Raising girls today

A Christian Science perspective.

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“A girl’s got to know she is loved.” That was my grandmother’s counsel as she watched my father tenderly take his infant daughter into his arms for the first time. “Always, always remember that a girl’s got to know that she is loved.” I’m told he promised me, cradled in his arms, that he would tell me every night that he loved me. He kept that promise, daily, until he passed on almost 40 years later.

As a recent Monitor feature on raising girls explores, in an age of complexity; quick-paced, tantalizing marketing; media messaging; and social networking; it’s easy to lose sight of the fundamentals. Yet my grandmother’s sage advice is still foundational to the raising of strong, gracious, intelligent, confident, healthy young women (and men as well). It’s simple: They must know they are loved.

A child’s rock-solid conviction of knowing he or she is loved needs to go deeper than a human love, which can be wavering, conditional, volatile. It cannot be achieved through a fragile, emotional love based on personal beauty, body type, passion, or sensuality. And I believe the only way to this inner confidence is to develop one’s natural, spiritual intuition – one’s relationship with God, who is the source of all love. In fact, God is Love. What could be more validating for children than to know that their amazing and unique self is approved of and adored by their Father-Mother, God, who created them.

Mary Baker Eddy, an advocate of women’s rights, established the Monitor and founded the Christian Science movement – no easy feat for a woman in the late 1800s. She wrote in the Christian Science textbook: “ ‘God is Love.’ More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 6).

She taught that each of us has an inseparable relationship with divine Love, and that we exist as the expression of Love. The fact that God is universal, impartial, all-nurturing Love challenges scholastic theology, based on the Adam and Eve allegory, that depicts God bringing a curse on womankind. It reverses for all ages this belief that woman is condemned, inferior, and less valued and loved.

The spiritual education essential to parenting brings a closeness to God that gives a young girl a strong, steady foundation. Knowing her coexistence with God, her best friend, keeps her grounded, balanced, and helps her make sound choices; she learns to say no to destructive influences and to say yes to God’s infinite possibilities, always available to her. She learns to protect her God-given purity, to value and identify herself as expressing His attributes of courage, creativity, gentleness, honesty, and sound reasoning.

I was the beneficiary of a father who communicated his love to his infant daughter. But my dad’s love only hints at the universal love, the all-encompassing love of our Father-Mother, who is telling each of us, moment by moment, that we are loved and approved of. A psalm says, “The king’s daughter is all glorious within” (45:13). All glorious – all happy, bright, kind, obedient, orderly, and radiating light, balanced in every way. There is no room for defiance and rebellion, fear, limitation, or insecurity. God’s daughter knows she is safe. She knows she is loved.

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