How I’m raising my daughter to be a little lioness that roars

"I’m trying to see how my history, my wounds, and my pride are shaping my daughter." (Elva Etienne/Getty Images)
"I’m trying to see how my history, my wounds, and my pride are shaping my daughter." (Elva Etienne/Getty Images)

There are moments I wish I could bottle: one of them is breastfeeding my little girl to sleep.

Stroking the silky duck-fluff on her head while she grunts and breathes on the breast, getting heavier, eyes blinking slower until they close and she sinks into my arms.

It’s hard to accept that I’m not just her mom. She looks up to me. Deeply Flawed Me. It’s like Imposter Syndrome amplified. I’m not someone to admire.

I’m a grown woman who inhales Astros on deadline, anxiously spends money on frivolous things, listens to what is generously called Trash Music and has never felt quite good enough.

That doesn’t seem right. I was excited about her liking me; my little squish. I could imagine afternoon milkshakes while she kicked her tartan school-uniformed legs under the table.

In my head, I was like a Cool Au Pair. We could bond before heading home, where I vaguely knew homework and other unpleasant things had to happen.

But the cold slab of mamahood hit me after 15 months of mothering.

This was a pretty real, pretty exhausting, 150% full-time job where every decision feels consequential. The weight of it can leave you breathless.

It’s where you draw on your resources. The soft feelings, the visceral memories, the hard lessons. What and who moulded, broke, guided and disappointed you. How to copy, paste, delete, and edit your way into parenting.

It made me reflect on who my heroes are, and how I watched and learned, not always consciously, the Right Way to Do Things.

Some of those moments are lost from memory. Others are as crystal clear as if they happened moments ago: like my mom putting the clothes back on their hangers in the changeroom.

Changerooms in clothing stores have always been a painful place for me (I’m scarred with memories of trying on low-rise jeans in the 90s), and that little act of care emphasised that her positive words were rooted in reality.

Or when I was playing with clay at my aunt’s house – she’s a sculptor – and she complimented me on a realistic detail I’d put on my mermaid statue. Those two little moments taught me things about myself: I’m observant and loveable.

There are other hurtful moments that left deep wounds, complex reactions that shaped who I am in ways I can’t quite explain.

Growing up, you start to see the good and bad moments in context of how your heroes were shaped.

Starting to understand my mom’s childhood, and how that moulded her into an attentive mother, has helped me understand the magical and frustrating moments of my own childhood.

As a mother now, I’m trying to see how my history, my wounds, and my pride are shaping my daughter, informing my reactions to her, and fertilising my growth and actions as a mama.

How am I impacting the tiny human that grew in me…the sweet baby who’s on her way to being a grown woman who won’t remember falling asleep on my breast?

How do I distill 30 years of lessons from my mom and my aunt into meaningful moments with my daughter? My mom’s kindness and love and magic made my childhood special.

I never doubted I was adored. I learnt to treat the world with kindness. I found my inner lion: the blonde child who sticks her fingers in the faces of opportunistic bullies.

The courage of doing it anyway, even if you don’t feel like it.

My aunt taught me there are many ways to be you. As an artist, and a lesbian during the 80s, she understood and nourished my quirky creative side. She made me feel I wasn’t alone.

That is a powerful message: what’s right and what’s publicly acceptable aren’t always the same thing.

She hosted elaborate garden picnics where I wore every scarf and drank sparkling grape juice and felt like royalty, albeit royalty that carefully tailored fairy clothes from rose petals.

Watching my own angel falling asleep in my arms, I hope I can nurture her oddness, envelop her with adoration, push her to grow into a lioness with a roar that reverberates through time, to when she is holding her own child, and pondering the same thing.

Republished from the BrightRock Change Exchange programme.


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