Thursday, September 2, 2010

Investing in daughters

Jo, decorating a cake.

Jo is, quite literally, growing up before my very eyes. Not a day passes that I'm not reminded of how quickly she is leaving behind "the things of childhood" and moving into the days of young womanhood. Part of me is terrified of all this change. I have loved and adored having a little girl to walk alongside me these past few years, and the thought of leaving that behind brings my Momma heart not a small portion of grief.

But then again, the greater part of me is delighted. As the trapping of girlhood slip away--as the dolls have a chance to grow dusty on their shelves, as the toy horses come out for a frolic less and less-- the woman that I'm going to know for the rest of my life emerges, bit by bit. I have the chance to fall in love with my girl all over again.

Truly, motherhood is an amazing thing.

Sensing that this was a year that would bring many changes to all of our lives, Mr. Blandings and I sat down early this summer with a list of priorities--things we absolutely didn't want to let escape us in the hustle and bustle of life. Top among my things to purpose towards was investing in Jo's blossoming womanhood. Mr. Blandings was in full support of this, even though he had very little to contribute in the way of practical ideas. (What with not having the vaguest clue as to what it feels like to be a teenage girl and all ...) I did some research, wrote down some ideas, talked to my daughter, and came up with a plan.

Jo's main goal--aside from just having girls-only access time to me--was to learn more about cooking. She's a crack baker at this point, and adores any and all time that she gets to spend in the kitchen tinkering. She'd keen on expanding her repertoire beyond the basics, but in her own social way, would prefer to do it with a guide. I'm a much more solitary cook myself, so it takes me outside of my comfort zone to share my space and skills with someone else--something I've had to shove aside as I've committed to this journey together. If my daughter wants to learn to cook with me at her side, then you can bet I will be there, discomfort or no.

My main intent on spending time together was to purposefully impart some of the insight I've learned on the road to becoming the kind of woman I think God wants me to be. Much of this is simply taking the time to share Scripture, mentor, and ask deeper questions that will help me to stay in tune with my daughter's heart as she grows. But the ultimate goal is to help her to keep listening to God's will for her life. I know all too well that as the label "teen" is added to a child's age, society's voices can grow far louder than God's. I want to help keep the volume adjusted to the proper level, if you know what I mean.

Using these two desires as a starting point, I ended up buying Doorposts' Polished Cornerstones curriculum as a guide for what I hope will be memorable, productive, fun time together as Mother and Daughter.

It's based on Scriptural definitions of womanhood, but is also open-ended enough to be used even by those of us who don't always fit under the umbrella most often opened for our KJ-only sisters. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this character-building, life-shaping curriculum really does function as a "pick and choose" buffet for crafting meaningful times around many different learning styles and personality types. And all the while, the focus is on sharing and simply being together. How refreshing!

So far, we're off to a good start. Since the book isn't necessarily meant to be used in chronological order, I skipped ahead to the chapter on cooking as that was what Jo had expressed as her biggest interest. It took me just a few hours to go through the section, select some scripture to study together (the book offers several options for each chapter's theme, then allows the parent to choose what fits their daughter the best), and zero in on a handful of activities to pursue based on that lesson. I decided to give this chapter five weeks, with two days of study being pursued each week. I can honestly say that thus far, Jo has lit up each time she realized that it's Tuesday or Thursday--"PC day!"

From the extensive list of options, I selected those activities that seemed to be most likely to help Jo with specific skills or to delight her with a chance to show off her abilities. So far, she's gained a greater understanding of the cook's role in making sure everyone stays healthy by balancing food choices in menus, learned basic cooking terms (grill, baste, saute, fold, etc.), started her own recipe binder (just like Mom's!), and begun collecting recipes that she'd like to try her hand at. All the while, we've made time to cook together. It's been a total blessing ... to both of us.

The time I've invested in spending time with Jo will always be dear to me. Watching her joy as she assembled her own recipe binder was probably one of the highlights of my month. Seriously--to see the care she took in making labels for her dividers, thinking through how she'd like to categorize, watching as she decided what her first recipe to go in to the first page protector would be ... I was proud. I was humbled. And I was struck by what a fine young woman I had on my hands already.

I have no interest in producing a mini-me clone when it comes to raising any of my children, let alone my daughter. I am overjoyed that God created within each of them their own personalities, their own proclivities, and their own desire to walk with Him in their own way. But to be able to pause and pour into a growing, developing heart is a blessing that pays out to us as mothers a hundred fold. My Jo will not be "Mary Grace all over again." That's not the point. But hopefully she will emerge from this season stronger, more prepared, and well-loved, knowing that her father and I felt that her teen years were an important time. Not for the reasons that the world so often trumpets. But for the reasons that God outlines--that she should grow in knowledge and wisdom, so as to be an arrow for the Lord.


Four Little Penguins said...

You are an amazing mom! This challenged me to be more purposeful in my raising of my daughter and she is only seven. Her teen years are looming close and I know I need to keep an intentional hold on her heart in these next few years. Thank you for the reminder!

Jennifer Jo said...

You make me so excited for the next few years as I get to watch/help my girls become women!

jennifer said...

Having just walked this path myself and having delivered our daughter to college, let me encourage you to keep up the good work. I didn't have that same conviction as early as you have, and it was hard to change course in the teen years. Praise God that I have another little girl to walk this road with... thoughtfully praying that all three of us (both my girls and myself) will be enriched in the process.

Praying for you, MG, and for little Seven. I can't wait to hear the news!

You Can Call Me Jane said...

This is exciting. My girls are still so small, but I know we'll be where you are before we know it. My bookmarks list is full of your posts like this. Thanks, Mary Grace, for sharing:-).

Renee said...


Sarah said...

Well done, good and faithful servant.