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Empowering My Daughters

How One Italian Mom Raised by Traditional Parents Is Raising Two Young Daughters in Today's Crazy Society

By Lauren S.Published 6 years ago 9 min read
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Photo by Ryan Riggins on Unsplash

My job, my goal, is to raise my two daughters to be strong women, empower them, instill independence, morals, values, and never back down. To teach them to be passionate and go after what they want in life too. They can achieve anything they set their mind to. My husband has the same duties to them as me, but I feel it's a bit different being the mom to two girls than the dad. Seth is much more traditional than me, which can be a conflict in a society that is not usually traditional. Our daughters are Alina, age seven, and Catarina, age three.

Throughout the 1980s, 90s, and the early part of the 21st century, my parents raised me to be tough and to always be respectful. I can still hear my mom's voice telling me to be nice to everyone at school, even the bullies and especially the underdogs. I give my daughters this same advice-treat all the kids the same, be nice to everyone and help those in need. When I was in high school mourning a fairly sudden death of a relative and I felt that my whole world was falling apart for months, they pushed me out the door to school every morning. They instilled a strong work ethic in me and told me to take pride in my work. I have two younger brothers who acted like older brothers. They constantly were giving me "Indian burns" on my arms and antagonizing me, especially my youngest brother. Let alone the bathroom humor and grossness with two boys. My parent's advice with my brothers was always, "Ignore them," (which never worked). Bad dreams and being scared in the middle of the night was always met with a simple, "Get a drink of water and go back to your bed" from my father. My parents did not coddle my brothers and I. We had to be independent and strong. I'm like this with my daughters, but I give them more validation and choices. When I was a kid, I knew I was low on the totem pole and I hated it. Adults did not ask my opinion or give me choices about anything really. I give my kids choices on everything, from the clothes they wear to what sports they want to play. I make sure they know they are special and important. I always felt loved and special growing up but not important necessarily because the adults always got top billing. The children's opinions were rarely heard, let alone listened to and carried out. I tell my daughters all the time how lucky I am to have them. I make sure they feel validated; this is more of a parenting shift with my generation of those in their late 30s.

My parents are typical New Jersey Italians with immense pride in their culture, state, and country. My parents always told me I could be anything I wanted when I grew up. When I was applying to colleges, they told me I could go to any school I chose. They didn't want me to go far away, and I didn't want to either, but I remember feeling so grateful that I was being offered a world of opportunity. My parents still tell me when they think I am wrong and why; I do not ask their opinion either. I am 37 years old. My family and I are very close and always were. Even the extended family is close and no one is divorced either. This is how it is with many Catholic Italians. Italians are very affectionate and demonstrative; total strangers are their best friends. They express and receive love with a fierce intensity. That's not to say we are perfect and without conflict and negative emoticons in group text messages. My family is loud, opinionated, lacking in patience at times, disorganized, last minute with plans, and poor communicators. If a week goes by that one of my parents or brothers is not yelling at me over a trivial issue or giving me their unwanted advice, I worry. I love them for all that they helped me become and are helping my daughters become.

Even the family pets can be loud, brash, and anxious, yet love unconditionally. RIP my brother Roy's dog, Bucky, who hid in the bathtub on Fourth of July for fear of fireworks he heard, yet passed away peacefully with my younger daughter, age one at the time, and my mom by his side. This dog literally chased his shadow and trembled with fear if he saw a mail carrier. My dog Tommy thinks he's a human and earned privileges in his older age that he really did not earn. The best seat on the couch, the coziest blanket in the house, freshly cooked bacon, and backyard time at 2 AM to hang out and just play. He is a Boston Terrier who survived a malignant tumor and eight rounds of chemo. Tommy is very cute and sweet; the chemo nurses adored him and how calm he was during treatment. They actually threw him a small party on his last day of chemo. He is spoiled for life and he knows this. I already mourn the day my dog passes away because my husband does not want another pet, yet we will finally get new sofas in our living room. My childhood cat, Missy, was as feisty as a Sicilian grandmother. She hated my youngest brother with a fierce passion we still reminisce about. Missy relished hissing at him and his friends; Roy equally despised her. I miss that cat dearly; she was my sister growing up in a house and family mostly filled with men and boys.

When I went to an all girls college in New Jersey that was very liberal, my parents were not thrilled. They didn't love the neighborhood the school and dorms were in and they didn't exactly embrace feminism and liberalism. Living at that school for four years taught me valuable life lessons and were some of the best, most formative years of my life. I do not define myself as a feminist, although I do support girl power and living one's life as one sees fit. College made me more open-minded and less judgmental. I realized from my sophomore year of high school and all throughout college that girl friends can be like sisters. You can go five years without speaking and still have that same bond when you do connect. I also came to learn that it's much easier and less dramatic to have male friends than female friends. Men generally do not gossip, purposely create problems, enjoy drama, over analyze things, and are catty. What you see is usually what you get. Having a core group of male friends throughout high school and college, with my "squad" of female friends, helped me to survive those tumultuous social years. Yes, a female can be just friends with a guy and that male friend can be like a super cool, older brother. My husband and I have mutual male friends currently that I knew since the sixth grade. They are like family.

We live in a world that is so different from the time period I grew up in. When I was in my twenties, I was so focused on college, graduate school, and my career that I never thought about starting a family and getting married. I was fearful at how violent the world was becoming; how could I bring a child into that? My parents were very young when I was born, which was more the norm in the 70s and 80s. Females are much more career oriented and driven than ever. I met my husband when I was 23 in 2003, and all my thoughts and opinions about waiting for everything totally changed. My older daughter tells me she can't wait to get married, and she wants ten kids. I tell her to wait until she's at least 26 to get married and stick with two or three kids; it's hard work and very expensive. No one tells you how hard marriage and being a parent is. I know no one told me, especially the parenting part. Many of my friends had children later in life and many people only have one child now. My husband and I debated on this point too when my older daughter was three. Then I realized I can't imagine living without my brothers. They helped me create a thick skin in life and shaped who I am now. I am still very sensitive, but tougher than I was as a kid and a teenager. All those years of being attacked and annoyed by two little boys and then two teenagers really built my character up.

I tell my kids that family always comes first, and one day when I am not here, they will have each other. I hear my father's voice when I say this; it was his mantra and still is. The world they are growing up in is filled with more violence than when I was a kid, more drugs, more underage drinking, social media, anorexic models, and more technology. Kids are not kids for as long. They are maturing more quickly. There is less of an innocence than in the 1980s when I was a kid. I worry about these things sometimes in terms of my own daughters coming of age in this crazy world, but then I remember if I raise my daughters with the morals and values instilled in me and I raise them to be tough, independent and strong women, they will navigate through life with a good head on their shoulders. It does take a village to raise a child, and I am very fortunate to have my husband, my family, my in-laws and many good friends to help and support me and my family. I am beyond grateful for my children's current and previous teachers and coaches also.

When my daughters are older, I will tell them, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Less (makeup) is more. Do what you love and it will never feel like work. Family always comes first. Get an education. Don't get married and have kids too young. Don't try to impress your friends and boyfriends, stick to your morals. Be a leader, not a follower. Stand up for yourself, don't take anyone's crap, and follow your dreams. Be respectful, follow the Golden Rule. Have faith, God is real. Learn to say no, stick to your guns. Being healthy is more important than the number in your clothes. Exercise, eat right, don't skip meals. Don't judge people, be accepting. Listen to your gut. Friends and boyfriends will come and go, but you will always have your sister. Protect her." Some of these tidbits of wisdom I already am sharing with them. As my dad said recently to us and his granddaughters, "To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone." Thanks Dad, you nailed it on the head.

My two daughters are already sassy, feisty, opinionated, stubborn, highly intelligent, creative, and passionate about the things in life they love to do. They love each other unequivocally, I hope they never, ever lose those qualities. It is my absolute honor and pleasure to shape these quirky little people into upstanding women.

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About the Creator

Lauren S.

Former teacher, newspaper stringer, tutor, wife and mom.

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