Finding my voice and teaching my daughter to find hers…

Life has provided me countless opportunities to find my voice, stand up for myself, put myself first, ask for what feels right, to ask for what I need.  I feel like all of these opportunities are there to teach me to see my true self, to be true to me, to allow me to see how we all deserve this, that it isn’t scary to use our voices, that I am great, that if I use my voice, it doesn’t make me any less great, it doesn’t make me a bitch, it doesn’t make me selfish, it just is.  Me using my voice, me staying true to me, me hearing my inner voice, feeling my inner strength and allowing it to guide me, instead of shoving it down, thinking, no I can’t say that, no I don’t deserve that, or no, what will happen if I actually say that.

Here is an excellent example of the opportunities I have been provided lately:

We were at my sister’s house for Christmas and Zara (our daughter) was wearing her new Christmas dress. She looked radiant (and I always tell her she is radiant no matter what she wears, no matter how she has chosen to decorate her body (make-up, jewelry, clothes, etc), but that’s an aside, tee hee) and she was caught up in the love of Christmas, just as we all were.  Oh course, there is still the commercial side of Christmas, the giving side.  We’re trying to balance it and I think we’re on the right track, but again, that’s another aside.  Here’s the important part of the story…Grandma asked Zara if she opened her gift that she and Grandpa had given her, the new underwear.  Zara said yes and I mentioned that she had liked them so much that she put them on right away.  So Grandma asked Zara if she could see them because she was excited.  Zara agreed and then Grandma took a peek and was excited with Zara.  Then some other members of our family heard about it and came right over and just lifted up her dress without asking to look at her underwear.  This voice inside me calmly said, “Bradlee, you have to say something about this.  We would never lift up an adult’s dress to look at their underwear, the same courtesy should extend to children, no matter how young.”  I heard the voice, and I trembled and was like inside, “but they’re family, I can’t say that, what will they say, we can’t have a battle on Christmas day.”  And then I sat there stumped, overwhelmed and confused.  Then, Zara put on her new Christmas shorts under her dress and the same thing happened, up went her dress, without asking, just a quick grab and a “hey, let me see.”  I was stuck.

Zara (Jane as she likes to be called) opening presents in her new dress

When we got home at night, I told Robbin (my husband) about it, telling him how I wanted to say something but couldn’t, didn’t.  He comforted me because I started crying and he said, “you did the best you could, you’ll do it next time.” So I cried, found my courage, and then started practicing what I would say next time.  I tried a few different ways, found a way that I was comfortable with, which is something like this, “Oh, sorry (insert person’s name), but I wouldn’t lift up your dress without asking you first, why don’t you ask Zara if she can show you her new underwear so she can decide if she’s comfortable with that?”  It felt right.  So the next morning, I apologized to Zara, I said, ” Zara do you remember yesterday when Grandma asked you to see your underwear, but other members of our family didn’t ask, they just lifted up your dress?  Well, that’s not really the way it works, we always ask people if we can look under their clothes first, just because you are a kid doesn’t mean people shouldn’t ask you and respect you by asking.  I’m sorry I didn’t say anything.  I wanted to say something but I was scared.  So I practiced what I would say with Daddy last night and this is what I would say next time…”  Of course, I didn’t just ramble that whole thing at her, but it was a discussion.  I asked her if she heard me because she didn’t really look at me while I was saying it and she said yes.

So, a few hours later, there she was on the toilet and her dad was in the bathroom with her.  He reached down and held up her dress for her since it was so long.  From the kitchen I heard, “Excuse me Daddy, but you can ask me first if you can lift up my dress.”  Glory, glory, glory I cried inside!!!  YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!  Like what’s up now!  Hahahaha, it was beautiful.  I ran into the bathroom and cheered her on (one day I’ll write about praise and how not to over praise your kid), and then explained to Robbin how I had apologized to Zara this morning about not finding my voice and how she was so clearly able to find hers.  He was proud of her too.  We still talk about it sometimes, a few weeks later, she’s still processing it, so it’s great, it’s locked in her heart that she can speak up for herself, that her body is hers, that she can work with others to respect her and her body.  Beautiful.  May she continue to inspire me and may the teachable moments continue.

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