Raising daughters and sons is different. Before I had children I was a nurse and raised in traditional medicine. The argument often posed in past years was whether nature or nurture had a greater impact on the development of a child.
In other words, were girls just born the way they were, or were they raised in a certain environment that encouraged them to develop differently. My first children were twins and when I learned there was one boy and one girl I was excited about my own little experiment I could hold at home. What if I raise them to believe the same things, play with the same toys and I had the same expectations of both of them? Would they grow up to be the same person?
I started out with great intentions but soon realized that my own upbringing caused me to treat my daughter in a different way than I treated my son. It was difficult, but I worked hard to make the experience for both of them the same because I believed that if my daughter had more strength and bravery and my son more humility they would become better people.
It turned out that both nature and nurture were important in the development of my children’s personality, as psychologist have come to recognize over the past 20 years. What I experienced at home was a blessing, to be able to raise my children in a way that I saw fit, while recognizing the expectations of society.
Everything didn’t turn out the way I planned, nothing ever does! But I learned a few things along the way then I’ve been able to transfer into raising my last daughter.
I’ve learned that it’s more important my daughter is brave in her decisions and her desires then it is that she is perfect. Too often our society has different expectations of boys and girls. Boys are raised to take chances and to be brave in their decisions while girls are expected to have the answer before the question is even asked.
Girls are expected to look pretty and boys are expected to excel in academics and athletics. The interesting part about it all is that girls do better at school up until 4th or 5th grade. Until 4th or 5th grade they ask the right questions and have better grades in math and science than the boys. But something happens in 5th grade. Whether it’s a function of their hormones kicking in, or changing expectations of the teachers and changing expectations of society. But for whatever reason, suddenly girls are no longer as smart as boys and don’t test as well.
They didn’t suddenly lose IQ points. They didn’t suddenly unlearn the math and science they grasped so easily in the earlier grades. But at some point society tells our girls that science and math is best left for the boys and girls can excel in creative endeavors. And by the way, make sure you know the answer before you ask the question.
I believe it’s our responsibility as parents to teach our girls that it’s okay to make brave decisions. Doing brave and crazy things is okay as long as they protect their health. Pursuing athletic endeavors at a level only previously thought to be male-dominated is okay. It shouldn’t be that only a couple girls are encouraged to pursue their dreams if they’re dangerous. Because, when we encourage our girls to make brave decisions they are able to contribute to the growth of society in a way that testosterone-driven boys can’t.
It creates a balance in the workplace and a balance at home that Jesus wanted for our society. Throughout the Bible, Jesus valued the work that women did in his ministry and the work they did in society. He didn’t speak down to them, he didn’t devalue them and he lifted them up as examples to others. In a society where men were revered and women were seen and not heard, Jesus flipped the table and made it different.
It’s time that we take a page from His book and give our girls permission to make brave decisions and to be the people they want to be. My youngest daughter dresses each day in something black, gray or white. Her entire wardrobe consist of shirts and pants that are either black or gray. There isn’t a stitch of color that exists in that closet. And that’s the way she likes it. She isn’t Goth. She doesn’t practice Black Arts and she isn’t interested in New Age woo-woo sticks. This is just her personality and her decision.
She wants to play basketball and she does well in math. She’s not interested in science and she can hold a conversation with just about anybody. She loves Jesus and she wants to serve our Lord in a way that He has gifted her. She can make brave decisions to do the things in life God is calling her to do because she gets permission as a child at home and encouragement by her siblings to do the things she wants to do.
As my older twins were growing up I was so wrapped up in discovering whether or not nature or nurture had a greater impact on their development, that I sometimes forgot my own bias and prejudices as I interacted with them. My oldest daughter is learning to make brave decisions and her husband is an immense support and encouragement to her. I wish my oldest son would not make such crazy decisions on his motorcycle, but it’s his life and he gets to do with it what he wants.
I believe it’s time that as parents, we remember our children grow up to be people. They get to make these decisions on their own because they get to suffer the consequences. These aren’t our consequences and they aren’t our decisions. But as they’re growing, it’s our responsibility to guide them into making BRAVE decisions and to leave perfection behind.
Being perfect doesn’t accomplish anything, for anyone. Being perfect the first time just means you weren’t brave enough to try it until you were positive you could accomplish it. It’s time to teach our girls to lean into life and not to be afraid that they will fail. The mark of courage and success is not whether or not we fail, but how quickly we get up and try again, learning from the mistakes that we’ve already made and anticipating the ones to come.