Motherhood & Words

Last night, D was reading Little House in the Big Woods to Stella, and I was sitting at the dining room table, planning my new Loft class, Americans Writing Across Cultures, which begins on Monday. I was alternating between working and watching them read because I need frequent breaks from the computer to let my eyes rest. (I had an eye exam yesterday, and I do, indeed, need new glasses. Hence the recent trouble focusing.)

D and Stella looked so precious, cuddled together on the couch, reading. Stella was listening intently, her brow slightly furrowed, and I was struck by how much she looked like me when I was little.

Whenever Zoë or Stella furrow their brows around my mom, she says, “That was exactly the look you used to get when you were little.”

I am a brow-furrower, and now that I am in my late 30s, I have a prominent line between my brows to show for it. Sometimes I furrow because I’m concentrating, intent on something. But often I furrow because I’m worried. (There is a direct correlation between my stress level and the amount of time I spend furrowed.)

As I watched Stella last night, furrowed in concentration, I had one of those pangs, those desperate wishes that she wouldn’t spend as much of her life—her energy—worrying the way I do. I so hope she can hold onto the playfulness, the confidence she exhibits in so much of what she does. But I worry—I admit it—that she will lose that sureness, and that she will begin to question who she is and her many abilities.

I know it’s early—Stella is still young—but ten years from now I don’t want to be sitting at the dining room table with her, wondering where her confidence went. I’m going to get a copy of Reviving Ophelia and read it now so I’m ready. Is that crazy? Has anyone read this book? Did it make a difference?

I’m also thinking that it would be wonderful if Stella and I could do a mother-daughter self-defense class. When I was in college, I took a semester of self-defense, and I remember feeling different—stronger, more sure of myself—after each class. One day after class, I walked into the restaurant where I worked as a hostess, and one of the waitresses said, “You look different today. Taller? Something’s different about you.”

I want my daughters to walk tall, to believe in themselves. It took me until my mid-30s to find solid ground, and I don’t want this to happen to them. Any suggestions?

Note that I am linking all books on this blog through Powell’s instead of Amazon until I’m sure Amazon is no longer discriminating against LGBT authors. You can read more about their censorship here and here.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Ann on April 15, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Loved your entry today….Yes, read Ophelia so you are prepared (but it’s not as bad as it sounds unless your child is THE most popular girl in school—avoid that at all costs) AND sign the girls up for karate….a great confidence builder! Keep them strong, but enjoy this simple, carefree time in their lives. As you know from reading my pages, it sometimes gets a little more complicated later. Ann S

  2. Andria on April 15, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I had to chuckle at this, because I read “Reviving Ophelia” when Nora was seven months old. Um, was I a little premature??

    It’s a useful book…frightening but not sensationalistic…a lot of “notes from the field” on teenage and preteen girls. The most important bit I gleaned from it seemed to be, “Raise your daughter with a 1950s sense of family security and a 1990s sense of potential and personal opportunity.” (Now that we’re in the 2000s, I think we can actually raise our daughters with a 2009+ sense of opportunity. I had an older edition.) 🙂

  3. Lynne Marie Wanamaker on April 15, 2009 at 9:41 pm


    I am wishing again that we lived closer. I share so many of your concerns for my own girl child.

    This is where you all should go to practice self defense: Then maybe we can all meet up at a National Women’s Martial Arts Federation training camp in a few years!

    Self Defense is a life changing practice. I’ve been in the arts 21years, since I was 19. But I get choked up when I realize that my daughter may not need so much transformation to recognize her own power, because she’s gotten started at age 6.

    You really haven’t experienced feminism until you hear a room full of little girls roar, “When one of us gets stronger–we ALL get stronger!”

    Thanks too for being an ally to GLBT authors. It makes slogging through this kind of homophobic crap just a little easier to know that we’ve got a lot of friends out there.

  4. peaceful reader on April 18, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Reviving Ophelia is worth it.
    I have a 6-year-old with glasses and she struggles with that image-hates how she looks with her glasses on-even though we compliment her. She sees another picture when she looks in the mirror.

  5. kate hopper on April 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I’ll definitely check out Reviving Ophelia. Thanks for your words. Andria, I think it’s hilarious you read it when Nora was seven months old.

    Lynne Marie, thanks for the self-defense link.

  6. Carrie Pomeroy on April 19, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks for the heads up on the Amazon issue, Kate.

    I’ve been reading another book about girls and media/consumer culture, Packaging Girlhood. It’s thought-provoking, though I sometimes disagree with the authors–like, they really come down hard on girls wearing pink and liking princesses. As the mother of a pink princess lover extraordinaire, I don’t think banning those things in our house would be helpful. Instead, I’ve been trying to use them as a jumping-off point for discussion.

    The book does include a nice list of books for girls that feature strong heroines.

    Good luck! Try not to worry too much about your daughter worrying. . .