How We Raise Strong Girls

Do you want to raise a strong daughter? Here is a prayer for moms of daughters.

I want to raise a strong daughter. Of course, the word “strong” means different things to different people. Here’s what it means to me.

I’ll start with my daughter and the strength I already see in her.

She bolted ahead of us on the trail yesterday and picked up a white, round stone, her pigtails capturing flecks of the falling sun as she hoisted the rock into the river. At three years old, my daughter knows her own mind. She feels no shame and would gladly spend her life as a nudist if we let her.

She exudes confidence, curiosity, playfulness, humor, and bravery.

She stretched out her tiny hand at the museum last week and held a blond tarantula, earning a green sticker that said, “I held Rosie.”

Moving over to the next museum worker, she stroked the shiny, ridged back of a two-inch cockroach. Chills ran down my spine. I abhor cockroaches. It took everything in me not to shout and yank her hand away. Calm, and not realizing she just did something most adults wouldn’t be willing to do, she touched two of the most feared creatures without a thought.

I dread the day my daughter dresses in the clothes of shame, fear and self-doubt so many of us wear each day.  When she’s embarrassed to be naked, aware of what others think of her and terrified to try new things.

“Are they yucky?” she asked me, pointing at a terrarium of black scorpions.

“Do you think they’re yucky?” I asked.

She looks to me to define the yucky things in life for her. When you’re three, people, places and things can be easily categorized as “yucky” and “not yucky,” as “good” and “bad.” There are good guys and bad guys and very little in between. But just because I dislike certain bugs, foods or activities, I want to be careful not to influence my daughter to have the same likes and dislikes as me. I want her to be herself, not just a clone of her mother.

We moms are our daughter’s first teachers. A good teacher provides the means for students to learn at their own rate, in their own way and through their own experiences.

We moms are the curators of experiences for our daughters, gathering artifacts and inviting our girls to touch, taste, see, hear, and search for glimpses of God in the museum of life.

As I perch at the beginning of this journey as a mom to a little girl, what does it mean to raise her to become a strong woman? What wishes morph into prayers as I watch her toss stones into rivers and cradle deadly spiders?

Perhaps they’re the same prayers you have for your daughter?

To me, each of these prayers is a plea to see strength birthed in her:

I pray she knows she’s adored by God and by her parents.

I pray she is radiant, full of light and life.

I pray she weeps with compassion, bends to the ground in humility and allows others to march first in her life parade at times, though she is strong enough to lead on her own.

I pray she asks questions, listens to answers, bucks social norms, embraces a holy curiosity and has reverence for diverse people, rugged nature and God-sightings in the ordinary.

I pray she knows her gifts and how to use them.

I pray she tastes, sees, touches and hears heaven on Earth.

I pray she learns early on how to say “no,” but has the courage to say “yes” when the time is right.

I pray she falls in love with Jesus. The real-deal Love, not just the cultural Christian variety.

I pray she intuits a need and meets it if she can.

I pray she laughs often and chooses humor over negativity and critical words.

I pray she holds few regrets in a long life.

I pray her life experiences–the suffering, celebrating, successes and failures–cultivate patience, peace, and wisdom.

I pray she is not afraid to love wildly and be wildly loved.

Sure, I hope she enjoys what I like–reading, sleeping to the sound of cicadas in summer evenings, dramatic thunderstorms, running her hand from mane to rump on a horse, trying exotic foods, and collecting fascinating friends, but I also need to give her space to try on different personalities to find out who she is meant to be apart from me.

To have a strong daughter, I need to be strong enough to keep quiet at times and let her live into that woman. My prayers spoken over her as she sleeps with her small arm tossed over her stuffed dog culminate in a simple sentence–that she knows who she is and who she’s not.

This is what I mean when I say I want to raise a strong daughter.

What we want for our daughters is ultimately what we want for ourselves.

To be cherished.

To be respected.

To be safe.

To make a difference.

To be strong.

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What about you? What is your prayer for your daughter? Who do you hope she will become? What is your role in her journey? 

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Join me this month as we explore this theme of raising strong girls. I have way too many ideas and not enough time, but my goal is to post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays this month. Shoot me an email at scrapingraisins (dot) gmail (dot) com if you’d like to guest post on this topic.

As it’s sex trafficking awareness month, I’ll also be sharing some resources on that topic. Sign up for my mid-month digest and end-of-month secret newsletter to stay updated on all the posts as well as to get links to interesting books, podcasts, recipes and articles I’ve come across this month.

Related posts:

Dear Daughter

What I Want for My Children

What My Pregnant Body is Teaching Me

I just took a personality test and discovered that I am “The Achiever.”

This wasn’t a huge surprise.

I’m the type who decides and actually follows through with goals.  I wanted to be a runner, so I started running daily.  I was determined to learn to cook, so I made a weekly menu and forced my roommates to join me for our home-cooked meal every day for a year.  When I decided to start blogging last year, I jumped in the day before a challenge to write EVERY DAY for 31 days—and I did it.  And when I moved to China and saw that a friend of mine who had been there for a month was already advancing in his language skills, I found a tutor to come over EVERY DAY to help me.  And after five years, I learned to speak, read and write Chinese.

Hello.  I am Leslie Verner and I am an Achiever.

But now this achiever is also a mom.  I have two children with one on the way, and now any figurative race I run is a bit like competing with your legs tied together.  AND you’re blind-folded.  AND you have to run backwards.
So today, my major “achievements” of the day amounted to getting my children dressed, fed a semi-nutritious meal, teeth brushed, curly boy hair tamed with water and wispy girl hair combed into a tiny pony tail.  I’m even proud to admit that not only are my own teeth brushed, but I even washed my hair for the first time in a week and managed to go for a walk.

At the beginning of the summer, I had aspirations of daily Bible time with my kids, running until I was 36 weeks pregnant like I did with my daughter (I made it to 20 weeks this time), visiting a diverse park in my city once a week to strike up friendships with international student families and actually planning activities using Pinterest as a springboard (ha).

What I didn’t take into account was that pregnancy would suck the wind from my self-motivated, driven, over-achieving sails.  I sit here now, sails flapping in the wind, with my kids stuck (screaming) in my boat in the middle of a sea that I can’t navigate us out of.  And I just can’t find the energy to hoist up these sails, make a decision about where to go or even admire the scenery.

But God is beginning to show me that this hugely pregnant body of mine that feels more like a handicap than a blessing is, in fact, swaddled tightly in grace.

Pregnancy is the strong arm that forces the achievers like me to just stop.

Stop doing, achieving, scheming, strategizing and striving and just BE.  Be a mommy.  Be a wife.  Be a beloved daughter of God.  Be served, loved and spoiled.  Be simple.  Cut corners.  Accept foot rubs.  Do less. Sit on benches. Walk slowly. Order take-out. Indulge in pedicures.  Let people carry things. Take elevators. Receive.

Embrace this season of slowness that feels like weakness.  There is strength to be found there.

A year ago I was training for a half marathon, running about 10 miles in a go. I explored the city, ran trails hugging the Rocky Mountains, crossed streams and laughed at prairie dogs that warned one another of my arrival just in time to dive back into their holes, their whistles trailing behind them.  Today, it took me 40 minutes to walk less than two miles, with a brief stop at a bench at the halfway point.  At 36 weeks pregnant, I can’t go fast or far from home.  My feet pound the same steps of the same path and I’m passed by the same retired go-getters who comment that “I’m walking for two” or “Must be any day now, eh?”

But in the slowness and the sameness, I strain to hear that still, small voice that speaks to me as I pass one strong tree after another, standing stately by the stream my path parallels.  The Voice whispers, “She shall be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water that brings forth its fruit in its season.  And its leaf does not wither; and in whatever she does, she prospers.”  And the words, strangely familiar, are the first of many such songs of hope for the weary that I happen to come across in Psalm 1 in the few minutes of quiet I snatch in the mornings.

Firmly planted. Watered. Bearing fruit.

Prospering.

Without even moving?

Like the story that Jesus shares with His disciples about birds not panicking over lack of food or flowers not being frantic about finding clothing, I can sink into the soil here for a little while.  A constantly transplanted seed cannot thrive as well as one that stays firmly planted.  And so God seems to be urging me to remain as I am.  Accept this gift.  Dig deep, be watered and revel in the slow work of God.

“Cease striving and know that I am God.  I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth,” another psalm singer belts out.

My pregnant body is teaching me the beauty of diminishing, distilling my faith into a silent pool to soak in instead of a body of water to forge.

But this changed body is also teaching me about love.

It is only twisted God humor that chose women, who innately struggle more with body image than men, to be the ones to gain weight, be stretched, left with permanent scars and marks like the rotten milk ruts left under the lazy susan of my parent’s kitchen table, charted with purple veins mapping courses to unknown lands, left with too much saggy skin some places and not enough padding in others and a belly button that resembles a Muppet nose when all is said and done.  Good one, God.

Or perhaps rather than a malicious meting out of a curse on our bodies, it is God’s upside-down way He likes to hand out unexpected blessings.  A severe mercy.

Sometimes I like to stand naked in front of the mirror, marveling at this ludicrous body that doesn’t feel like mine.  I tenderly touch the too-tight skin stretched over a tiny human body and soul growing within mine. I’m in awe of this mystery.  But I also fear that my husband will laugh at making love to a body that is so deformed and abnormal—so different from the woman that he married.  And yet all he ever says is exactly what I need to hear:

“You are beautiful.”

“You are the perfect size.”

“Your body is incredible.”

And in those moments I know that I am truly loved.  Not for how fast I am, what a good cook I am, what I can achieve in school, how many languages I am fluent in, how creative of a mom I am, or how unblemished and perfect my feminine body is.

I am loved because I am loved.

Not even loved in spite of being pregnant, but loved even because I am pregnant.  I’m loved just because I’m loved.   And I will be loved even after this baby leaves its forever tattoos behind.

Pregnancy is a gift.  God gives some women the inconvenient, uncomfortable, sometimes embarrassing experience of pregnancy to teach us that we can no longer define ourselves by our achievements or by our appearance.  He wants us to be weak so that we will accept help from others.  He wants us to slow down so that we will notice more.  He wants us to be needy so that we will look around for healing and find that He is already feeding, clothing and nurturing us in ways unique to us.  He wants us to cease striving and know that He is God—and that we are not.  And He wants us to change form so that we will know that we were never loved for our bodies to begin with.

And so in these final weeks of pregnancy, though I feel frustrated at being grounded when my over-achieving self wants to be out doing, I will think about those strong trees firmly planted by streams of water, calmly stretching their roots down to the stream.  They do not fear heat or cold, rain or storm, because they are nourished by the Source of everything good.  Just because they are not moving doesn’t mean there isn’t growth happening.  And they know that not only will be they be taken care of, but that they are lavishly loved, adored even.  Just like me.

Linking up with Velvet Ashes {Nest}

" But God is beginning to show me that this hugely pregnant body of mine that feels more like a handicap than a blessing is, in fact, swaddled tightly in grace."