“Be a good girl,” I said to my daughter as I hugged her goodbye at the airport on one of my trips. Almost immediately, I heard the words echo in my consciousness and suddenly remembered that this is the kind of words many girls are told before the unthinkable is perpetrated against them. They could also hear
“Be a good girl, and do what I tell you’ or “Be a good girl, and do what Isay.”
Which most girls do.
“Be good” is too often heard by the victims of sexual abuse.
“Be a good girl, and don’t tell anyone.”
“Be a good boy, and don’t cry.”
‘Good girls’ do what they’re told. They follow the rules. They listen to grownups. They raise their hands before speaking. They don’t question authority. They don’t kick or bite or scream when faced with sexual abuse. ‘Good girl’; seriously really?
And here I am, on parenting auto- pilot using these words on my girl. My lovely daughter, with a ready smile and a heart of gold. My daughter who will rather walk away than fight back. My daughter who most of the time is quite the pacifist. My daughter who’s already listening to the song “Blurred Lines” and hear, “I know you want it, I know you want it, but you’re a good girl.”
I am drawing my own line at the phrase, “Be a good girl.”Period. I don’t want for my daughter to be a good or bad girl. I want her to be kind. And brave. And honest. I want her to stand up for others and live with compassion. And I want her to always question what she’s taught, by others, and by me.
Because beyond the way these
words can be potentially warped and wielded on our children by predators, we need our kids to speak up, to question the rules, and to be resilient.
So next time, I wrap my arms around her and kiss her again, I will say:
“You know what? Forget about being good. You are already a kind, brave, compassionate and lovely girl. Have a great day, ask lots of questions, and just be you. You’ll do great’, “Speak up girl, and give ’em hell if need be,””I have your back and I trust you. Let no one else define your goodness; you’re great just the way you are.”
There are a lot of life lessons my daughter and son will learn, but there are others they do not have to and will not learn even the hard way, so help me God.
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