The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Raising a daughter part 2

There were, of course, aspects of raising a daughter rather different from raising a son.  You don't have to worry about sons getting pregnant, for instance.  that doesn't mean you don't care about their behavior, but that is a bit of a shift.  My thoughts on when sexual activity becomes reasonable (when you can support yourself financially) grew out of these concerns. But in the main, I just wanted a healthy kid, and considered most aspects of her maturation to be of the universal human kind.
When her baby fat was slow to come off, I got a bit concerned, but because she didn't live with me, it was hard to monitor her eating and exercising habits as well as I wanted to.  Also, I didn't want to give her somethign to rebel against, or a reason to feel bad about herself--being raised in a virtually all-white town gave her enough of that, believe me.  But I knew she wanted to have a bomb body, because I watched the videos she watched, and knew that the guys she was attracted to had muscular, toned bodies. In my book, that means she wanted to be the feminine equivilent of those men: a similar set of values and disciplines would create the curves that balanced their muscles.  So, it slowly became possible for me to point out that these guys were attracted to women with similar disciplines and lifestyles.  Every time she tried to take the position that body-fat content was mostly hereditary, I gently pointed out that obesity yields quite nicely to changes in behavior.  That it can be difficult to sustain those changes in behavior due to emotional problems, but in that case, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that people with weight issues have emotional problems--they're like alcoholics that carry bottles on their belts.  Awareness isn't the same as action, however.  She fell out of karate classes once they got more difficult, and although I worked hard to get her into shape, it doesn't take a whole lot of bad eating habits to undue a few hours of sweating per week.  So the serious work had to wait until she was living with me, down here.
Teaching her to be honest was mostly a matter of being honest with her--that gave me the right to demand reciprocity.  The same with keeping her word.  There are problems with getting her to clean her room, but then I'm not the neatest person in the world.  She's never gotten straight A's, although she tests VERY highly...but she certainly gets better grades than I got, so that's not bad either.
She's been good with her friends (although she had no boyfriends), enjoys working, and has accepted a healthy physical discipline.  At  this point, then, I can begin to teach her the lessons she will really need, simply by drawing her attention to the connection between causes and effects in her life.
I remember a friend asked me to talk with her daughter, who was having unprotected sex with a boyfriend.  I knew that the daughter was steeled to be lectured, so instead I just politely and non-confrontationally asked her what her intentions were. She said she wanted to marry this guy.  It came out that she felt that if she got pregnant, he would marry her.  I asked her if this tactic contained the level of honesty and integrity that she would want in a marriage, in other words if her behavior would actually get her the result she wanted.  If so, great, go for it.  If not, she might re-think her options.
It worked like gangbusters.  And I think that is at the core of my child-rearing theories.  I was never so happy as the day (when she was aobut 7) when I realized Nicki understood logical arguments sufficiently that I wouldn't have to spank her any more.  Then, it's just a matter of getting them to CLARIFY their goals, understand the results of their actions, and make their own judgements as to whether their actions will actually take them to their goals.  Sometimes they are afraid to dream, and we have to help them.  Sometimes they can't see the link between cause and effect, and we have to help them.  But by drawing her attention countless times to that body-mind-spirit connection, day by day she is getting a clearer picture of how she can live her life with grace, power, and dignity. 
the choices ahead of her are her own.  But I will do everything in my power to attune her sensitivity to the connection between the inner and the outer worlds before she leaves the nest.  And I thank God for this chance to ease her passage to adulthood.


1 comment:

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