i was at an event, recently, while i overheard a father say about his 13 month old, “eat it now, you won’t want people seeing you like that when you’re 16.” he said that, to her, about her, in front of friends and family, while this big brown-eyed toddler shoveled in a delicious piece of cake. i internally shook my head. and an hour, or so, later i heard him say about her “you’re a hot mess, girl. phew,” as she tried her best to dance to the music.
so as her forehead perspired from dancing with her whole body and as her little cheekies were stained with cake icing, she was told both times what a mess she was. but it doesn’t matter. she’s just 1, right?
honestly, it likely doesn’t matter that he spoke that over her. yet. what does matter is that’s the mindset her father has. he doesn’t understand the weight of his words on his daughter’s heart. at one, she doesn’t know what he’s saying. but at 3 she’ll start feeling foolish if told she’s foolish. and at 5, she’ll be embarrassed. and at 10 she’ll feel fat. and at 15 she’ll become ashamed to eat or dance or sing.
i know many women who’ve been influenced, similarly, by adults in their lives. some limitations are healthy for children. but placing our own insecurities on them isn’t fair to their hearts and it damages their ability to be free. having known, and worked with, women who have struggled with eating disorders, it breaks my heart to know that most of them were hurt as young girls by people they loved. or people that promised to love them. and as adults, those same women become confused and project their hurts onto other people – blaming other people for their inability to eat healthy diets or to just be okay in their own skin.
there’s a separate blog that can address how to help women with eating disorders get help, and heal. but i don’t want to focus on women needing to take responsibility after abuse. what i do want to suggest is that we think about how we’re talking to little girls.
it’s not healthy to create an atmosphere, for them, where they don’t fail, or have to try, or even work hard to achieve. but it’s also incredibly damaging to control their environment, out of fear of them getting fat, or ugly, or dressing ugly, and not allowing them to figure out their interests, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.
my youngest daughter almost fell asleep in the car the other day and i asked her to wake up (so that her nap could happen in her bed). that made for a grumpy preschooler. and because i was driving, i couldn’t reach her. so i asked my oldest to reach over and stroke her sister’s arm and tell her she loved her. so she did. the littlest pulled away hard and grouched, “ugggghhh!” the oldest sulked, feeling defeated. i then asked my oldest to stroke the littlest’s arm again, and tell her she loved her. so she did. a half smile came from the littlest. so a third time i asked the oldest to stroke her sister’s arm. on the third try, the littlest smiled a wide smile, her eyes lit up and she said, with thumb in her mouth, “i love you, too.”
my oldest looked at me with a satisfied smile – she knew something sweet had just happened. so i said to her, “you know sweetie, Jesus says that love covers a multitude of sins. and sins are like unnecessary grumpies. the more we love someone, the more likely those grumpies will leave. the more you gently told your sister you loved her, the more we saw her heart get happy again.”
my prayer is that we raise a generation of girls who become Godly women with voices. the world needs to hear strong voices of daughters of the Most High. it is crucial to have confident women saying to other women, “hey you, in your grumpy position, in your hard spot, i love you. i love you. i love you. now get up and let’s get going. there’s work to be done.”
in Lisa Bevere’s book, Lioness Arising she says:
“You were not created to be subservient; you are a joint heir. Women are God-answers. The addition of women’s voices increases the educational opportunity for all children, stimulates the economy, and apparently decreases the risk of terrorism.”
she goes on to say, “If you forget your fierce and fearless nature, then all who look to you for protection and guidance will be at risk. The body of Christ is made up of noble, powerful guardians who have awakened to the realization that God has opened up a wide expanse before us.
Dear sisters, lionesses, and friends…
I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (2Cor 6:11-13)”
what an AWESOME privilege to raise daughters who were born into a world that wants to oppress but were birthed from wombs that were created to liberate!
have a piece of cake. or two.
and liberate your daughters. over and over again. over and over and over again.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins (1Peter 4:8)