The Three Words Your Daughters Crave The Most

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            You Are Smart

Want to hear a very sad fact about me?

What I am about to share may come across as vain, at first, but hear me out because it will make much more sense a little further along. When I was younger, I used to dream of turning 40. I thought, your 40’s were the “golden years,” when life will truly began.  Of course, at that time, I thought 40 was old. Boy, was I wrong, thank the Lord! Here’s where the sad part comes in… I truly believed that a woman’s 40’s was her prime because her beauty will have faded and the world could finally see how smart she was.

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“You’re pretty!”

I had always been told I was pretty. There’s a story that my family tells about a time when I was a toddler and a cashier at the local grocery store told me, “You’re pretty!” Sitting perched in a grocery cart, I responded with, “I know.” Something tells me that I had heard those words before, and, obviously, had no problem believing them. What we fail to understand is that our little girls believe everything we tell them about their selves.

I continued to hear those words through my adolescence and teen years, as all girls should. However, I cant remember a time in my early years when someone looked at me and said, “DeLayne, you are smart.” Moms, do you know how vitally important this is for your daughter to hear? Matter of fact, it was a running joke around my house how dingy I was. The only thing I thought I brought into this world was a pretty face. I had been told that I was talented in cheerleading and talent shows, but when that part of my life ended…. what was left? I have been trying to prove my intelligence ever since.

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I will never forget my first encounter with intelligence.

I moved to Indianapolis in my early 20’s, where I met some pretty incredible young women. They were college students at the time and I had moved in search of sobriety. There was something exquisite about those two. Their vocabulary far surpassed mine. They introduced me to art, DIY projects, and culture. Those two young ladies were the perfect balance in a friendship. Lisa was a smart, creative spirit who grew up with incredible values in Ohio. You never new what projects she had going on at their apartment! I will never forget the day I saw her sanding a dresser to refinish! I was amazed at her creativity. Erin, was a plain, librarian Type A personality, with a rock solid head on her shoulders. I was always intrigued by her simplicity and wits.  I’m not sure if they are even aware of the impact they had on my life, but because of them, I found a few of my own passions. God, I miss those two!

A few years after I moved back from Indianapolis, I first came into contact with my own creative spirit. Around the age of 24, I drew my first oil pastel drawing, which led to my love for designing a room around one picture. This new creative spark led me into an interest for photography, which led to a love for dark rooms and photoshop. Once the creative gate was open, I could not stop its constant flow into my life. Before I knew it, I was in my late 20’s, in college, taking Honors courses. My favorite classes were Geology and History of Italian Enlightenment. This is when I first realized that I actually had intelligence of my own. It was, also, around the time I was first introduced to creative writing. For an English assignment, our professor made us write a paper using all of our senses, except sight. We were to take a picture and describe it as if we were speaking to a blind person, using only the sense of taste, sound, touch and smell. My words flowed so effortlessly for that particular assignment. I will never forget the feeling of validation I got from myself through my writing.

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If you want to see your daughters become a respectable woman later in life, focus on a little more than how cute she is.

My life has been a series of repairing the past of a girl who had no idea what she was capable of, as well as making up for lost time. I am 37, now, and just beginning to see the fruits of my labor. Though I am very proud of the woman that I had to find through trial and error, my heart still aches for that young girl who could’ve done so much more, had someone taught her to focus less on boys and popularity contests and more on her intellectual strength. At times, it feels as though I could’ve cured cancer and it, still, would’ve never earned the support and respect of the people that meant the most to me. It is so important to use the right words when you are speaking to your daughters. If you don’t, they will look for them for the rest of their lives! Your daughters are more than makeup queens, fashionistas, and cheerleaders. Your daughters will become mothers.

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If you want to see someone rise to any occasion, especially a little girl, tell them how smart they are and let them know that you believe in them. If you want to see your daughters become a respectable woman later in life, focus on a little more than how cute she is. Stop teaching your daughters how to hide behind their appearances. We all deserve to be told we are beautiful, yes, but we deserve to know that we are smart enough to trust ourselves in the areas that count most in life.

Sweet child, be free.

Love, D

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