Wednesday, February 10

My Girl

This girl, I love.
My first born, welcoming into motherhood, sleepless nights, engorged breasts, and cause of unexplainable contentment in my new role, new job as Mama nine years ago.
Annaliese is funny, creative, helpful and wants to be a missionary midwife when she's grown. I won't tell you in what country, because that terrifies me, and if that's where God is calling her, He'll get me over that fear, right? All this is her, her dreams and goals, and I love seeing how they develop, how she devours books about missionaries, impoverished countries, and curls up every morning by the fire with her open Bible, unprompted.
I always feel on alert raising our children, especially raising our daughters. This afternoon while the kids were getting their lunches together and we were all in the kitchen together, noisy and busy, I began to think of the important things we need to be intentional about in raising daughters.
Here are some of the things that God has brought to our attention in raising daughters:
1.) The need for valuing femininity.
This is such a touchy subject area because we live in a culture where lines between masculinity and femininity have been smudged and blurred and any trying to re-draw clear ones is met with terms like "legalism" or "anti-feminism". When's the last time you heard of a man arguing for his right to do everything a woman can do? One thing is clear, and that is that God didn't make one androgynous human sex, he made male and female, each with differing and complimentary strengths and weaknesses. We also read in the Bible that God does not prefer one gender over another or one social status over another. He prefers unity. This is a verse sometimes taken out of context to promote gender neutrality.
For a few examples, our daughters don't have fist fights with their brothers, they don't dress androgynously, they are learning lady-like manners and habits...
2.) We acknowledge and value modesty.
Our daughters are the only ones at the pool in the summer not in a two piece bathing suit. I've had eyes rolled at me when I've been asked the "why" in regards to modesty (more so by christians, unchurched moms seem much more open to discussing and understanding - why is that?) but the truth is, I'm not that into the sexualization of my toddler and school age daughters any more than I will be when they are young ladies. I wore bikinis. I loved the attention it brought. I deeply regret those years and that attitude of my heart. Now I've learned that me being cute and sexy is for my husband's enjoyment and his alone. Do I want to look nice and presentable at the beach - of course. Same as at home.
This is what we teach our daughter (and sons). We teach them that their bodies are wonderful gifts and they are made to honor God with everything they have, body, soul and mind. Caught by a sister while he was changing, one of our sons yelled at her, saying, "hey, you're not my wife, don't look at me!" It was difficult to keep a straight face at that one. :) How about the son that skipped down a hill on a walk one day, saying, "when I get a wife, I will see her NAKED!" (we're working on appropriateness :)
3.) We value good friendships for our daughters.
This goes for the boys too, but girls are more likely to be swayed by friendships and emotion and peer pressure. Annaliese does not have a big slew of friends, though she is friendly towards everyone and has a very outgoing personality. She has a few, close girlfriends. I know their parents, their intentionality in parenting their daughters, and I can trust that my daughter is "safe" in these friendships. It might not be a popular view and I might be deemed overprotective, but there is so many examples and evidence to support the outcome which comes of not choosing your children's friends wisely.
How do you be intentional about choosing your children's friends? Invite them over. Often. That's about all it takes. Watch their families, what they value, who they allow their kids to hang out with. Don't send your daughter to someone's home that you've never been in or have not spent considerable time with the parents or child. Just use practical wisdom here and you'll be alright.
We also talk with our kids about what to look for in a friend and what attributes people will look for in them, when seeking their friendship. The best way to have these talks with your kids is to ask a few open ended questions and then guide the answers they offer with scripture.
4.)We value modeling Biblical womanhood.
Annaliese knows that if God brings her a husband that she will go where he goes. She views children as a blessing of marriage, not a burden. She verbalizes, in conversation, that if God blesses her with a family, her thoughts need to be on caring for them before a career or hobby.
Oh, this makes some people so angry! Immediately they picture the barefoot and pregnant, tired, depressed women in bondage and slavery to her environment. I wish those people could visit here, or friends homes and see the joy involved in mothering.
5.) We value modeling a godly marriage...
and talking about what makes a marriage work and how to handle conflict. We try to model a relationship where each partner has their own relationship with God and where this is the basis for unity and love in the home.
Everything I have to offer, is Sean's. Everything he has to offer, he offers to me. There is no 50/50 but both of us working 100 percent toward the goal of building a strong marriage and family.
Around the table we've discussed with our kids what to look for in a spouse. We're still learning about courtship, but hope this is more the route we can teach our children to follow in trusting God to bring them a mate.
6.) We value praying for our daughters.
Parenting teens of either gender slightly overwhelms me so I remind myself of the parents who have raised godly young men and women and have loved the teen years. And I pray often that God will continue to give me wisdom in raising each of our children.
For those of you raising, or with already grown daughters, what wisdom can you share?


19 comments:

Kim said...

Wonderful post! I really enjoyed it.

We only have one daughter (who is 9), and I am sometimes a bit miffed at how to raise her "femininely". She is a "tom boy" and prefers black to pink, sports to dance, jeans and t-shirts to anything frilly. She is extremely loving with her brothers and can take care of a baby like nobody's business. I know she'll make a great mother one day. However, I do struggle a little bit with the fact that she doesn't seem to value her femininity, if that makes sense. She understands modest, and agrees, but it is sometimes hard for me to see her dressing in a more masculine way. Don't get me wrong...I don't think she needs to wear frilly pink dresses and bows in her hair, but sometimes I do think she needs to dress and behave a bit more in a feminine manner. She has 3 brothers so I guess this can be tough. Especially since I grew up dressing just like she did (only worse) and have only recently begun to make some changes in that department. How can I help instill more feminine values in her, without crushing "who she is". Sorry, that was long!

mandi said...

well- my daughter is younger- she is newly 6, so i'm not sure that i'd be sharing anything new with more seasoned moms. i agree with all that you shared. something at this age that we think about a lot is the type of books our children are exposed to, and the toys they play with. we choose toys based on if that toy were real, would i want he/she to be friends with my child. also- the matter of friends is so important to us. i pray daily that God will bring girls from good families into my daughter's life (and of course-our life).
this is a good post. there is so much we have to offer to God daily on behalf of our sweet children.

Ways of Zion said...

oh thank you! Just what I needed to be reminded of today!

Diane said...

Great list and I know that you and Sean are doing all you can do see these things instilled in your children. Proud to be a friend you trust with your children. :O)

Anonymous said...

You're doing a great job, thinking, planning, praying, discussing... Your efforts will be blessed. (Linda)

Breedale said...

Hannah,

These are all great examples of how to raise a girl appropriately. Mine are also younger than yours so I think you have far more experience than me already, but one thing I would like to focus on with my girls is accepting the person God made. Our society is so vain and although limiting exposure to media can curb this, images of what people deem as beautiful are everywhere. I want my girls to appreciate that God made them in his image and therefore they should be accepting of their own differences as beauty. I love your views on modesty and dressing young girls like adults. So true!

Sarah said...

I really appreciate your insight into raising daughters. My oldest 2 are boys and for a long time I have been comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt and a more casual life just to keep up with them. My daughter is 3 now and lets just say I'm having a change of heart. Its funny how the Lord can use a little picture of me(my daughter looks just like me at her age) to help me access whether everything is good and pleasing in his sight.

What a blessing for your daughter to have a calling on her life so early and for you to have the opportunity to help shape her. My younger sister was exactly the same and from a young age declared she would go to Africa. She is the most gregarious of the 5 siblings and this past year she has been spending a year in Ethiopia having been once already. It has been hard for my own mom but really such a growing experience for all of us as a family as we look at the excess of our lives here and ask God what He would have each of us do to serve him and what He wants us to give up that is getting in the way. In case you need a little extra reading, her blog is: http://anyroadanycost.wordpress.com/

-thanks again for sharing your insights-

Emily said...

i don't have much wisdom to offer as my baby is only 9 months of age... but, i have to tell you, hannah, how deeply i appreciate your posts, especially when it comes to raising virtuous and godly daughters. already, i find myself mentally-censoring magazines, shows, clothing, and even friends (!) as i picture my daughter growing up and discovering more of the world.
i do not think you are old-fashioned at all. for me, "God isn't old-fashioned"... thank you for this post and a reminder of our responsibility to our girls.

Karen G. said...

Well Hannah, this post really touched my heart. I would start a blog with the same type of comment - This girl I love. In fact we say that often to and about our daughter Melissa who has grown into quite a young woman at 22. Like you I was blessed to be able to homeschool her (only for 3 years but at a young age) and got to spend that time pouring into her. I will always treasure it. Of course, it seems as though you and Sean have much the same values as Glen and I and you are raising your children a lot like we tried to. Melissa still dresses modestly and values who she is as a woman. She has often been to the mission field and will be going again during her spring break. I worry when she goes, but God has called her to missions so I'm saving up my money to be able to contribute to her trips.

As for what wisdom I would pass on -- be vigilant about the movies, books and videos you let your child see. Set a good example by doing what you want them to do and living the way you want them to live. Be open and honest with your children - always ready to listen or talk - even at midnight if needed. Be consistent with your rules and discipline. Each child has a different temprament and personality and that needs to be taken into consideration to help them grow into the young men and women they will be. Pray for them daily. Give them opportunities to express themselves and opportunities to be independent while they are at home so that if they need scaffolding, you'll be there to lend a hand. Let them make mistakes - they will learn volumes from this.

Thanks for your post.

Joann said...

I loved reading this. Sometimes we feel all alone in the training of our girls. We have made a lot of bad decisions that we felt were fine at the time, and now we are paying for it. Reigning them back in is so difficult! God bless you for standing firm!

Hannah said...

Kim, I was a tomboy growing up, making mud pies, trampsing through the woods with my dad. I think being "feminine' is more of a heart attitude. I'm extremely tough and physically strong and there is nothing wrong with those things. Does your daughter buy her own clothes? I give Annaliese items to choose from when we shop, such as five shirts, pick the three you want, or something along those lines.
You hit on soemthing good, when you mentioned that you are trying to be more purposeful in celebrating your own femininty. What a wonderful thing! Modeling any behaviour is the best way to pass it on.
Hannah

Hannah said...

Mandi, I love what you wrote about considering if our children's toys were real, would we want them in our home!
I quickly mentally scanned through our toys and decided that, yes, were the playmobils real, I'd welcome them to our dinner table, knives and swords and all. The redcoats and yankees might have to have a temporary truce during dinner time. :) And we'd have a boatload of children, were all the baby dolls real!
It is seriously a great question to consider, considering the popular toy options out there.
Hannah

Hannah said...

Thanks Ways of Zion! And Diane, I'm thankful for your daughter too!

Hannah said...

Breedale, you hit a great point that I missed and I totally agree. It isn't a huge issue in our home yet because we don't have a tv and or secular magazines so our kids aren't bombarded to the extent that most kids are. Even clothing catalogs are kept to a minimum and I choose carefully the ones I leave out for the girls to look through.
We've always made a topic of talking about inner beauty vs. outer beauty. I wrote about it once, the perfectly sculpted woman in Walmart who had the mouth of a sailor and my kids reaction to her.
You;'re right, its something we can't be lackadaisical about.
Hannah

Hannah said...

Thanks, Linda.
Sarah, thank you for leaving the link to your sister's blog. I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy it!

Hannah said...

Emily, thank you. I don't mind being old-fashioned when it comes to issues of protecting my children and raising them in a culturally relevant but modest way.

Karen, you've done a great job raising Melissa and you should be proud. I know you are so proud of her and I love hearing about the missions trips!

Hannah

JAIME said...

Hannah, I love this post, not because I have daughters (I don't), but because it's a reminder for me to raise my sons so they may one day marry of of these lovelies. Thanks so much for sharing :o)

Anonymous said...

Great post, Hannah. What a tender mother's heart you have. We just love your family. Watching the kids grow and interact brings back so many memories of when our own girls were young. Thanks for sharing. Families need all the healthy support they can get.

Verna said...

I know this post is old but I found it VERY inspiring! I'm expecting my first daughter (I already have a son) in October. I've been a little nervous about having a daughter. Everything you've listed are things I'd love to instill in my own daughter(s). I've been trying to be much more cautious about my own behavior lately, in hopes of setting a better example for her. Thank you for this post!!