Tag Archive | raising girls

Ladybug among bees

I’m impressed by my 8 year old. She has a different take on other people and fitting in which is years ahead of where I was at twice her age. I’ve written about girl dynamics before (Girl drama); my daughter has learned to handle these situations.

M has been at her school for 5 years, since Pre-K.  She has been with the same group of children for that time with a few moves or transfers. M is her own person. Her dad and I appreciate that. and we also know it’s who we have shaped her to be. We are a non-traditional family so we have a non-traditional daughter. While she is experiencing anxiety and insecurity, M is independent. She is clear about how she likes to spend her time and what she likes to play or discuss. Things that would have hurt her feelings in the past don’t affect her in the same way.

She was recently part of a clique. I had trepidation because cliques have a tendency to exclude and/or break apart; these situations tend to get worse over time. Every day, we talk about who she sits with during snack and lunch and who she plays with during morning and lunch recess. I’m less interested in weekend events like sleepovers; I’ve outgrown my concern about that. In the past, I would feel heartbroken if she wasn’t invited to a birthday party or a sleepover. In part, that’s on us. We have a busy schedule. That hasn’t changed and won’t be changing any time soon. If she doesn’t get invited, I don’t dwell on it.  M is aware and honest about the social configurations. I directly asked her how she feels about the clique’s breakup. She was hurt when it first happened. She has noticed that part of the original group is hanging out with former rivals but that’s so typical of girl dynamics. First of all, those grudges aren’t as deep as we make them out to be. Secondly, we want so much to belong so we compromise. She’s gossipy or rude but she’s fun or she takes risks. We weigh the pros and cons of each person.

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M is definitely more like K.C.(as portrayed by her idol Zendaya on the left)

My daughter is a cheerleader but she’s never been part of the A group. That may seem strange to admit as a parent but I’m comfortable with that fact. She has always been part of another group. Now that group has broken apart, she is hanging out with her best friend. M says it bothers her to see her other friends hanging out with different girls but she accepts that they are doing what they want. She shared with me what she has in common with her best friend and the ways in which they differ. Her explanation was mature and wise beyond her age. I reassured her that popularity is not everything. I told her I want her to be true to herself. I did tell her popularity is a reality that she will dealing with for at least 10 more years. I explained that it loses its importance in college for most. M asked if adults care about popularity. I wanted to laugh because those issues certainly come up in work or in social circles, even in my beloved dance communities. I said, “Unless you’re on a stage singing “Candy Girl”, popularity is not that important.” (Yes, I’m still talking about New Edition non-stop.)

I also shared that I found being unpopular a blessing. It hurt in the moment but it gave me appreciation for myself, for my true friends, and it kept me from engaging in unsafe behaviors. M and I have open, though age-appropriate,  conversations about my concerns.

M went to school in a great mood. It’s important to tell her it’s ok to be different. I told her I was a weirdo and proud of it. I’m grateful for the sense I developed of myself as an artist and a person. It hurt at times.  The queen bee is always going to look at you funny because you’re a yellow jacket or a mayfly or a ladybug. You ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing but you have to be true to yourself. M gets it.  You got this, mija.

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Like mother, like daughter: say it with your tee

 

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Our child, her father’s daughter

4a79ea48c20f9d5210e1cb5225b451ddAs usual, Rambo and I are five to ten years behind the cultural zeitgeist so we are halfway through Season 2 of Game of Thrones.  We are both impressed with Arya Stark because she reminds us of M.  We would never allow M to watch the show with us. But I definitely see the similarities between the two girls.

Arya is strong-willed, physically strong, and fearless. Her older sister is the traditional “princess,” wrapped up in beauty, popularity, and romance. Arya is not interested in typical activities nor do her parents restrict her to these goals.  In Season 1, Arya aspires to wield a sword. As we watched an episode, Rambo said, “That is our child. She is our child.”

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M is a strong girl and has been from the get-go. When I was pregnant and before I knew my child’s gender, I was convinced she was a boy. She was active. Though I identify as a feminist, I had accepted the notion that activity, motion, and physical strength must mean a child is a boy. When I had my ultrasound, we could not see her gender. We could see the child kicking and punching. I was amused. (At that time, fitness and strength weren’t priorities: I was more focused on being mentally and emotionally strong to parent.  The commitment to physical fitness came much later. ) I immediately decided I was expecting a son. Via blood test results, I found out she was a girl. It was a thrilling moment because I had a sense she would be the kind of woman I like.

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As a woman, I understand we have interesting dynamics. I find strong women inspirational. I am uncomfortable around more traditional stereotypes of women. I had an opportunity to raise a girl in a different way than I was raised. My mother wasn’t huge on making me a girly girl (thank goodness.) If anything, my mom was the “bad cop” disciplinarian. She was my role model of a strong woman.

My daughter has always been physically active, physically strong, and fearless. As she gets older, she exhibits some anxiety but a lot of that is social or emotional. She is not afraid to fight and is intrigued by martial arts. She’s physically unafraid. She’s not intimidated by boys. She is comfortable in the company of all kinds of people of different ages, ethnicities, and genders.

Rambo and I often play fight about whose child M is. I argue that she’s more like me; she is attracted to the arts. She loves dance, music, reading, and art museums. She admires photographers and painters. Rambo believes she is more his child because she is strong, fast, and good at math. We go back and forth on who M resembles more. She is the wonderful amalgamation of her two parents. She is the daughter of a writer and a soldier, a peacemaker and a professional warrior.  Basically she is Wonder Woman. Rambo says, “She is all mine.” I reply, “Did she spring from your head like Athena from Zeus?”  Rambo likes that image since Athena is both intellect and war.

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Zeus “birthing” Athena

To further strengthen their bond, my family attended their first father-daughter dance. It took some doing. When it was initially brought up, we were declined. I told M to accept her father’s decision. We were both so excited when he became open to the idea. I was told they would not dance but was pleasantly surprised to hear they did grace the dance floor. They bond over building projects, technology and math. Now they have made a new memory together.

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My family

 

Failing into first place

Yesterday I went to a dance competition with M. We were up at 5am. We struggled as usual to get her thick beautiful hair up into a bun. She had four dances (tap, hip hop, and jazz) and four costume changes. I could tell she was stressed because it would be the first time competing with her hip hop team. She’s been with her competitive team for three years so she’s much more confident about those routines and that group. Because of the competition schedule, there wasn’t any time for her to be backstage with her hip hop team doing run-throughs. She took to the stage for a tap number that had previously won a platinum award.

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Before 

As I watched her tap number, I thought she looked distracted.  She wasn’t focused or smiling.  I was disappointed because she usually has great stage presence and confidence. I was irritated because I felt I had allowed her to take on too much and now she was overwhelmed. “Her head is not in the game” I told a fellow dance mom. I sounded like a crazy dance mom which I’m not. When M came off the stage, I could see the tears in her eyes. I immediately became worried. Maybe her teacher had seen something go awry and had admonished her. It’s unlike her teacher to do so; however my daughter is getting older so expectations could and should be higher. M told me she had made a mistake and she had cost her team “tons of points.” As I have previously mentioned, M has started to exhibit symptoms of anxiety. I knew in that moment she needed to breathe. I held her hands and looked into her eyes. We breathed in through our noses and out through our mouths several times so she could calm down. I reassured her she looked great on stage. She said she had forgotten some of the choreography. I told I hadn’t noticed her footwork. The teacher came over and said she had seen the mistake and that my daughter had looked over at her in panic. The teacher had nodded at her. My daughter quickly got back in formation and carried on. We headed backstage to get into her hip hop costume with minutes to spare before performance. Competition went on. She recovered her composure and performed with yet one other team.

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Keep smiling 

Then it was time for awards. I was pleased when they received a platinum award for tap. I knew she had done well. After giving each routine an individual score, the competition handed out trophies for the best performances.  When “American Beauties”, their tap number, was announced as the first place overall for their age group, I literally screamed.  It was like I was watching New Edition or New Kids on the Block because I sounded like a hysterical fanatic. I was thrilled.

 

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M is 2nd from left. Photo by A. Castillon. 

Seeing M and her dance sisters receive that trophy was a wonderful moment. Though she underestimated herself, I’m grateful she received the reassurance of her talent and recognition for their hard work.  I’m especially proud of the fact that she strives for excellence.  She sets high standards for herself and that reaps rewards.

In celebration of mujeres

adelita we can do it

M and I didn’t take part in the January 21st Women’s March. She was nursing a cold that rainy morning and had cheer sometime that day. I had mixed feelings about it. I was a student activist at Cal. I fought for tenure of professors of color, the expansion of Ethnic Studies, protested anti-POC investments and connections the University had made, and rallied against Prop 187 and then-Governor Pete Wilson. I took part in walkouts, marches and expressed my views via my writing and through discussions, and also participated in positive events like Raza Day. I believe in taking it to the streets but the pink pussy hats didn’t speak for me. I grapple with the idea of a monolithic unity. We are divided along lines of ethnicity, class, and life experience. Though I don’t often speak on it, I feel like a distinct sense of difference and otherness, particularly in my professional life more so than in my personal life. Those circles do not co-exist; they are very separate. While I do cultivate positive relationships with the women in my immediate work circle, there is room for growth.

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Tee says it all

 

As I strive to foster strong connections with other women, I am modeling that commitment for my daughter. As I wrote in my blog,”Mothering a warrior,” I want to empower my daughter to be a chingona, una mujer poderosa y fuerte in the face of challenges. She’s growing up in a different time. She’s not held back by the cultural ideas that held me back.  I’m a lot more introverted and am less confident than my daughter. Many Latinas grapple with confidence issues which are rooted in cultural experiences. I was blessed I didn’t have a machista dad. I am blessed to have a badass for a mother. My daughter has the advantage of having a mujerista for her mom. Despite his quirks, Rambo loves that M is a powerful girl. Rambo and I have recently started watching Game of Thrones and we both have been impressed with the character Arya Stark. I’ve pointed out, “That’s your daughter” and he agrees. M is the daughter of a feminist and soldier. M is Wonder Woman. She is powerful. I love that she is growing up in a time when powerful women are celebrated. I am, however, conscious of the many ways sexism continues to pervade popular culture. I want my daughter to be aware of sexism and misogyny along with racism and white privilege. I want her to be active and not allow these realities to oppress her.

On International Women’s Day, I reflect on the importance and power of women. I honor my mother and my wonderful friends. I am surrounded by strength, beauty, grace, and integrity. I am a greater person because of the women I am related to and those I have chosen as my extended family. My daughter and I are blessed to have so many beautiful mujeres in our lives.