You are going to think I’m truly crazy with this post.
I recently cleaned out my closet.
While I was cleaning and organizing, I came across a picture of a smiling little brown baby girl.
The baby girl was about 2 years old.
Flashbacks of my high school years began flooding into my head.
I stole that picture from a photo album at my grandparents house.
I didn’t even know who the little girl was or who she belonged to.
I decided, at 15 years old, that I was going to become a Mom.
A “Teenage Mom”.
Not physically, but imaginably.
I took the picture to school and slid it in the front section of my clear book bag.
My peers would ask, “who is that little girl, she is beautiful?”
“Oh, that’s my daughter”
They would say.
“Wow, you have a daughter. I would’ve never imagined”
They would ask me questions about my “daughter”.
They would ask me birthing questions, mommy questions, baby daddy questions.
I would answer each question carefully and would beam with delight at the attention I was receiving.
As I sat in my closet, staring at the little girl in the picture, I couldn’t help but to ask myself.
“What were you thinking?”
“Why did you tell these folks that you had a daughter?”
“What if a classmate had run into you in the streets while you were with your Mom and asked where was your daughter?”
My mother would’ve looked at me like, what in the “ATTENTION SEEKING” is going on here??
At the time, it felt good that people were interested in me for a change.
They were interested in my life.
All of a sudden, I was the center of it all.
I was no longer the quiet kid that showed up to school sometimes.
I had sex!
I was a “MOM”!
I had delivered a whole baby girl!
The DRAMA (Who is her baby daddy?)
The KNOWLEDGE !! (they thought I had…)
The MATURITY!!! (if only they knew…)
They looked at me differently.
The girls were looking at me in awe. (“You were actually pregnant and gave birth to a real child???”)
The guys were looking at my body like I was a snack (“Oh, you having SEX SEX?”)
I can laugh at it now.
But how sad was that.
I felt like I was that much of a wallflower in all aspects of my life that I had to concoct a story surrounding a picture of a little girl that I found at my grandparents house.
Surprisingly my little lie never made it to my inner circle of friends.
What’s even sadder is that, the kids probably didn’t believe me.
I’m sure they talked about me and probably thought I was nuts.
I was never questioned about my carefully spun story.
No one asked how my “daughter” was doing.
No one asked for an updated picture of her.
As time went on, no one cared again.
I went back to being the same wallflower I was before I had become a “Teenage Mom”.
I had such low self esteem that I was willing to do/say anything for some sort of attention.
I wanted someone to talk to me and be interested in what I had to say.
I wanted to say.
“This whole teenage mom bit is a lie, but now that I have your attention.”
“LOOK AT ME!”
“I’m such A DOPE person!!!”
The problem was that I needed those people to validate me and tell me that I was a dope person instead of actually believing it myself.
Moral of this story.
Giving love, spending time, and showing support and respect for what matters most to our girls is paramount.
I started thinking about the things that could have prevented my brief “teen mom” episode.
I researched tips on how to to boost a girls self esteem, ways to show love and how to reach the core of a girls identity from the start.
Juliann Garey from a Child’s Mind Institute gives 16 ways to boost your daughter’s self esteem/confidence and tips on how to show that you love and support her.
1. Model body acceptance. Moms have a huge impact on their daughters’ body image. Don’t ask, “Do these jeans make me look fat?” or obsess out loud about food or put your appearance down. Avoid what Dr. Steiner-Adair calls the “morality of orality”—talking about food and yourself as “good” or “bad.” As in: I was bad today: I had pizza. So I’m not going to have dessert.
2. Make your daughter media literate. “Watch TV with her and talk about what you see,” says Dr. Steiner-Adair. “Help her develop a critical eye through which to decode and filter media messages.”
3. Don’t raise her as a “pleaser.” Encourage her to stand up for what she needs and wants. “Create opportunities for her to use her voice,” Bogue advises. “Ask ‘What do you want?’ Let her make a choice and then honor that choice.”
4. Start team sports early. Research shows girls who play on teams have higher self-esteem. “There’s a very common correlation, in my experience,” says Bogue, “between girls who play team sports and girls who suffer less with low self-esteem because they are looking to other girls for their value, and within, as opposed to looking to boys for validation.”
5. Moms, don’t borrow your daughter’s clothes. “You want to let her have her own style, her own look,” says Dr. Steiner-Adair. “Especially, and this is a really hard thing, if you have a mom who by society’s standards is prettier or thinner than her daughter.”
6. Direct your praise away from appearance. “I think that we need to make a very conscious effort to balance our compliments about a girl’s appearance with compliments about who she is and what she DOES in the world,” says Bogue. “Challenge yourself to match every compliment you give about your daughter’s appearance with at least two compliments about something non-appearance based, and do the same for other girls who cross your path — your daughter’s friends, nieces, etc.”
7. Help her build skills that are independent of appearance. “Get her involved in activities that build a sense of confidence, rather than focusing on looking good and acquiring things,” Dr. Rooney suggests. “Sports, theater, music, art. Anything really that can help girls express themselves through words or creativity or activity rather than through their appearance or what they’re carrying around.”
8. Speak up about your daughter’s school curriculum. Does it include a female perspective? “Imagine if you were putting together a family history,” Bogue says, “and you only asked the men about their memories, about their perspective. Think about all of the information that would be lost.”
9. Praise your daughter for her efforts rather than her performance.“Focus less on the outcome and more on efforts and the development of new skills,” says Dr. Rooney. Mastery is what builds confidence, and learning to tolerate failure fosters resilience.
10. Be careful about what magazines you have in the house. “Research suggests,” says Steiner-Adair, “that after 15 minutes of looking at a fashion magazine, mood shifts from curiosity and enthusiasm to comparing yourself and putting yourself down.”
11. Don’t trash talk other women. “And don’t let the boys and men in your household do it either,” adds Dr. Steiner-Adair. “Don’t let kids tease each other around food or looks. Do not let that go down in your house. It’s really harmful.”
12. Dads: Don’t treat your daughter like a damsel in distress.“When fathers treat girls as though they are these fragile, helpless, little beings, ” Bogue says, “the message is, ‘Your role is to look good so a man will sweep in and save you.’ Instead, give her the opportunity and the tools—to change her own tire, to use her voice and speak up for herself, to play sports, to be able to brush herself off and get back up. I think it’s a good measure to say, ‘If I would do it with my son, I should be prepared to do it with my daughter.’”
13. Make sure she knows you love her no matter what. She needs to know that you’ll love her “no matter how her appearance might change or how she dresses or how she might perform at something,” says Dr. Rooney. “Because even though kids are so reliant on their peers for feedback when they’re in their teens, what her parents think of her matters just as much as it ever did.”
14. Set aside time to spend with her. Try to find time in your schedule to do things with your daughter. Just you and her.
15. Pray for her and with her.
16. Hug her as often as you can.
I couldn’t agree more.
One thing that doesn’t change over the years is the need for our girls to know just how loved and cherished they truly are for who they are.
Now that I have a little girl of my own, I almost over do these things to ensure that she doesn’t end up in high school or even in life as a “teenage mom”.
My favorite motto now is:
When you know better, you do better.