy parties) I will offer them two or three choices. Because they are used to options, they will often mix & match from the pieces, and I keep that in mind.

Do I worry they’ll get picked on or made fun of at school? A little, yes. But this goes back to the confidence in themselves thing. Bella takes a little more care in what she wears, I don’t know if that’s older age or personality, or both. I definitely don’t want them to think they’re going to get picked on about clothes. So I’d rather not instill in them right now something that might not ever happen or matter to them. If they get bullied over their look and it affects them, we’ll talk about it and make some changes that work for us.

Do friends and family make comments? Not to my face:) And it wouldn’t matter if they did, unless it mattered to my kid. I’m not uncomfortable with an adverse opinion.

 

I don’t care how they dress, I only care how they feel. I want them to be brave and confident, and sometimes that means they stand out a little in style. Good for them. Rock on, girls, you do you.

Maëlle's trip to the grocery store, March 2015

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A first hand perspective on Finnish schools vs North American schools

February 25, 2015

My twitter feed is varied with every type of account from family, to Moms and Dads, to local breweries, to bird & carrot & bear parody accounts (not kidding), and a smattering of educational tweeters. My Life, represented by social media. This popped into my stream this morning and, well yes I was intrigued. 9 Reasons […]

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No really, I don’t want a Valentine’s Day gift

February 3, 2015

I heard a radio ad this morning that really ticked me off. Like, I full-voice screamed in my car it pissed me off so much. “Guys, when your girl tells you she doesn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day? What she really means is get her something for Valentine’s Day.”  Sweet hell, the layers of wrong […]

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