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International Womens Day: Raising Little Girls Into Real Women

My daughter, Violet.

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. A worldwide celebration of the achievements of women. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will host the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony with First Lady Michelle Obama where they’ll recognize women who have excelled at advocating for women’s rights and empowerment. This year’s recipients include women whose occupations range from blogger to head of state.

Sure, certain women will be publicly lauded for their achievements. For hundreds of years millions of courageous women have battled – each in their own way – for equal rights, but it’s the women who toil in anonymity every single day that I want to acknowledge. Women whose families couldn’t make it without them. Women who work their backsides off to create cozy homes and happy children… women like you and me. We’re amazing, right?

I look at my daughter and the possibilities for her are endless. Here is this beautiful little girl who hasn’t yet been tarnished by America’s unfortunate ideal of beauty. She doesn’t know skinny from fat, ugly from beautiful, she doesn’t know what a diet is, she doesn’t know about make-up or name brand clothing, she’s  just a sweet, free spirit who enjoys dancing to Dora The Explorer and singing with mama in the car.

I know I can’t shield her from that atrocious Seventeen magazine or pretty much any programming on MTV these days forever. But I can raise a woman who knows her true worth doesn’t lay in what advertisements say is the ideal. I can refrain from making certain comments about myself in front of her. Comments like, “I am so fat!” or “Look at my wrinkles”. Because guess what? Your child doesn’t see those things. Your child sees the woman who wakes her up everyday, the woman who feeds her, the woman who pushes her on the swing at the park and reads her stories before bedtime. You are the most beautiful, extraordinary person your child knows so don’t ruin it with your society-induced self hatred.

As Babble’s John Cave Osborne so eloquently wrote in  Why You Should See Yourself The Way Your Children Do when he so brilliantly used a classic childrens book to give parents a much needed reminder about the importance of loving yourself as you are:

The velveteen rabbit was lucky. And so, too, are the rest of us who have lost some hair, inherited more wrinkles, or gained a few pounds thanks, in part, to the love we share with a child. And though it makes all the sense in the world to try to maintain our youthfulness to whatever extent is possible via a healthy lifestyle, it doesn’t make much sense at all to lament the unavoidable effects of time. Nor does it make much sense to turn to a scalpel in an attempt to try to look newer than we really are. If, instead, we could only embrace the way we look, imperfections and all. If we could only celebrate the many wonderful things that have turned us into exactly what it is that we were always meant to be…

So celebrate International Women’s Day with your daughters by seeing yourself as they do. Because, as Osborn says, to them you are the most beautiful woman in the world. The dings and dents of Father Time that you’re all too aware of don’t even register. To them, you look exactly as you’re supposed to.

Check out this cool video about International Women’s Day featuring Michelle Bachelet, new Executive Director of UN Women.

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