How to Raise a Reckless, Glorious, Girl—
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definitions of the words: Reckless and glorious, are the following:
reck·less | \ ˈre-kləs \
Definition of reckless
1: marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences
glo·ri·ous | \ ˈglȯr-ē-əs \
Definition of glorious
1a: possessing or deserving glory : ILLUSTRIOUS
2: marked by great beauty or splendor : MAGNIFICENT
3: >span class="dttext">, WONDERFUL
Born in 1978, I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s in the bourbon capital of the world. Stuck between Louisville and Lexington, I was from a place where everyone knew your family, your business and what you were up to every weekend. We knew all our neighbors and played from yard to yard – feeling so hot once we were old enough to climb the big ‘ole tree that sprawled into our yard and marked each kid “grown”. And once I could ride my bike, I could trail behind my brother and all of his friends too. We knew the streets, knew which hills to cruise down and knew the borders we couldn’t cross. But there was leeway too – and a sense of freedom that came with growing up in decades that were known for mix tapes, hip-hop, the AIDS epidemic, Chernobyl, the Berlin wall coming down, the rise of multiculturalism, the Gulf War, Saturday morning cartoons, landlines, Little Debbie’s and no time at all spent on the world wide web. We were free. We were loose.
We didn’t wear seatbelts on long car rides and vacations from Kentucky to New Jersey – where my mom grew up. Instead, we’d put the backseat of the station wagon down and ride lounging while eating bags of candy from the convenient store. We didn’t wear sunscreen while spending long days at the pool or down the Jersey shore. We spent elementary field trips going to distilleries to watch the ways our town made the finest bourbon – to see factories and history. A history that had us drinking hard by high school and smoking pot grown by our best friend’s dad on his fertile Kentucky soil. You could find us driving fast and wild. Shot gunning beers on desolate country roads, rolling joints on our parents’ coffee tables. We were in a word: reckless – without caution. At least that’s what everyone called us. But I would say glorious too. It's true maybe I was the only one who referred to myself and my group of friends as glorious, but we were that too. Joining every club, on the cheerleading squad, in National Honor Society, acting in every single school play and musical, passing classes, making friends in our community, living life in the most delightful and wonderful ways.
And the whole time, my folks wanted me to be who I was, but wanted me more cautious than I was aiming to be. They figured out that balance and they let me go. The things that stand out to me most are what they did do for me. My mom would talk and talk. She answered every question I ever had. She was always up front with me and my friends. Mothering them at the same time she was mothering me. Telling me to take my cup of beer in the bathroom and pour it down the drain during parties. No one will ever know! Telling me to blame her for everything: Tell them I said no. Tell them I said you couldn’t go. I will take the blame. Telling me about sex and how to protect myself. She’d cook meals for us, listen to us, tell us what to do at all times. She would write me long letters about how to shape my life, and what she expected of me. And from my father, I learned that I needed to make my own mistakes, who always told me: It is your life. You make your own mistakes. And you are the one who has to live with them. It was true. I knew that even then. And maybe that is why I pulled it together after high school, and by college and graduate school (though I made my fair share of reckless mistakes) I was on my way to becoming the artist and the woman I had always hoped I would be.
That’s how I grew up, and once I had kids, I wanted the same for them. So this is what I’ve come up with, and how I’ve strived to show up for them.
1) We talk. All the time. Conversation. Back and forth. Answer all the questions. Even if they drive you wild. Even if they make you lose sleep at night. Even (and especially) if you don’t have all the answers. Be willing to say you don’t know. Be willing to work through the answers. There are always long conversations on the way to and from school, having breakfast, at the dinner table and especially right before bed, when they seem to have the most questions of all.
2) Let there be freedom. I have been working on the process of anti-hovering. Stepping away. Taking a breath and letting them be. I’ve never been one to micromanage, but I have been trying to push that even more. They need my advice. They need my thoughts and clear guidance, but they don’t need my eyes on them all the time to be safe.
3) Make mistakes right alongside them. Perfection is boring. It’s ok to mess up and better when you share that with someone. Being a whole and nuanced person is vital. Show and share with your kids as much as possible. It’s ok to be angry sometimes. It’s good to cry – let it out.
4) Center joy and celebration. This one is sometimes tough for me, as I have been known to complain and see the glass with no liquid at all in it, but at our best, we are laughing and telling stories. We are having dance parties and telling jokes – being our full, silly, wild, goofy selves. And sharing with each other the whole way.
5) Have your own full life. Raising reckless, glorious girls means being a reckless, glorious woman yourself. Having your own experiences and memories is essential. Having friends and spending time with them will show your kids that you honor the other parts of yourself. That being a mother is wonderful and amazing, but not the only thing you are. They will see all of you – and all the ways you show up in the world.
Of course, I say all this knowing I don’t have all the answers – knowing I am all the time learning how to show up in the world and how to show my kids what that looks like. We make mistakes daily. But we show up again. Relentless. Sometimes without caution. Sometimes magnificent and illustrious. All the time as ourselves. Complicated. Nuanced. Working on being whole, present and driven by love, community and marking the world better once we’ve left.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.