The Learning Curve in Parenting with Radical Self Expression

Marley's radicalselfie note

EXHIBIT A… Proof that we have a #RadicalSelfie on our hands.

I shared that picture on my Instagram (IG) feed last week, and many of my IG family and friends commented about Marley’s willingness to risk expression.  I get it, I dig it, and I encourage it wholeheartedly.  But for damn sure, it doesn’t make it any easier to parent a being who lives in that kind of mental space.

A bit of perspective

Kris’ and my shared goal is to raise amazing people.  I’m particularly proud of that goal because our version of amazing isn’t just about academically brilliance. You and both know plenty of stupid ass “smart people”, and we don’t intend to add to that population.

For us, far more important that our daughters’ eventual titles and measurable accomplishments, is how they want to feel while they do whatever they do.

The Life Design Question

We aspire to raise emotionally intelligent daughters who

-know how to access their emotions
-have no fear of communicating their emotional needs
-are compassionate and caring towards others
-expect to be respected and know how to give respect

Sounds all new-agey and beautiful, right? It feels good too, but not all the time.

In those moments when Marley (age 9) slips a note under our bedroom door to “request an emotional wellness session”; or during those moments when Sage-Niambi (age 7) reminds her big sister that it’s okay to remind her of something, but not okay to parent her; or during those moments when either of the girls clearly communicate what they need to feel heard during a disagreement…Kris and I feel good.

We feel good and present, and we see the direct results of the emotional space we create within our little tribe of four. We feel validated in our decision to recognize that we are equipped to educate our children, and that educating them is in fact, a part of parenting, and not a task to be outsourced to someone else.

We feel that we are empowering two brown girls of immigrant parents to recognize and prioritize their own voice and their own value. And not to cower in fear, but instead to speak up with respect and the expectation of being respected.

Then there’s the rest of the time…

The rest of the time, I swear I feel like I’m charged with the task of corralling a herd of wild horses who are just as sharp-witted as they are strong-willed.

See Exhibit A above.

Who knew that raising emotionally aware and expressive daughters would come with such a steep learning curve? And that curve is not just steep for us, but for our girls as well.

For them, they have the good fortune (read that with a strong dose of sarcasm) of being raised by parents who are traditional in some ways and totally free-spirited hippy-fied in others. For example, I have personally expressed to the girls (on several occasions), that among the four of us, there is a hierarchy of power and influence, and they are at the very bottom of it. Their opinions matter, but they don’t always influence our decisions.

Also, we don’t accept responses like “what” and uh-huh” under any circumstances. Children answer formally; period. There are many other traditional child-rearing philosophies that we employ, and we know that can be confusing, particularly because we’re the same parents who allow them to …

….write unfiltered in their journals (including curse words)
….decide on their daily learning goals on their own
….stay up until midnight (or later) most days of the week
….show them self-exploration techniques so they can learn themselves.

Yep, a tricky road indeed.  And since we recognize that, we try to cut ’em some slack as they figure out how to walk the line between unfiltered expression and tactful sharing. Tact comes way later in the game, and for us as parents, it can be difficult to discern between those moments when they’re just communicating how they feel, and those instances when they’re being a bit ripe and are in need of some hierarchical reminders up in this piece.

How do we manage the rigors of raising emotionally expressive yet respectful beings?

  • We prioritize self-expression, and we correct course on a per situation basis.
  • We treat our daughters like girls who will eventually be women, and not children who should fear our wrath (most of the time, anyway).
  • We surround ourselves with other forward-thinking parents who also prioritize their children’s emotional awareness and wellness.
  • We acknowledge that the girls (at least in part) got their radical self-expression ways as a result of being raised by two stubborn, world-questioning weirdos who encourage rebellion.
  • We pray to Creator often, and we call upon our ancestors to guide us along the way.
  • We travel often so that they and we get to use the skills we practice in our daily huddle.
  • We forgive, we ask plenty of questions, and we encourage our girls to do the same.
  • We expect (them and ourselves) to make mistakes. Many, many mistakes.
  • We seek out resources to support what we believe, and to educate us on how to better manage our household.
    …and I drink white wine with my girlfriends 🙂

How about you? If you’re raising amazin’, then you know just how complicated the dance of emotional wellness and traditional values can be.  What do you do about that dance?

Do tell.
*Reaching for my glass of wine*

  • Mackenzie Irick

    I can’t tell you how much your journey validates what I feel on mine own. Thank you for sharing. It’s difficult raising young men in this manner. Outside influences dictate that they be LESS in touch with their emotions and what they want, and that they defer instead to the needs of their partner. I enjoy your sharing constantly. Thank you!

    • You’re so welcome, Mackenzie! I can only imagine the challenges in raising your boys. I have 3 younger brothers, and I do my best to talk to them about the validity of their feelings and the necessity of expression. I’m happy to know that there are mothers out there who are prioritizing that in their boys as well.