Today I saw a sticker of two female figures, each donning the iconic triangle, but one in color, clearly a superhero’s cape. The quote read, “It was never a dress.” I laughed and immediately bought some.
We are in the era of “girl power.” Companies such as Dove and Always are seeking to change the way we engage our bodies and understand beauty and femininity. Websites such as A Mighty Girl highlight all the women (and girls) of past and present who mainstream media gloss over. Start up toy companies such as Goldiblox and I Am Elemental hope to raise a new generation of girls who think about themselves and their identity without doubts and questions. It is working.
As the mother of two girls (ages 12 and 9), I can attest to the cultural shift that their generation knows they are wanted, needed, capable, and competent to match any boy on the field, in the classroom, and eventually, in the board room.
Of course, my voice is reinforcing these messages. I want to raise girls who are strong and courageous and know they are gifted to uniquely offer this world goodness and love.
In an intentional attempt to help my eldest daughter transition from child to teen to woman, I am crafting a year long rites of passage year called Becoming. I want to invite her to the company of women, past, present and future and build a scaffolding of femininity upon which she can hang all future doubts, questions, and experiences. It is a mighty task as I have realized I, too am in the process of becoming; it is a journey we are all on.
It seemed fitting to begin by answering the question, “where have you come from?” Ours is a unique story as we lived overseas for 7 years and she was born in Turkey. Only 4 when we left, her memories have fused with our nostalgia and created a mystical place. But it is deeply part of our family narrative. Our home is full of relics, our table often bursting with the aroma of Turkish cuisine, and Turkish has become our secret parent language. To understand the family story and be firmly rooted in her past, we needed to return to the land of her birth. So on the Monday of her birthday week, I picked her up from school and headed to the airport. Baggage secretly in the trunk, I whisked her away on a surprise trip to Istanbul.
Family narratives are powerful influences if not legacies. Sam says to Frodo Baggins, “I wonder what sort of a tale we have fallen into” to express the awe of the adventure they have begun. All children are born into a family tale. What story did you join when you entered this world?
My daughter came from a group of Christians in a land deeply Muslim. Following the minority because they thought it true, these faithful and courageous people are ones to emulate. As we wandered around the cobblestone streets of our old home, I gave her letters that described the determination of Florence Nightingale (who joined the army in Istanbul during the Crimean War), the unashamed celebration of women’s bodies in the Turkish baths, the fortitude of my daughter’s integrity symbolized in the 15th century fortress used to seize Constantinople.
I gave her story. And I invited her into a story larger than Instagram and Snapchat and middle school drama. The weight of our daughters is needed in our world. Only an epic story is large enough for that kind of glory.
Moms do not need to travel to exotic lands or take extravagant trips to invite their daughters into the narrative arc of their family’s tale. Intentionality and imagination is what matters most.