Last Tuesday morning, I had a deep conversation with my oldest daughter during the car ride to school. She’s emerging, working on becoming a young lady, dreaming of her future, forming thoughts and opinions of her own. She’s at what I feel is the most critical point of a young girl’s life…the point when you ultimately step into the person you will become. And of course, as her mother, it is my duty to guide her as she decides what that new person will look like.
With this emergence comes growing pains. I don’t mean the random, and sometimes bizarre, physical aches and pains that come with transitioning from childhood to adolescence. I mean the emotional, mental and relational pains. The heartaches and spiritual pains that come with being a girl.
Ladies, this is not a mommy blog post (psst!…if you’re looking for one click here.). This is a post about womanhood and the importance of transitioning smoothly into it. So, whether you have a child or not, you know exactly how those feminine growing pains feel and how, if handled incorrectly, they can throw you for a loop, catapulting you into rough seas, ill-prepared.
Our conversation had to do with seizing opportunities, following your dreams, sharing your voice and banishing the fear that can ultimately block you from riding the wave of passion that will wash you smack dab onto the shore of your purpose.
She had been toying with the idea of auditioning for her school’s talent show. She came to me one day several weeks ago and excitedly told me of the upcoming show and her desire to sing in it. Naturally, I told her to go for it. I even helped her select a song and rehearse. However, when auditions rolled around, she found every reason why she wasn’t able to sign up or make it to any of the open audition times. “We were so busy today.” “The teacher wasn’t allowing anyone to leave the class.” “I completely forgot.” The list could go on.
So on Tuesday morning, I had a heart-to-heart with her…a very passionate heart-to-heart.
I told her how fortunate she was to have parents who not only encouraged her to chase her dreams, but also recognized her special gifts and talents. I shared with her my memories of a childhood and adolescence absent of that encouragement and support. I shared with her the negative and hurtful comments I would receive whenever I tried to allow my light to shine. I shared with her the times when my mother would say, “Donloyn, you cannot sing. Your grandmother and great-uncle are the singers in the family.” Or the times she would say, “Hush up that noise,” if I was singing in my room. I shared with her how my father would laugh and hoot, “You can’t carry a tune in a bucket!”
And unfortunately, it wasn’t just with singing. Even when I would get lost in a drawing, my mother would say, “Your sister is the artist in the family.” Or the time when I earned a spot on the cheerleading team, and my mother went on and on to her friends, saying I was the “token Black” on the team, and even though I was light-skinned, the school only gave me the spot because they needed a little “color” on the squad. She never came to a game, never picked me up from a practice and, not long after, pulled me off the team right before competition.
Years later, I would come to find out from others that I actually did have a singing voice worthy of attention. And I have recently rediscovered my inner artist (see here).
I didn’t tell my daughter any of these things with any bitterness, quite frankly, there is none. I told her these things to deliver a critical message…I see you. I believe in you. And I support you.
You see, I, like many other women, know how it feels to not be seen, to not have anyone believe in you and to live a life void of the support necessary to help you discover your unique voice. I know how it feels to be a young girl thirsting for inspiration but not knowing from which well to drink.
I, like many other women, have had to figure these things out alone. I have had to learn, on my own, to find strength in myself and inspiration in the people, things and places around me. I had to learn the hard way which wells were safe to sip from, and which ones should be avoided.
From time to time, I still have to fight the fear that can creep in unexpectedly. I don’t want that for my daughter. I don’t want that for any young girl. Again, I harbor no resentment. It just is what it is. My parents did the best they could., and I love them for that. In fact, as bumpy as my journey has been, I don’t regret it. Because that journey is responsible for who I am today.
March is Women’s History Month. And in celebration of that, March 8th was International Women’s Day. This year’s theme was “Inspiring Change.” And there is no better way to inspire change than by inspiring a girl.
Our girls our precious. And they hold within them such greatness. Some may never come to know just how much. When we speak words of hope to them, we give life to their spirits and breath to their dreams.
Like my parents, I know I have and will continue to make mistakes…but I vow to never forget the thirsty young girl I once was. And I vow to do all I can to show my daughter that she is seen, believed in and supported.
She didn’t take my advice on that Tuesday. She arrived home at the close of the school day having missed the final opportunity to audition. Perhaps she’ll apply the guidance on another occasion. All I can do now is find comfort in the fact that the words I spoke are there. Deep within, the encouragement I gave her is there…and the wisdom I instilled will one day emerge as confidence and drown out all the voices that may try to convince her that she is unworthy.
Was inspiration present in your life as a young girl? I’d love to hear. Please share in the comments below.