Do you want to help your daughters to grow up wise, warm and strong? Can I get a, ‘Heeeeell yeah?’ Well luckily for us there is a book that is promising to show us how. After a friend recommended this best-selling parenting guide by Steve Biddulph, I was hoping it would steer me down the road to enlightenment when it comes to being the perfect mother. And boy, does Steve aim his book at Mums. Dads get just one measly chapter at the end as he claims that Mums are their daughters main role-model. No pressure there then.
I have an older brother, so I assumed, very wrongly it turns out, I’d have a boy first. Out popped a little girl whose ears were stuck to her head like she had two cheese and onion crisps attached. I fell in love immediately. (The crisps unfurled into normal ear lobes btw, the amount of Pethidine I was given during the birth could be to blame for making me see Walkers cheese & onions for ears).
Second time around again I was sure I’d have a boy. I’d always seen myself with a boy or two, running around wildly with sharp sticks and grunting at me as a teenager (bear with me, I only have access to stereotypes). The sonographer exclaimed in my second scan I was, “Having another princess!” Just as the fire alarm went off. Oh. For one, I’m not a member of royalty so that was already completely untrue and for two, I thought I was having a prince. Two girls. Wow. I have no concept of how sisters get along having never experienced it myself. I have friends who are best friends with their sisters and I also have knowledge of women who have slept with their sisters husbands. Yes, really.
Female relationships are so incredibly complex. With my brother, there was never any competition. He was a gun slinging, chaps wearing cowboy, with guns and soldiers, and I had Sindy who sat proudly alongside Eagle Eye Action Man in his army jeep.
His menacing eyes moved, he had a tough boy scar and toilet brush hair.
Sindy loved him.
He taught me how to play Slaps and Chess, I introduced him to a friend at my wedding who became his wife. All’s fair in love and war.
But two girls? Sheesh. Where to start? Well, *whispers* it’s all been going kind of OK. I don’t want to jinx it but they are two totally different characters who have muddled along well together and it goes without saying, I couldn’t imagine my life any other way than with these two little beauties.
But things they are a changing. Those tricky hormones are sneaking in and rocking the boat. Plus we have the things like underage drinking, online porn, social media and body image issues right around the corner, lurking with the threat of stealing my daughters away into unrecognisable girls who may aspire to become a reality TV star who wants to bag a footballer and get her boobs done. Of course, if that is their choice I will still love them. Coughs.
Here was a book that reached out to me. I am raising girls. This will help. First, he tells us that their childhood is not like ours, our 18 is their 14, and our 14 is their 10. I’m not sure this is strictly true. I know what I was up to at 14. Bramhope Youth Club disco you have a lot to answer for. My ten year old is certainly not downing Cinzano and smoking ten Consulate, although that time may come, it is not now.
The book is unrealistic in many ways, no mention of single or divorced parents, very little here for working mums, he’s anti-childcare, he has a great idea that girls should be surrounded by aunties, Grandmothers, people they can spend time with and go to for advice, when many of us, unfortunately, don’t have family nearby. He has an idealistic view of no TV for children at all before the age of 3 which is a tad extreme. Setting limits on TV however is doable. This was handily reenforced on us this weekend due to a three-hour power cut, so we dusted off the Scrabble and sat and played as a family of four in front of the fire. Idyllic. It was like 1953 in Technicolor.
Until the kids got bored with us contemplating where we could fit O N Y X on the board and started doing extreme lifts and Strictly Come Dancing moves in the background leaving us parents to battle it out for Scrabble championship. Whilst they were giggling in heap in the background we were
shouting asking them nicely if they’d mind terribly keeping the noise down. I was trying to beat their father FFS. It was a bonding time, I can tell you.
After finishing the book I have not really learnt much about how to handle the day to day eyeball rolling, heavy sighs and attitude or the erratic mood swings that have arrived with gusto. In fact, it is like looking in a mirror. Maybe I should ask the husband for some tips on how he deals with it (me) on a daily basis?
What Raising Girls has reinforced are things I perhaps already knew. Not a good idea to have TV in bedrooms, when they have phones limit phone time at night, help them to get regular bed time routines even as teenagers, sleep is important, keep lines of communication open, set boundaries, be a parent not a friend between the ages of 10-16, allow them time to be calm, don’t put too many pressures on them to succeed, feed their soul by encouraging them in things they are good at, try to be aware and know what your kids are up to but allow them privacy. There is a helpful chapter on bullying and friendships, including toxic ones that you should encourage your daughter to avoid. Reading through the book I thought, I’m not sure I am at the point of having the confidence to walk away from friendships that offer little even though I am 40, and certainly after reading a magazine, or seeing a gorgeous celeb I don’t feel I can look in my soul and believe, ‘I am beautiful as I am.’ So to imagine my daughters will have that at 14? I can only hope.
There is no magic formula in Raising Girls but there are helpful hints aplenty, whether they will actually work when we’re screaming at each other and slamming doors, waiting on the stairs at 2am wondering where she is and if she’s safe, only time will tell. All any of us can do is to try our best. There will be times when we get it wrong, but as long as they are loved and cared for, the kids will be alright. Won’t they?