When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I was shocked, afraid and even a little disappointed. It’s a hard pill to swallow. When I think back on it now, it fills me with guilt. How could I have questioned such an amazing gift? Of course, now I can’t imagine it any other way, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take me time to get there.
We didn’t find out the sex of our babies and while I told myself that I didn’t care, I secretly feared having two girls. I have an older brother, so my perspective on sister relationships is somewhat limited, but from what I’ve seen and heard, sister relationships can be vicious, competitive and cruel. The thought of raising girls the same age frightened me. It was overwhelming. Of course, I had twin girls.
I’m now 7 months into motherhood to two amazingly beautiful little girls. Already they’ve defined their personalities and each and every day is a wonder. When I look at them, I wonder if I have what it takes. Will I disappoint them? Can I live up to that perfect image they have of me right now? Will they always light up to the sound of my voice? Will they always smile when I walk into a room? Parenthood is full of fears both rational and irrational. Will I screw up? Will they hate me someday? I believe that I’ll be a good mom because I have to believe that in order to get through the day. I’ll be a good mom because I was raised by a good mom, right? But what does it mean to be a good mom?
For me, a good mom is a person who wins, by successfully earning, the love of their children. My mom won mine and continues to win it each and every day. She won my love by supporting me even when she thought I was making the wrong decision. By being in attendance at every moment big or small. By setting boundaries even when I thought I didn’t need them; by telling me yes and by telling me no. She won my heart by supporting my wild independence even when my dreams got a little too big and a little too bold. She won my heart by being my mom and not my friend. By letting me fail, telling me the truth, and pushing me to try, try, try again. It wasn’t always pretty and she wasn’t always nice, but I knew, no matter what that she was there supporting, cheering, and believing.
So, when I think about how to raise strong, compassionate, independent daughters, these are just a few of the things I’ll show them:
Let them wear ribbons in their hair while playing in the mud: My mother taught me 2 simple rules about beauty; 1) It hurts to be beautiful, and 2) You’re beautiful just as you are. I always thought that those two things somehow conflicted, but the truth is that they make a lot of sense. Tomboys wear pink. Ballerinas sweat. And boys dress up sometimes too.
Encourage them to be the ones people cheer for: My mom used to ask me if I wanted to cheer for people or be the one that people cheered for. Call it vanity, but being cheered for won every time. This is not a dig at cheerleaders. If my girls want to cheer, I’ll support that without hesitation. It’s the underlying message I find important. Be big. Be bold. Be the absolute best you can be.
Show them wise men, so that they aren’t boy crazy: I had a brilliant father, steadfast grandfather and amazing brother. My relationships with the men in my life have always been rock solid and it’s my belief that these relationships formed my ability to sniff out the men from the boys. I want my girls to know good, strong men, so that they grow up to accept nothing less.
Guide them to control their own happiness: My greatest wish for my girls is that they learn how to be alone. I hope they get a formal education, but my greater wish is that they go out and explore, live and learn in the world. I hope that they travel. I hope that they think. I hope that they question everything. I hope that they stand in wander. I hope that they sit in silence. I hope that they look. I hope that they see. Individuals must become who they are, all alone, before they can share that person with another. You cannot be happy with someone else until you’re happy by yourself.
Teach them the importance of enjoying what you do: As a parent you struggle with the deep desire to make your kids happy. If you’re lucky, they’ll find a balance between what they’re good at and what they enjoy. But if they don’t enjoy what they’re good at and they’re not so great at what they enjoy, I’ll support them doing the thing that they enjoy. Inspiration drives greatness and hard work. Patience and desire are very important lessons to learn.
Let them wear pretty shoes! What more can I say? Maybe there are figurative undertones to this statement, but I mean this quite literally.