My daughter is ten, and will round the corner into adolescence soon enough. Her body is starting to change, odors first, despite her tenacious childhood. There is still a stuffed animal to cuddle each night, on a rotating basis. Lately its Snowflake, the polar bear. And she still slips her hand into mine when crossing the street or sitting on a couch, in one of her many but subtle signs of daughterly affection.
She has learned some of the lessons that Lindsey Mead Russell lists in her poignant contribution to the Huffington Post. But I don’t think I’ve reinforced the ones that were most hard-learned by her mother, and my mother, and perhaps even her mother, who was perhaps most strong-willed of the four.
“It’s not your job to keep the people you love happy.” I still do it. I will drop what I’m doing to help a friend in need. I offer my home to friends of friends, even when it’s protracted, repeated, or ill-timed. But I’m learning that I get resentful if it’s ill-timed, or if I feel invaded or taken advantage of. Learn to say “no” is this life lesson’s correlate.
“It’s almost never about you.” Growing up I took many things personally. Perhaps that’s what made me such a target. And I still have to talk myself down from this ledge at times, rarer with each passing year. But I am a much more emotional being than my daughter. She has a serenity that I have fought hard to come to. And I wonder what lies below the still surface of her joie de vivre. Perhaps nothing, and she knows it’s not about her. Good for her! Or perhaps the aches of a familial schism dwell dormant, and we still have that terrain to forge through … so be it. She will learn this lesson when she faces it. For now, she sees other people’s flaws and accepts them wholeheartedly, knowing it’s not about her. Nice kid.
Whether you have a young daughter or were a young daughter or neither, I encourage all to read these life lessons. Lindsey Mead Russell anticipates and deflects some of our culture’s traps for young women. If we support our young women to speak their place in our culture more strongly, they will survive better than we did, or our mother’s, or our mother’s mothers. Perhaps they will win battles for equal pay legislation if we can’t. Perhaps they will fix our public education system. Perhaps they will speak from a place of compassion for difference and empathy for need. And perhaps our government and public policy makers will listen.
Perhaps they will even be the government at all levels. I would add this to Lindsey Mead Russell’s list: dream vastly and forever.