Archives for posts with tag: daughters

Well, I got rather depressing news a couple months ago. Some back story first. When you think of the people in your life – when their image is conjured up by someone mentioning their name – do you have a go-to mental picture for each of them? Let me explain this better. My Grandma Swanson: She’s at her kitchen counter at their old house in Lincoln, bent over something delicious. Maybe homemade bread, possibly rhubarb pie, often heart-shaped sugar cookies, or it could be her own canned jams. Well, she’s either in the kitchen or beating us all in a card game. My sister Caitlin is on a stage being beautiful, singing her heart out and charming everyone within earshot. One Jenna is eating JuJuBees and wearing red sweat pants while the other Jenna dips honey wheat pretzels in oily natural peanut butter – we’re laughing and telling stories. I’m cruising O with Whitney in either her or my station wagon, drinking Lemonberry Slushes – it’s summer and we have not a single care in the world. My mom is sewing or scrapbooking or baking or packaging a gift for someone – she’s doing a lot of different things and none of them require sitting for any length of time! Whether these images have been stamped on my memory due to repetition or due to isolated events that simply made a big impression on me or due to the good feelings that those moments created, they are important because they are lasting.

So, I posed this question to Harper awhile back, “Harper, close your eyes and think of Mama. What am I doing?”

She responded quickly, “You’re working.”

“What kind of work?” (Hoping she’d say gardening or laundry or cleaning – at least something truly productive)

“On your computer.”

Ouch. If you know me and how I feel about technology and social media, this was truly a punch in the gut. And you should know I’m rarely ever doing actual “work” on the computer – I’m typically just making the rounds on Facebook or the blogs. I have a love/hate relationship with screens and have made a conscious effort to limit my time online over the past four months or so. Therefore, I am inclined to defend myself. To tell you about how often we bake or garden or play at the park together. I FEEL like we are constantly logging those quality hours and I FEEL like I’ve drastically cut back on my own screentime. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what I FEEL or even how much quality time I actually spend with them if what they perceive is that I’m hooked to a screen. Perception is reality, yes?

So, to combat my inclination to get lost in scrolling, I moved my entire computer desk to a place where I rarely go during the day – our bedroom. I only recently upgraded to a smartphone a month ago, but I have made myself accountable to my husband to not download apps that devour my precious time without adding any real benefit to my life (for me, no social media at all). I understand that these years are fleeting and I want to be present for them. What’s more, I want to set the precedent in my household of how we hope and expect our daughters to act with technology when they’re old enough to have screens. I’m hoping that, given a few more months of my intentional self-discipline to not be consumed by technology, I will be able to get a different answer from my oldest daughter.

You see, for my children, I desperately don’t want their go-to mental image of me to be hunched over a screen. They deserve my eyes and my undivided attention. I don’t want them to look over and see the top of my head when my smile is how I want them to think of me. When I’m not with them, I want them to remember me and feel happy because my general presence in their lives is inviting and warm, not cold, closed off and consumed by a device. Another thing, I don’t want them to picture me with my phone constantly aimed at their faces, snapping away psychotically until I get a shot worthy of Instagram. If they see me bowing to something, I want to be bowing in prayer and not to a stupid phone. If they think I can’t get enough of something, my unquenchable thirst better be for God’s life-giving Word and not the life-sucking internet.

Harper’s honest answer, although painful and a bit embarrassing, was a challenge. A reminder. A reprimand. A gut-check. But ultimately an opportunity to reroute and start doing things differently. To start creating a mental-image in their memories that I can be proud of and a pattern of behavior that I can live with. If you struggle with this, too, just start with maybe trying to make sure the people around you don’t see the top of your head very often. Eyes are a much better view. If you’re not sure what your people are perceiving about you, then ask them. You are painting your own self-portrait – better make sure your legacy is looking the way you hoped it would.

 

 

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I just read Matt Walsh’s latest blog post, in which he writes a letter to his young daughter to tell her that she’s beautiful; and to warn her that culture will try to tell her otherwise so that it can make money off of her. That is all completely true. To be clear, I would NEVER pick a fight with Matt Walsh because A) He would debate me into a hole, and B) Although he can be quite abrasive, I respect his honesty. I don’t disagree with his message (or the TONS of other writers on this subject) about making sure girls know that the Hollywood standard of beauty is skewed, fake, empty and gross. I do tell my girls they’re beautiful and I talk a lot about finding beauty in our differences. They’re too young to have observed much pressure to be “perfect” via magazines, commercials, etc. I imagine it will be a heartbreaking process to watch them go through when they’re older and wiser; I hope Matt (my husband Matt, that is) and I are guided by God’s hand as we walk with them through that.

I get it. Important things for women to know TRUTH about: Real beauty (IE: inner beauty, lovely character, pure hearts), modesty (IE: bikinis, short shorts, cleavage), dangers of vanity (IE: needless plastic surgery, too much makeup, overspending on stuff), and pressure (IE: purity, dating, not being taken advantage of). YES. Teach the truth about these things. They’re real and important and hold value to women and girls.

Let me just ask a serious question, though: Is this ALL we think being a female boils down to?

Because these are the themes I see impressed on girls over and over again. My frustration is this: We say we need to tell girls that they’re bigger and better than the way they look and then we only talk about the way they look. Even if we’re saying “love yourself as you are” when we talk about bodies (which is positive), we are totally neglecting the depth and complexity and wealth of wonderful that comprises a woman (which is a CRYING SHAME).

This is maybe the easiest way for me to express this: I want my girls to know that WHO they are is powerful. They can lead others because of their ideas, their skills, their words, their brains. They can serve others because they are kind, compassionate, empathetic, selfless, joyful, healthy, and hard-working. And they can shine a light on God because they can do all these things FOR HIS GLORY. Their faces and bodies are only the vessel through which they do all of these ACTUALLY IMPORTANT things.

You know the Dove ads and that recent Always commercial? Oh man. So good. So real. I bawl like a baby because I see exactly where the women in our culture have wandered in our perception of who we are as a gender. I LOVE how the young girls in that Always ad are FREE and they’re happy and they’re confident. It’s so sad that, as we grow, we learn that we’re judged for just about everything we are and so we shrink into tiny, intimidated robot people. Confined little boxes that squelch LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY. We aren’t meant to live like that, friends!

You’re BIGGER and BETTER than your body or face. You have more to offer than that. Parents, teachers, ministers: Let’s all stop concentrating solely on the physical and superficial when we talk about girls and start emphasizing the real, complex, magical traits that make us who we are. Stop discussing whether or not wearing makeup makes us “holy” and start talking about the ways we are improving our families, schools, friends, and communities. Please stop harping about clothes and promote bigger ideas about what we should be PURSUING instead of the shorts and swimsuits we should be avoiding. I want my girls to FIRST RUN TOWARD the good things instead of always RUNNING AWAY from bad things. If the only thing I do is warn them that the world is going to judge the way they look, I’m not only minimizing their complete, whole, AMAZING person-hood, I’m pointing them in the wrong direction of where I hope they end up; they’ll forever be running scared instead of running their race of FAITH.

I’m telling you, these two…they’re the BEST! I hope they never grow up. But, when they inevitably do, I hope they understand that they have SO MUCH to share with the world around them and that their flesh is simply their working resource with which to do it.

Harper on the 4th of July

Harper on the 4th of July

Cortland's first lake experience

Cortland’s first lake experience