Not Strong Like Me, Strong Like You. A Letter to My Baby Girl
Just a couple of weeks after you were born, I was sitting on the couch with your pabbi watching TV and suddenly I had a total breakdown.
I was just so overcome with emotions. You were so teeny tiny and dependent on me, and I started to panic about how I’ll be able to protect you from this world. I started to think about things like the day I’ll have to drop you off at kindergarten and leave you for a few hours. This terrified me.
I’m never leaving you. I’m going to protect you from this big crazy world, is what I was thinking through my crazy mom tears.
They say that you do not know love until your child is born, and Freyja, they were partially right.
I think it’s a feeling only a mother can understand, so it might not make sense to you until you’re a mom too, but the moment you came into the world everything changed. The second I got you in my arms I felt something I had never felt before. Protecting you was suddenly the only thing that mattered to me. I knew I would die before I would let anything happen to you. And even though it has been an emotional and physical rollercoaster — I lost so much blood, couldn’t stand up on my own and didn’t sleep for five consecutive days when you were born — having you has also made me the happiest I have ever been in my life.
After my crazy breakdown with your pabbi on the couch, we ended up having a long discussion about how we wanted to raise you. And I realized that I don’t want to be an overprotective mom, because I want you to be able to carve your own path and live your own life, so you can become loving and strong.
Not strong like me, but strong like you.
And smart, kind and determined (but not bossy), independent (but still can follow instructions) and willing to stand up and speak your mind. To find love, create memories with the people closest to you and experience LIFE, just like I have, but on your terms.
That’s really all I want for you: To become the best version of you, whoever that might be.
You might not realize this until you’re a bit older, but you are so lucky to be growing up in Iceland. In Iceland, as a girl and a woman, there’s literally nothing you can’t do. Not everyone is so lucky to grow up in a country like Iceland (or with supportive parents like I had, and that you also have).
Maybe this will mean you become a doctor or a teacher, or maybe you’ll be like me and grow up to have six-pack abs that you can see right through your shirt and that you’re proud of because they’re a result of your hard work.
Not all countries and cultures are like this. Even when I first came to the United States to compete at the CrossFit Games people started asking about my muscles. And about what boys thought about me having muscles.
“What do you mean? There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s nothing weird about it.” Why would anyone think a woman shouldn’t have a six-pack?! Why was it so weird that I was a 19-year-old with muscles?
Even though you’re so lucky to live in Iceland, life isn’t always going to be easy. That’s also part of the beauty of it. You’re going to come across challenges. There will be times when you feel sad or scared. And I want you to know that whatever you’re struggling with — whether someone broke your heart or you’re nervous about something — you can come to me. Sometimes they might be big challenges, and other times they might be silly, like someone telling you you have carrot hair. And just like my mamma told me, I’ll remind you it’s gold hair. And that will make it all better.
Sometimes your fear might come from being afraid of failing.
Freyja, you might as well learn this now: You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to fail, especially if you’re pushing and challenging yourself. And most likely, these are the times you’re going to learn the most. These are the moments you’ll become even stronger. And I will be right by your side through it all, to help you dust it off, laugh with you and support you to try again.
I just want you to become strong, Freyja. Not strong like me, but strong like you.
Maybe at some point, you’ll get into a really difficult sport like gymnastics. Maybe you’ll feel pressure to be as small as you can, because your coaches will tell you it will make you a better gymnast. Maybe the other girls will start eating less to stay small, limiting themselves to just one piece of pizza at the pizza party.
Pay no attention, Freyja. Listen to what your body needs. If you do that, you can’t go wrong.
This is very important: We only have one body and it’s important to treat it with respect. When you do this, your body will be perfect, just the way it’s supposed to be.
I just want you to grow up to be strong. Not strong like me, but strong like you.
But if you are like me, this will probably mean when you’re young you might have a hard time remembering to eat enough to fuel your body through long training days, and I might have to do what my mom did for me: Make you a smoothie of ice cream and protein powder before bed to help you get those important calories in your body.
It’s also very possible you won’t be that interested in gymnastics, or CrossFit at all—but you’re going to at least try all kinds of sports, because that’s how you’re going to figure out what you’re passionate about—and that’s OK, too. It doesn’t matter what you become, Freyja, as long as you find something you’re passionate about. And when you do, you might start feeling that pressure or fear of failure again. When that happens, remind yourself that fear and nerves and pressure is a privilege–that’s what my pabbi always told me—because it shows that you care about something.
Passion and strength. Those are the qualities that will carry you in this life.
And when you do become a strong, passionate girl and woman, Freyja, remember to always be open-minded and empathetic to others. Every single person, even if they seem very different from you, has a story. There’s always a reason why people make the decisions they make. So before you judge, try to understand where they might be coming from. Your world will be a much better place to live in if you do.