GIRLilla-In-Training: My Daughter’s Got Swag — And She OWNS It

By E.J. Gordon

I’m at school pick-up, and I’m watching my daughter run up to the cutest, most popular boy in school.  She has already shed her top layer and is now wearing only a tight tank and cropped leggings, which shows off her tiny little figure.  She throws her arms around the boy, gives him a huge smile, and then points to the football.  She bats her big doe eyes at him and coyly asks him to see the football. He shows it to her, and she steals it from him, running off for a little fake touchdown.  Her brother and I laugh as the cute boy runs after her trying to get his football back. He takes it from her, completely disarmed, and gives her a quick hug, and then runs off to his ride.

As I’m watching my daughter in action, I’m wildly vacillating between two equally strong emotions: Pride and Horror.

There is part of me that is quite impressed with her confidence, the way she’s not intimidated at all, like I would have been by his good looks and cool boy swagger; I’m impressed by the way she went after what she wanted (his attention) and got it with her wily ways.

The other part of me is horrified. I’m horrified because while the boy is 10 years old, my daughter, who is already quite aware of the effect she has on boys, is only six.  Yup, six.

At this young age, she has not only noted which boys she thinks are the most attractive, she’s gone after their attention like a hungry teenager with a Chipotle gift certificate. And I’m not sure which parenting path to take.

In this country, we have these ingrained ideals, that a girl should be modest, that she should wait for a boy to come to her, that she should hide her desires. We joke about locking up our daughters until they’re 30 because we don’t want them prancing themselves around and having boys drool over them; we want to protect their purity. So one part of me is telling me to reign her in. I should tell her to stop flirting so much, that it’s unflattering and unladylike. I should tell her to stand by my side like a good little girl or go pick flowers and climb rainbows or some crap like that. I should tell her to put on a damn sweater.

But then I think about about everything I knew before I had a daughter. I knew that when I was a little girl, I hated having all of these expectations of me. I hated feeling like I had to hide who I was in order to conform with some sort of societal expectation of me. I knew that while everyone would preach “be yourself” and show us ridiculous videos like “Wear your own shades”, what they really meant was don’t do drugs because others do. They did not mean to tell us: wear what you want to wear or date whom you want to date or listen to the voice inside you that tells you to challenge everything you hear.

I never wanted to be the kind of mom who expects my children to be something that they are not. I strive to be the kind that creates an environment where my kids can become the best them they could be. It would be so sad for me to find out at the end of my life that my children ever had to fake or hide themselves from me. On that note, I’ve always had this policy of letting my kids pick out their own outfits and letting them wear whatever they wanted.

I had vague rules, like they were not allowed to wear PJs to school, or they had to dress up a little bit for holiday parties because otherwise they would be disrespecting their teachers or party hosts. But aside from that, if they didn’t match, I’d simply say, ‘You don’t match, but if you’re okay with that, so am I.’

Two of my children would take that kind of hint and go change. This little daughter of mine, though, she has her own sense of style, and she is very creative. What always astounds me is that she can pull anything off. She’d show up to pre-school wearing tie-dye capris, a hot pink tank, a sequined vest and cheetah print shoes and look awesome.

A friend would give me a look that implied, ‘Really?? You let her out of the house like that?’ I’d simply say, ‘I’m letting her express herself.’

I recently saw a quote from Jada Pinkett Smith in response to why she let her daughter, Willow, cut her hair: “First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves … I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair.”

I loved that Jada said this, because it’s exactly why I “let” my daughter wear what she wants and wear her hair however she wants. It’s exactly why I don’t “make” her wear a coat if she doesn’t want to and we’re not going to be outside long enough for her to cause any real damage to herself. She knows if she is cold. Her body is not mine.

I get asked, “Aren’t you worried that everyone will think that she looks ridiculous/that you’re a bad mom because it’s too cold for a sun dress/that she looks like you can’t afford to buy her normal clothes?”

But I don’t care what other people think. I care about my kid, and I want her to know her body is hers.

My hope is that by teaching her this, she will make better choices for herself, that she will choose to honor her body and to honor the voice inside her that tells her what’s right and wrong for her.

And while I’m watching her flirt with that cute boy, I see it’s not that gross low-self-esteem — look how short my skirt is, pay attention to me because I’m feeling small, I’ll do anything for you to look at me kind of flirting. But rather, it’s the I can’t believe what I can get away with if I bat my eyes and throw my head back with laughter kind. It’s the I will climb to the top of the world on the backs of weak men who will do as I tell them because I’m Cleopatra kind. It’s the I have a spirit in me that will not be tamed kind.

And there it is…. my pride beats my horror over the head with visions of my little girl as a self-possessed grown woman who is running a company or pulling in huge commissions or is telling the other doctor that this is her patient, and she’ll make the decisions.

I know that as long as I provide some guidance and some limits, this little GIRLilla is going to get everything she goes after.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare,  and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.

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