So I had a special request from someone that I write a little something about raising older daughters. “Older” in this case means something more along the lines of upper elementary age . . . I don’t yet have any teenage girls. (But when I do I’ll have them in spades . . . my girls will be 13,14, and 15 all at the same time!)
“Daughters” is kind of a big topic actually, and a whole lot of things spring to mind. I’m not even going to try to say everything all at once – I thought maybe I should pick away at it and just mention a couple of things right now.
The first thing I thought of is “foolishness.” This is something that we’ve worked on from the time our girls were very small – it’s not only relevant to older girls. However, I’ve been very grateful that we have been working on it for years . . . because we’re now hitting the age where this category actually matters. Basically, you reap what you sow. You harvest what you plant and tend. If you don’t want a harvest of foolishness when your daughter is grown, don’t tolerate foolishness when it’s small. Picture a garden. That enormous stink-weed there amongst the lettuce didn’t just appear there overnight. It started out as a seedling, and you let it grow for months and months. Not only did you neglect to pull it up, you probably watered it diligently every day. If you don’t want the big stink-weed, learn to recognize the little baby stink-weeds and get rid of them as they appear. Hint: they don’t look nearly so dire when they’re smaller. They might possibly even be cute. But they’re much, much easier to pull up when they’re small and cute.
So how does this apply to foolishness? Well, what does folly look like in a grown woman? Now rewind . . . how did that folly get there? It didn’t magically appear overnight. Rewind and ask yourself what it looked like when she was 10. What did it look like when she was 8? The fact that it suddenly blossomed and everyone noticed when she was 22 does not mean that it wasn’t there all along. It just means that no one took the time to pay attention to what was actually growing. Turns out it wasn’t a lettuce.
Here are some examples of the things that we’ve focused on and labeled as “foolishness.” We’re trying to train our girls to see these traits in their friends as well as themselves. We want them to be able to identify folly in others so that they can refrain from participating, or try and steer the activity in a different direction. I’m purposely picking things here that are not obvious sins (hopefully those things are straightforward enough!) – and I’m not trying to say that these are officially sins at all. I’m just saying that as we try to train our girls away from folly, these are some of the things we’ve identified.
1. Babytalk / weird voices. Yeah – this may seem uptight. I’m not talking here about girls playing a game with a baby doll. I’m talking about the situation where you have a group of 10 year old girls talking babytalk to one another. We’re not into that. If it pops up, we remind our girls to not use foolish voices and to talk like big girls. We’re trying to train our girls into maturity, and this seems to be an obvious area where people tolerate and encourage immaturity. I’m not trying to say girls shouldn’t laugh and have fun together – I’m all about that. But I think this is one area where folly looks so completely innocent that people feel ridiculous making a deal out of it. But once again, what does this turn into? If you nurture this one, where does it go? If you’ve ever seen a group of college girls squealing and hugging and jumping up and down and using babytalk, I hope you’d agree that it’s utterly unbecoming and foolish. And embarrassing. And cheap. And not cute at all. And I never want my girls to be those girls. So when the baby version of that shows up, we work on it. Sometimes it seems tied to one particular friend – after playing with her our girls seem more inclined that way. That’s a great learning opportunity, and it means that we can remind them before playing with her again that they need to make sure to guard against using foolish voices.
2. Coarse Jesting. “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” This segues right out of the previous point. It’s amazing to me how “foolish talking” almost immediately turns to “coarse jesting” in children, and I remember being incredibly struck by this verse in Ephesians when our kids were small. Those two things almost always go together. The babytalk girls almost always inevitably descend to potty humor. And as they get older, the coarse jesting “matures” along with them. If you don’t want them making sex jokes with the boys in high school, don’t let them get away with potty jokes right now. It may seem innocent, but learn to recognize the weeds when they’re small. For us, coarse jesting is a disciplineable offense, not just if you made the joke . . . but also if you laughed at it. If your friend says something off color, you have to look them in the eyes and tell them that they need to not talk that way. Again, recognize that your small girl needs to take a stand when her friend makes a joke about buns . . . because you want her to be able to take a stand later when it’s a sex scene in a movie. Help them fight the battles when they’re small – and remember that he who is faithful with little will be faithful with much. Give your girls all kinds of encouragement when they make that stand – be proud of them and realize that it takes a lot of courage to stand up to a friend, no matter what age you are. It’s also a good reminder to watch what you yourself joke about. Most of the time that our kids have to stand up to friends for coarse jesting, it turns out that it’s actually the parents who are pretty free and easy with what they joke about at home.
That last point can be taken very wrongly by the way. Girls inclined to be Goody Two Shoes are a whole other problem requiring a whole different plan of attack. If your daughter is inclined to the foolish talking and coarse jesting, then that is where you need to focus your attention. But if your daughter is inclined to be better than everyone else, you have a whole different situation that needs a lot of wisdom. Definitely a topic for a whole separate post.