Strength Builds Strength

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I always envisioned myself a mom of three boys. I honestly didn’t factor in the chance of a girl. In hindsight my wishful thinking was clearly to feed my own selfish desires of what I did not want to have to deal with. A house full of boys meant more legos and less barbie shoes, neutral colors would replace the pink and purple sparkles, money would be saved on hair product (and other products), the go-to suit and tie for dances versus the hours I have yet to spend in malls looking for the perfect prom dress. The list continues with outfit changes, hair ties, unexpected tears, nail polish remover spills, first heart-breaks (ugh-not ready), the perfect hair, nails, and friend drama. Have fun continuing to fill in the blanks, you strong mothers of girls! My neat and tidy picture of three toe-headed boys leaving dirty footprints in my kitchen has led me instead to two boys (who still leave dirty footprints), and three girls, with a set of twins thrown in the mix. Oy! Am I tired?…always. Am I learning?…always. Would I change it?…not even for a trip to Italy! And that’s a big one.

Three hours before I gave birth to my oldest baby girl, my husband and I sat in our white ford focus station wagon in Ocean Grove, NJ, eating Turkey subs from my favorite local sub shop. We opened the windows, watched the ocean, everything was quiet. Yep, this was me trying to remain calm. “Look at the ocean, contractions won’t feel so bad. You’ve got this!” The inner athlete was kicking in. I was rooting myself on through the final 400 meters of a 1500 race. In that short 20 min. of attempted relaxation before heading off to Jersey Shore Hospital, we still had not landed a girl name. The baby I was about to have was “Noah John” and that was it. Three quick hours later and massive regret for eating a turkey sub before natural child birth, we welcomed our Mollygrace Rose into the world. The only child in our family with three names, simply because my plan involved a boy and not a loud, dark haired, Italian-looking girl. It took me about one second to melt my heart with hers. And it took me a few days to realize why I suggested boy to myself and not girl.

Boys are built with an innate sense of strength, they want to win, and they want “to do.” It’s their job by nature to provide, protect, and take care. Most boys are rough, fearless, they act without thinking (often to a fault). I was drawn to raising a child with these qualities, because somehow the strength of a boy, combined with the Faith I planned to impart, felt a little more manageable as I helped to guide these humans through life. This life as we all know it is hard. Just hard. So it made sense to my then 28-year-old head that if I had only boys, I wouldn’t have to worry so much about making sure they had the strength they needed to work their way through the valleys and darkness. Side note…mothers of boys, they need our strength too, a different and softer kind. So much so that it deserves it’s very own blog post. But a girl? How could I make her a strong woman when there were so many days I felt weak. And yes, so many days I still do.

I’ve learned over time that the word I lean on the most is “empowerment.” That word contains just about it all for me when it comes to raising strong and confident girls. I take beauty out of the equation, because that’s a given. If strength and confidence are in practice, beauty is the perfect by-product. Remember that popular quote you see on Pinterest boards and FB posts…”Actions are caught, not taught.” This is where the rubber hit the road for me early on. How am I personally displaying strength to my girls? How am I pressing on amidst complete disappointment (and trust me they’ve seen it)? How am I speaking my own truth when others speak differently? Am I being authentic enough, honest enough, basically real enough to the three sets of emotional eyes watching every move I make? If they see a mom who lives powerfully and strives to live to her full potential even when she feels like she screws up every other day, at least they are seeing me try.

In yoga, the sanskrit name for Mountain Pose is Tadasana. It’s a simple, yet incredibly powerful. It represents strength even though it looks like someone is just standing there with his/her eyes closed. While teaching a children’s yoga class a few years ago, I asked the kids why they thought this pose was called “Mountain.” After about 7 answers all ranging from height, to width, to goats (yes goats), one child said in a firm voice…”because nothing moves mountains.” I still get goosebumps even as I type. This pose is in all it’s simplicity means that you have the right to be here, you belong, you are not a mistake, and YOU, yes YOU have the strength and grace to move through this world confidently even with the occasional tremor below. Stand firm, stand strong, pure power. Thus, my favorite pose of them all!

Currently, my Mollygrace is 11 and I’m proud to say that she hates the color pink! (And this was her choice, not mine. Phew!) She speaks her mind, sometimes a little too much. She steps in amongst toddler tantrums of “one last bite” or “I don’t want to share” discussions and imparts tactics I watch and learn from. She’s a natural born oldest who also isn’t afraid to jump on a surf board and in her words say, “Don’t worry mom, I can handle it.” This past week, she headed into middle school while I headed down memory lane involving such things as the right outfit, plenty of Aquanet, and recollections of awkward school dances where I made friends with cheese doodles in order to avoid the dreaded Eric Clapton song slow dance. Slowly my breath is releasing as I watch her move forward. She’s hit bumps and she will continue to. Potholes get repaired and make roads smoother. I’ll continue to try and model strength against adversity and disappointment, as well as being true to who I am in all entirety. Trusting that these actions are caught. It’s not the perfect mother/daughter relationship. What is? We fight, sometimes daily and that’s okay. All to be me mended with snuggles and “I’m sorrys” ( on both our parts) before bed. She inspires me, maddens me, mystifies me, and makes me so thankful to have been handed a baby girl on November 30th, 2006.

When I watch her play soccer I wince at times. Not because she’ll get hurt, but because she’ll cross the line and throw an elbow a little too hard. She’s sneaky, she knows the tricks to getting under her opposites skin when she’s been done unfairly. Yesterday, three minutes left in the game, I could tell she was getting frustrated. A girl, slightly bigger than her was knocking her around, Molly couldn’t hang, so I saw her kind of surrender to the punishment. Until the last minute, the exchange happened. The opponent said something to her and Molly threw every bit of her 80 lb. body into her. That’s my girl, that’s my strong, fearless girl. Instead of thinking about my “You shouldn’t do that speech, I waved my imaginary proud mama flag secretly in the air. Minutes later we ran off the field in order to get her sister to her game on time. And just like that, sweat dripping down her forehead, a bit out of breath, my Molly said the most amazing phrase to me. “Mom, that girl was stronger than me, but she pushed me too far and it turned out that she made me stronger.” Yes baby girl, YES! Use the weaknesses of others, the unfair shots, the hurts and betrayal to make YOU stronger. She’s getting it, I’m getting it, we’ll continue to get there it together.