Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Boys and Girls and Songs and Messages

I always wanted a daughter. When my son was born first, I had no idea what to do. Until I had him. Then, as we are wont to do, I figured it out pretty quickly. I love parenting a boy, he's amazing and fun and I don't know why I was reluctant now. Maybe just the fear of the unknown? Silly me.

A few years later, my daughter came along. The girl I waited for (being an aunt to my siblings' many sons and one daughter, I wasn't the only one waiting for this), and our house exploded with frills and flowers and butterflies and girlish colors. I was ready. I knew how to be a parent and I was already a girl. This would be cake.

Now, nine years later? I'm still trying to figure out how to figure out parenting this little girl.

What I failed to remember about my own girlish childhood is that it's complicated. Girls are mean. Hormones are a bitch (and vice-versa). The more I try to get her to like something, the less she likes it. That age old battle between mother and daughter isn't just for the storybooks or the history books (or my own baby book, it would seem); it wages on in my house. Some days we're peas in a pod; some days we're fire and ice.

There are so many lessons that I want her to absorb, but they have to be delicately handled so the message isn't too strict or not strict enough or just completely off topic. How best to ensure that she understands that I want her to be happy and successful, and that I think she already has the abilities within her? For my son, it's easy; he believes me. For her, it takes a little bit more.

So, we're in the car (as we usually are when these things happen), and the iPod is shuffling and we have enjoyed a lovely afternoon of shopping and girl time and up comes Dolly Parton and "Jolene." She loves her country music and she loves a story song, so we listen to it on repeat a few times (at her request) and she picks up the words pretty quickly.

And I don't really think twice about it. Until she starts asking about the lyrics. I mean, it's Dolly Parton, a classic! How bad could it be? But when she wants to know, what does this part mean, what does that part mean? It makes me take notice, too. And I can't help but notice that "Jolene" just might have "Stand By Your Man" beat when it comes to questionable messages for young girls.

So, the next time we're in the car and she asks to listen to "Jolene," I oblige.
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene!
I'm begging of you, please don't take my man.
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene!
Please don't take him just because you can.
But this time, just after that opening refrain plays, I turn off the music and meet her eyes in the mirror really quickly.

"That's what she's singing, but do you know what we sing?"

She looks confused. "What?"

"We sing, 'if he's going to go that easy, good luck with that because if he's that much of a weakling I don't want him anyway.' It doesn't have the same ring, but we know better than to let some idiot treat us like crap and then try to hold onto him and cry about it." And yes, I really did warble that line out to her which made her laugh, as I knew it would, but it also made her think.

Now she grins. "So if he tries to treat you like trash, you throw him away with the garbage."

"Basically? Yes."

And then I feel better about turning the song back on and turning it up and singing along and putting it on repeat for the rest of our drive. As long as she understands--she is strong. And nobody is allowed to treat her like trash.

I met my fair share of weaklings when I was trying to figure myself out, before I knew that I was strong and capable and deserving of better. I can't save my kids from heartache and pain, I know this; I'd be foolish to try. These are lessons that they have to live through to learn from them, to grow and become compassionate adults. But I can do my best to arm them so that when they do meet people who seek to bring them heartache and pain? They can weed out the weak.

Both of my kids are amazing; fiercely kind, funny, loving, loyal, smart and strong. And I'll be damned if some weakling is ever going to steal that away from them.

And because I still love the song and think that Dolly Parton is one of the most empowered females ever, here it is:

And because another one of the most empowered females I know shared this one on Facebook, I give you the very slowed down version of "Jolene," which sounds like a brand new song but still pretty damn awesome:

There are some other versions out there that are pitch-corrected for Dolly's voice, but I like the super slow, heavy sounding voice. It makes the song something totally new.


  1. Good for you and your daughter! Self respect is important for girls and boys, but especially for girls. I have two independent-minded daughters who would never let a man disrespect them in any way, so I consider that beating this part of the parenting game like a boss. ;-)

    ~Joyce Scarbrough

  2. Ha! Mari,This post really resonated with me. Although my daughter is a little older than yours--33--I still recall all those trips we took in the car, singing along to country songs. And talk about women being being "treated like trash," one of our favorites was Reba's "But Does He Love You Like He Loves Me." The lyrics stank, but boy was it fun to belt out that song!