The little strawberry blonde adjusts her swim goggles and looks around. “Mom, I’m a little nervous” she whispers. It’s 7:25am and she’s anxious to get in the pool. Finally the whistles blows and she off. Down and back. 50 meters. She quickly climbs out of the pool and races (walks quickly down the pool deck) to the outdoor transition area. Smiling. Dry off, t-shirt, shorts, shoes, bike helmet and she’s off again. Up the hill out of the parking lot, turn left, then right up another hill. Remember to change gears at the top of the hill. It’s a quick 1.5 km and she’s back at the transition zone. Helmet off and back up the hill on foot. She’s slowed down a little but still has a smile on her face. Half a kilometer later and she’s coming around the building. She surges up the slope and crosses the finish line with a huge grin. My six year old daughter has just finished her first triathalon.
From the day she was born…no actually the minute she was born….I just knew that this little ball of piss and vinegar would be a handful. She came into the world early and quickly and never looked back. Maybe it’s the red in her hair. Maybe it’s that she is just a teeny bit like her grandfather (okay, a lot like him). Whatever it is, I’ve known all along that life would never be boring with this one. She goes at everything with all the gusto that she can handle, talks a mile a minute (all the time) and lives to learn new things. If there were more hours in a day, she would want to fill them up with another activity. Constant, constant movement and did I mention she talks a lot?
With this level of spirit, however, comes a certain degree of attitude. Shoulders set, hands on hips, eyes on fire kind of attitude. It can be a challenge, but I know that it goes hand in hand with having a strong personality. The question is, how do I deal with the attitude without squashing the fire? What does it take to raise a confident, well mannered, ambitious girl? With six nephews and not one niece, nobody in my family has really been prepared to answer that question for me. I’ve got lots of friends with teenage girls, so I’ve been picking peoples brains for tips and ideas on the subtleties of bringing up a girl. There are lots of things to consider in these days of social media and body image. I’m learning, slowly, that it’s all about building confidence.
She’s not alone though. And neither am I. Since she was about two, she’s been friends with a couple of other like minded little girls. Imagine three of them at the park all wanting things done THEIR way. As moms we weren’t so much watching out for them as we were refereeing. Girls, I’ve discovered, are not always the nicest of friends. Let’s face it, girls can be bitchy from an early age. And yes, even my little darling has had her share of moments. “You not invited to my birthday party.” Is a popular threat in the five to six set. We’ve been fortunate, that so far these comments have seemed to roll off her back. That may not always be the case. I like to think that I’m prepared for that day, but again, I’m not really. The truth is, I’m totally winging it.
So building confidence is the key. I get that. I want her to be strong and stand on her own, but I also want her to know that she can ask for help to. Something I’m not very good at. In a Forbes Magazine article by Samantha Ettus, she says that we should minimize the Princess for our girls, to avoid the belief that girls should just keep house and wait for their prince to come. I kind of agree but I don’t completely agree. Every girl (or woman) should have a little princess in them somewhere that enjoys being taken care of. Of course she also needs to be able to kick the Prince to the curb if he doesn’t behave properly.
So as I tread lightly through the early days of raising a girl, I often look back at my younger days. Was I this difficult? Yup, I’m pretty sure I was. Every time my daughter is stomping up the stairs and slamming her bedroom door in defiance, I remember what my mom said when I would argue with her. “One day you will have your own daughter and I hope she’s just like you”. Well, my mom got her wish but The Best Thing in Life is having a daughter who is just like me….only better.