Girls never give up. My daughter says this to me in the midst of a particularly frustrating search for the yellow plastic construction hat. We’ve searched the house, every nook and cranny, and come up empty. The hat is used in a game called “shop”, wherein the kids sell popcorn from many and varied bowls and containers. Obviously, the construction hat is the most important of these containers. The kiddos sell to all who walk by their “stand”, set up on a kitchen chair. Even The Cat comes by, nonchalant but curious. He is generally dismissive of their product; after giving it a searching sniff, he blinks twice and wanders away, unimpressed. Perhaps he’s seen better popcorn elsewhere?
Girls never give up. My daughter is four and she is reminding me of my own strength, while teaching me about hers. One of my earliest memories is from when I was about seven. I stood in my parents’ room and looked at a frame full of pictures. I hovered by the big bed with the orange and brown comforter, the brown shag rug nubby under my bare feet, the late afternoon light coming in from the backyard through the sliding glass door. I picked up the frame, four oval cutouts through which I could see a reflection of my four-year-old self on a beach in San Diego. I looked so happy in the photos, playing in the sand and the water, my hair in pigtails. I glowed. And the thought in my head as I studied the pictures was this: Gosh, I wish I could be that happy again; life was so easy when I was four.
I was seven when I had that thought. It boggles my mind now. Was that when I lost a bit of my link to the still, small voice deep inside me, to inner strength and innate joy? Was that the beginning of a sense of being less-than or not enough, of feeling that I needed to prove my worth time and time again? I can’t pinpoint any one event, any one thing that led to that feeling of longing and loss.
L, my daughter, is still listening to that still, small voice. She is still deeply connected to and rooted in that inner knowing, that strength of self. She knows exactly who she is, what brings her joy, and she nurtures that, pursues it. And it shows. She glows. She glows with light and life and strength because she is being true to who she was created to be. It’s my job as her parent to support and guide that, to be so very careful not to extinguish that light or to dim it in any way. It’s my job to coax the flame back to life when it begins to waver in the wind and darkness this life can bring.
I’m learning at this point in my life, thirty some-odd years later, that it’s also my job to do the same for me. Girls never give up. I’m finding my way back, and L is reminding me how. Each day I look at her and think of the girl she is now and the woman I hope she will become. Being her mother crystallizes not only the importance of my job as a parent, but also, intrinsically linked, the importance of a deep understanding and nurturing of myself. The choices I make, big and small, are reflected back to me in the way she looks at me.
Yesterday she said, “Mommy, when I grow up I want to be you.” Oh, my heart. I make so many mistakes as a mother, as a human, but I keep showing up and I keep trying, for me and for her, my littlest teacher. I’m hoping that’s what she sees. Girls never give up.