You are Smart, You are Beautiful, You are Important and We Love You!
This mantra as seen above is something my wife started and got me on to saying to our daughter Alice at least once a day. Just to be clear the idea originated from the book “The Help by Kathryn Stockett”. Alice is only 5 and a half months as I write this but as I think about it more it makes complete sense to start as early as possible. Why? Why start telling someone that they are important or beautiful or smart? Shouldnt they know this already or should they even care? The sad fact is that most people dismiss this as a given in a childs life and therefore shouldn’t have to be said.
In todays society we have conquered many hurdles when it comes to race and gender. In terms of gender we have a long ways to go in my opinion and I would like to tackle a few of them below and how they relate to the mantra above.
The first I think is that we tell girls and boys they can be anything they want to be in life. Want to be an astronaut or a computer programmer? Sure you can do that as long as you put your mind to it. Well, if this is true then why so many males in the programming industry? Why are there not more girls flooding the male dominated positions or vice versa for the female dominated positions? In an eye opening fireside chat Dreamforce which featured the “Paypal Mafia” it was brought to the attention of the crowd by one of the speakers that what a child is capable of being really starts at home. Sure a child can technically be anything they want to in life, as long as they aspire to be it but when a child is growing up its our jobs as parents to expose them to every facet and possibility to expand their mind past the gender specific roles.
A good example is of this is we have a toy we give to Alice when she is being changed and it is a baby doll. It jingles and crinkles and keeps her happy but with her being a girl a doll just seems the natural choice. For a boy I have seen the same thing with a dinosaur toy. This in itself is not wrong but I feel that when taking Alice toy shopping I go by placing the toy in front of her and seeing if she expresses interest. If it holds her interest then you have my money.
Another tough thing to overcome is when asking children what they want to be when they grow up. Sure as a parent I have a vision of my daughter becoming the 1337-est hacker in kindergarten but really all I want for her in life is to be happy. If she wants to be a stay at home mom, a programmer, an artist, an astronaut or a CEO in a multi-billion dollar company that is fine. I won’t suggest any jobs or roles when the time comes as I personally dont want to muddy the waters. She is already going to hit a wall of suggestions like that as soon as she enters kindergarten. Thats the first part of our affirmation, she is smart, she can be anything she wants and shouldn’t have to feel like she ever has to settle for something other than what she wants to be.
The second thing too common is our view of beautiful. My generation and the one before it has grown up looking in magazines with women and men who have been photoshopped to look better than they are. This leads to discouragement in our youth to think they aren’t as pretty or handsome as they are supposed to be. I have a dream that by the time my daughter is old enough to read those magazines those images will not be in there, I know it is a long shot. Telling my child she is beautiful at a young age makes me hope that by the time she starts seeing this it will just slide off. No matter what my daughter looks like now or in the future, there is nothing I would change about her and she will get that from both my wife and I.
The last thing in the mantra that I say to my daughter is that she is important. Lets face it when we were growing up and teens ourselves we thought that we were alone, nobody ‘gets’ us and we don’t amount to much. We constantly look for validation in others and assume that it is that validation that makes us important. Well I want our daughter to think that she is not alone and that she is important and she doesn’t need to strive to prove it. No matter what she chooses to do with her life we will always be there to support her. You don’t need the validation of others to prove your importance.
There are many things that I imagine that I will try and instill in Alice as she gets older but if she were to only take away one thing, I would hope it would be this. We may not be able to give her everything in the world but as long as she remembers this mantra, I believe she can reach out and grab anything she wants for herself.
I would be interested to hear if any of you as fathers do something similar with your children. Mothers, let me know your thoughts as well. Let me know in the comments below or on my social media (can be found on gregrjacobs (dot) com).