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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thinking about Friendships, Cliques and Self-Esteem

Thank you to the wonderfully brave people who entered for a chance to win a special book gift pack:
I put all the names into a bowl...and the winner is...Calliope! Please send me your snail mail address to hipwritermama @ comcast dot net. Congratulations!
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In light of the topic of friendships and cliques, I wanted to share a post I wrote on May 25, 2007. There were so many incredible comments and tips from the original post.

I hope this helps open up a discussion of sorts, one you can share with your friends, your children, with your school. Wishing you a day full of hope.
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It's tough being a girl in today's world. Personally, I believe girls deal with so much pressure at a young age. The pressure to be smart. To be strong. To be capable. To be athletic. To be beautiful. To be thin. To be Everything.

Now my husband thinks I'm a bit too outspoken on certain matters, so I don't want everyone jumping down my throat with this post. I'm just interested in a discussion, in an exchange of ideas, because I'm quite curious for the sake of research on what people think.

I'm just worried about today's girls. How are they going to handle the pressure to Be Everything? I'm not sure whether all this pressure to succeed is a result of the women's movement and the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which incidentally is still not an official part of the U.S. Constitution. Or maybe it's a result of a technologically advanced world and the incredible opportunities just waiting to be embraced. Or maybe, it's just the way of the world and I just need to learn to deal with it.

Some women might remember the famous television commercial of the early 1980's with a beautifully coiffed and dressed woman who does it all -- takes care of baby, has a great job, cleans, cooks and more -- "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan. And never let you forget you're a man, cause I'm a woman..."



Of course the message of this commercial was quite clear to my college friends and I. While our moms had to make choices of whether they stayed at home with the kids or had an incredibly successful career, my generation would be able to have it all. Oh yes. This commercial promised us we could have it all, quite effortlessly, mind you. All because countless amazing women had paved the way for us to have it all. So we better go for it baby, because women have fought for our rights. And we better do them proud.

Numerous women of my generation have proved that women can accomplish so much and be so much more than any of our mothers have dared to dream. We can survive, with or without a man. We can live our own dreams without waiting for Mr. Right. We don't need to be married to have children. We don't have to get married right out of college. We're not considered hopeless spinsters if we're still single in our 40's. We don't have to have children if we don't want to.

Women run businesses and run for political office. Women can be plumbers or electricians. Astronauts. Professors. Policewomen. Doctors. Surgeons. Principals. Mechanics. There are so many capable women who are intelligent, brave, courageous--simply amazing. We are survivors. We are women. Hear us roar.

Sure there are sacrifices and lots of angst. But the achievements have been extraordinary. And this is the incredible gift my generation gives to the next generation. The ability to know they are capable of and deserve so much more. We paved the way so the next generation of girls could have it easier. Forget the sacrifice. Forget the struggles. We can do anything. We are women. Hear us roar.

But with this special gift comes a price. Some women are so competitive, they put down other women who don't have the same edge. We have the Mommy Wars and the Best Career Wars. Instead of uniting, mentoring and helping each other, we women are so determined to prove we have the better life, so we end up attacking one another. Obviously this isn't true of every woman, but when it is noticed, it is plain disturbing. Sadly, this all rubs off on our daughters.

As a mother of young girls, I worry about my children's generation, who will soon wonder how they can dare compare or how they can achieve everything without losing a part of themselves. Girls are exhibiting unethical behavior, worried about their smarts and their beauty(podcast), and bullying one another. And this is all before the teenage escapism in weight control, plastic surgery, drugs and alcohol.

I worry about my generation and the expectations we have for our children. Because as we all know, there are parents who will take the expectations a bit too far. There are parents who will want their daughters to be friends only with the popular kids in school. Some parents want their girls to always be on the winning team. And there are the parents who constantly put pressure on their talented child because they want her to be the next superstar.

A number of girls in my town (boys too for that matter) are overscheduled with activities, starting in kindergarten or first grade. They are enrolled in sports teams, music and/or dance lessons and special tutoring classes too. Playdates need to arranged a couple weeks in advance. Some parents even keep their child behind a year in kindergarten for the sole purpose of giving them an edge the next school year over the other children in the class. I find this plain disturbing.

Part of me is worried because I'm not exposing my children to all of these wonderful opportunities. Sure my kids are involved in activities, but I limit them to 2 activities rather than the typical 5-6 commitments, so they can have kid time. I want my kids to be kids for as long as possible, and enjoy life. Another part of me is trying to be understanding because most parents only want the best for their children and to give them what they didn't have a children. I am left to wonder whether all this overscheduling is part of what is causing the tantrums, the talking back, the bullying, and even the attitude of some of my childrens' friends. This gives me much sorrow.

I find it interesting how we now expect our girls to be stronger and tougher, while our boys are taught to express their feelings. Isn't it sad our girls are losing their ability to be empathetic and caring? Most girls feel imprisoned by all the expectations and pressure to surpass what women have already accomplished. Is it any wonder they feel the stress and the worry? How do we set them free so they can Be what they want to be? What can we do to ease the burdens of the next generation of exceptional girls, before we end up destroying the hope of our future?
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Here are some things I'm working on for my children:
1. Children will learn from their parents. Practice what you preach.
2. Involve children in something they love--sports, music, reading, science, etc.--rather than something you want them to do.
3. Allow your child the ability to enjoy a hobby, even if it doesn't involve a competition or a medal.
4. Don't overschedule your children. Allow them to use their imagination and play. And let them have time to just be.
5. Be a good role model and find good role models for your child.
6. Spend some quality One-on-One time with your child. Let your child know it's safe to talk to you...about anything.

Here are some Reading Recommendations on Cliques, Friendships and Self-Esteem and More Books on Cliques, Friendships and Self-Esteem.

In case you'd like to read the incredible Comments and Tips from the original post, here they are.

What Tips can you share?

4 comments:

Calliope said...

Thank you so much! I can't wait to share these books with my daughter.

Your post is very timely. Thank you for your words of wisdom.

Patty P said...

You have mirrored many of my own thoughts in this essay. I worry about kids today, both boys and girls. I teach 800 children a year as a school specialist and although most are sweet, many are out of control. I think what parents don't realize is that they are mostly responsible.
That's hard to say but sometimes when I meet a parent, it explains so much about the child. Parents are under a great deal of pressure to create a perfect child. School systems set up an advanced system of measuring a child's success in things that I can't even pronounce. Kids are either below basic, just basic or exceeds expectations. I mean, what would you want for your child? Whatever happened to the simple 1-2-3 based report card? Ahh, like was so simple back on the farm...
But this is the good news...if you put in the time when they are young. And I mean quality time doing non-stressful activities such as putting together a puzzle, painting a picture or just reading together in the same room, the kids just might turn out okay! Be consistent. Impose your own set of family values and enjoy this time when they are actually living under your roof. It goes by so fast.

I love how much you care for our girls of the world, Vivian!

Heather Zundel said...

Wow, heavy stuff, and you said it all with such clarity. I don't have any little girls (yet) but this is something I worry about as well. Balance seems to be a more and more elusive thing to find, and it actually takes a lot of will power to say "no" and not try to do and be it all. So kudos to you.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Great post, Vivian! I totally agree with your thoughts.

I always thought my daughter would be a dancer and my son would play baseball. Instead they both chose soccer. My son likes to fence and my daughter likes to ride horses. We also limit activities.

My daughter never sees one of her best friends anymore who lives three doors down from us because her mother has her doing something every single afternoon. It's so sad. That child never has any down time.

I don't know that I have any tips other than what you already included. But I cherish the fact that my children choose to spend time with me and I know they value the fact that they have time to just be.