“Here’s to strong women.
May we know them.
May we be them.
May we raise them.”
This is the selfie I took in my mother’s bathroom on Saturday, March seventh, before heading out to a friend’s wedding.
March 7 is also my birthday.
As I normally do, I quickly uploaded the shot to Instagram with some cute little caption about how attending a wedding on your birthday is the best excuse to get all dressed up (it really is).
As the likes (or, hearts on Instagram) trickled in, I continued to stare at the photo. First, my thoughts went something like, “great haircut, Audrey,” and “nice job on the cat eyes,” and, “why can’t I wear that dress every day?”
But, the more I stared at the picture, the more I began to wonder, “Who is this woman in the mirror? At 35 years old, who am I? What do I have to give my daughter, besides my blue eyes?”
So, in honor of International Women’s Day (the day after my birthday), and because it sort of coincides with my birthday, here are some of my thoughts on women, mothering, and raising my daughter bilingually.
Here’s to strong women.
1. May we know them.
I count myself fortunate to have known several strong women in my 35 years of life, but above all, I think of my mom. Yes, I know it’s cliché to say my mom is my hero and that I look up to her. But, it’s the truth.
When I look at myself in the mirror, like I did for that Saturday selfie, I see the mark she has left on my life. I remember how she went without so that I could take piano lessons, and receive the medical care I needed as a twelve year old, and attend a ridiculously-expensive college. I think of the times her “mama bear” side came out to defend and advocate for her three girls. I recount our numerous phone conversations in which I sought her much coveted advice on everything from dating to asking for a raise to how do I get a stain out of my rug. I remember stumbling out of bed morning after morning at 5:30 a.m. to find that my mother had already been awake for an hour, meditating, praying, and reading her Bible.
Fierce. Humble. Sacrificial. Brave. Hilarious. Generous.
This is my mother, and I am so glad to know her.
2. May we be them.
I once heard a minister challenge his congregation: when you look at yourself in the mirror, do you see the same person you were five, 10, 15 years ago? If so, then you’re not growing and maturing. Those words have stuck with me ever since; I actually think about them quite a bit.
Obviously, at 35 I don’t throw the tantrums I did at 2, nor am I afraid of the dark like I was at 9. I am growing and changing; we all are. And, when I look at the woman in the mirror, I am encouraged to see that I have matured in many ways since my days in high school and college.
But, if I am honest with myself, there is still so much room for personal growth. In fact, that’s why I love the quotation that frames today’s post. “May we be them.” The future (subjunctive) tense. I am still learning and still learning how to grow.
Now as a mother, reading over that list of qualities I admire in my mother, I challenge myself to continue to strive towards humility and sacrifice, to remember to be generous with my neighbors, to laugh at my mistakes, and to allow others, including my own daughter, to teach me and challenge me to grow.
3. May we raise them.
As I look at myself in the mirror, I wonder what legacy I will leave for my daughter. How will little E. remember me?
I don’t want her to only remember me as the mother who gave her the gift of two languages (although that is important to my husband and me) for the sake of being able to say, yeah, I’m bilingual. I hope that E. will see it as part of what makes her strong because it is a tool she can use to strengthen others.
May she use her languages to fiercely defend those without a voice. To seek humility over self preservation. To learn that there is much to gain when we put others’ needs first. To laugh at twice as many jokes in two languages. And, may her life be marked by a willingness to learn, not just two languages, and to be taught by others. May she have a tender heart that longs to grow more each day. And, may this be what she sees in her mother.
What strong women have you had the privilege to know? For those of you raising children, in particular girls, in what ways are you helping them learn to be strong?