Winning Essays, Part 1

My name is Brelena Williams, and I just recently moved to Pittsburgh, Penn., as well as my husband and our two daughters. I have been a teacher for 16 years now, and I could really relate to your article. This past July I got a teaching position at a residential treatment facility for at-risk youth. I have nine students, all boys. Raising two girls, I have never really been around boys for an extended period of time, and yes, it takes some creativity to teach boys because they have a different perspective about play, school, friends, life.

They definitely have a masculine side that must be met in order for them to function properly. The boys I teach are eighth and ninth graders and kinesthetic learners all the way. It is surprising what boys will do just for a chance to go out and play basketball or football or hockey. At this facility, we have about 58 adolescents and 50 of them are boys. Boys try so hard to be unlike a girl until society facilitates boys acting and communicating in violent ways. I think fathers (and mothers) need to let their boys know that it is OK to cry, to be sensitive, to play with toys that are traditionally “girl” toys, because our young men are dissipating fast. And since I have two girls that will eventually marry, they need to have a large pool to choose from.

I have successfully raised two sons; they are 22 and 24 years old now. I always tried to treat my sons as people, not just children. I thought about everything at least twice until I reached a decision. I also do not believe in physical punishment. I have had some rough time also, being a divorced mother when my sons were 6 and 8. I had no job skills and no education (except high school). We have had to overcome many obstacles, like everyone. But it is in how you handle things and work things out as a family that means so much. I have also had to have help in my life, professional counseling and study and research on my own. I am very lucky to have had things turn out as they did. I am having some concerns about how to let go, though, now as I reach this part in my life. It will be interesting to see how this turns out. I am trying to uphold the great relationship with my sons without smothering them or trying to invade too much.

Thanks, also, to those who submitted the following essays:

Women Raising Daughters

By Deborah Ingalls:
I am the mother of two daughters, ages 2 and 4. When my second child was to be a daughter I was a bit disappointed. I’ve always wanted to have one of each. It just seemed like the perfect family. Little did I know that the best was yet to come. I have one daughter who is what I like to consider “all girl” and one daughter who is a complete “tomboy.” So, essentially, I was blessed in a different way. Even though they are both girls, each is so uniquely different.

At times the challenges of raising two daughters are simple, at other times the challenges are chaotic. However, I wouldn’t change them for the world. Because of the uniqueness of both of their personalities I am able myself to grow in ways that I never thought possible. I can still do all the ladylike activities with the oldest, who loves being a girl, and yet get down and dirty with the other. It’s wonderful to find out all different sides of yourself that you never thought existed.

I hope to instill in my daughters that being yourself, no matter what, is wonderful. It’s what makes you so great. I don’t ever want them to feel as if they have to conform to what society says is appropriate for girls.

I want them to be themselves, to make responsible choices for themselves, and to NEVER be ashamed of being who they are.

Having two daughters was the best gift God could have given me. My father used to tell me, “I hope when you have kids, you have a daughter and she’s just like you.”

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