Girls and Confidence: How Important is it and How do we Reinforce it?
Fariba writes about what it's like raising 3 biracial girls, ensuring she creates a positive environment for them to know and love who they are, even when they don't always see reflections of themselves in their mother and in the world they live in.
I often get asked, what's it like having 3 girls? Well, I don't know any different but as my oldest gets older (she's 7 at the moment), I can see how important it is to reinforce and help her build up her confidence. I read that at 8 years old, girls peak in terms of their confidence. As mothers of girls, it's petrifying to know that from this point onwards, our daughters start losing more and more confidence. And by age 14, it reaches an all-time low, never really recovering to make up the difference.
To know that the happy, confident girl that I see right now- the girl who loves to get messy, to ask questions and boss her friends around- might disappear is to say the least, disheartening. Over time, most girls learn that kindness is about pleasing others; that success is due to talent, not hard work and that their appearance is more important that what they can do.
I want to freeze time. Though it gets tiresome at times, the fun loving 7 year old I now have is starting to test her limits, questioning my logic, forming her own opinions and challenging our ideas on how to do things. I know in some ways that I can be that helicopter Mum who needs to control everything- especially when it comes to having multiple children as Meghan and many of her readers will be able to relate to.
But part of this learning experience for both of us is letting her challenge me. Demonstrating to her that her ideas matter, that they're worth listening to and considering even if I know they might not work. Failure must be part of her success and though it takes patience and a whole lot of energy to let her try things, to show her how to master cooking, build an ikea table and letting her lead the way into London's subway system on a journey that we take multiple times a week, I must let her.
Our children are sponges, they want and need to learn from us. That's why I admire homeschoolers because really, our world IS one big school and to have them with me 24/7 and teach through just living and being, is such a joy.
For my girls, it's not just about teaching them to be confident in their ideas but also about loving who they are. Living in the western world: London, England in particular, our multiracial family is a minority (a growing one though!) and it becomes increasingly apparent when your children notice that there aren't many families that look like ours.
My daughter was 4 when she was walking home from school and turned to me saying, "I want a Mama that looks like me". Of course, my heart dropped in that moment but it also brought home to me the realisation that although I am my daughters' biggest role model, I look nothing like them. With straight hair and vanilla skin, I hear my daughters saying multiple times a day, 'I wish I had straight hair like you'. They notice this, along with the millions of ads on buses, in the subway, and in shops that women with stick thin bodies and straight thin hair are what our society considers beautiful.
In that moment, I turned to my daughter and showed her how alike we actually are: our smiles, our eyes, our love of writing. But it also showed me how much work I had to do to encourage and reinforce the idea that my daughters are beautiful- with brown skin and curly hair. I may not have those characteristics but there are others like them that are beautiful.
We look at youtubers and celebrities who are mixed race and have thick curly hair. We point out women in the street (thankful to live in a diverse city like London) of women who are sporting short curly afros and, we are intentional about choosing books, movies and tv shows that feature black or mixed race characters. The girls have fun pointing out which one of the characters looks like them. Oh boy, does representation matter... Because if they can see it, they can be it. Children need to see themselves reflected in the world around them to know that it is possible for them as well.
Our daughters all need encouragement and confidence building. And our duty as parents of mixed race daughters, is even greater.
I love having daughters. And I love that I have such a big responsibility to raise them to be confident, strong black women who will know and love who they are. Not because I want them to fit in but because I want them to stand out. Because different is good in our books.
Fariba Soetan writes about raising multiracial daughters in London, England. She is married with 3 girls and, mixed race herself, loves to share ideas and inspiration for raising mixed kids. https://mixedracefamily.com