Site Meter Elsie's Space: Have I Gone Too Far?
Location: New England, United States

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Have I Gone Too Far?

My daughter bursts into the room and, in her most serious tone of voice, asks "Mommy, who is your favorite princess?" I think for a minute, a minute too long for her, and she asks again, "Mommy, who is your favorite princess?" I quickly reply, "Cinderella." She looks at me with a grin, like I got the answer wrong, and says, "My favorite is Belle, because she saves the prince. He doesn't save her." Well, great. My little feminist. But have I gone too far?

Raising children today is different than when I was a kid. There's so much information out there that it's hard to know what kids are learning and where. I try to keep a handle on it all. I try to teach my kids my values by trying to set a good example. But there are things that I can't teach that way. Like the value of women. My daughter sees that my husband treats me with dignity and respect. That's good. She sees that I stay at home to take care of the family. That's good, too. What's bad is when you realize that that's all she thinks of you. So my husband and I try to give our kids a glimpse into who Mom really is (or used to be). My husband is especially cute when talking to her about things like that.

Our daughter thinks that I've always been a mom. My husband is quick to correct her. "When I met Mom she was completely capable of taking care of herself. She made her own money, had her own place to live, her own car. " Daughter interrupts, "But you make all the money now, and she just takes care of us." Dad, "When we decided to have you kids, we decided that it would be best for our family if Mom stopped working. Other people make other decisions, but that's what we decided for us. " Then he tells her, "Mom could take care of our family all by herself. If she had to, she could go back to work and support all of us." This amazes my daughter. "Mom could make money?" "Yes, she could." Now her attention turns to me.

I try explaining, without going into overload on the poor girl, that it's important to be able to take care of yourself when you're a grown-up. It doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman, you need to be able to take care of your own self. I also explain that a smart man like Dad finds independent women interesting. We try not to get too heavy, she's just a little girl. But the "independent woman" theme is something she latches onto and discusses every chance she gets. We've told her over and over that she can be anything she wants to be if she works for it. Now all she cares about it being able to take care of herself. Have I gone too far?

I guess it's okay that she favors Belle. I just don't want her going to that other extreme where she will not welcome a partner into her life because she has something to prove. I want her to see the middle path, the one where two people choose to decide on the course of their lives together. So I wonder -- will she learn what she sees (Mom at home) or what she hears (take care of yourself)? Only time will tell. I hope I haven't gone too far already.


Blogger Peter (the other) said...

I always imagine that the greatest frustration in the world, is the desire to have some effect on one's children. Besides their own internal "selves" born to be, it seems to this childless human, that the best one can do is to be the best you, you can be, and then have faith. If ever there was something out of our hands, it must be children. Perhaps it is the example set of how you deal with the reality of children, the choices one makes, that will have future rewards.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Elsie said...

You're exactly right. I do the best I can do and have faith they'll "turn out" okay. So far, so good. The only thing I know for sure right now is that they're both honest, brutally sometimes, so far. I think that's a trait that takes you far in this world, at least with the people who really matter.

When I begin to take myself too seriously, I look back at the mistakes my parents made. Then I look at my sister, my brother, and myself and think, "not too bad." So I know there's hope.

7:03 AM  

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