So, my husband and I
are expecting a baby girl any day now now have a baby girl (Brynn!). To be frank, when I first found out that this baby was going to be a girl, I was scared shitless.
Sure, I’m female, but as anyone who knows me will attest, I’m not exactly normal, and the thought of raising a girl in this day and age seemed like a Herculean task. So, I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do: I started reading. I read The Feminine Mystique, Mighty Be Our Powers, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Rescuing Girlhood, and Pink Brain Blue Brain. I read blog articles, sought out girl-power websites, and perused newspaper op-eds. I talked to other moms and dads of girls. Next to none of it helped. In fact, the picture seemed even bleaker than before. Mass marketing, pigeon-holed pink and purple clothing, insidious commercials, Disney princesses, risque clothing for first graders?! How do I raise a girl in such a gender-specific world? At last, I gave up reading.
And I thought, instead. I thought about all of the little girls that I know. Even with a small sample size, I know girls who climb better than boys, who are more physical than boys, who love cars and trains, and who still wear pink. I thought about the little boys that I know. I know boys who read better than girls, who speak better than girls, who have tea parties with their grandmas, and who still love cars and trains. I also thought about all of the confident, self-possessed, intelligent young women and men that I met in my eight years of teaching. Young women and men who bucked the stereotypes and pressures of high school cliques and were purely and simply their own people, true to their ideals and their goals for themselves.
In the end, I took to heart the two bits of advice that I could glean from all of the reading and talking and thinking that I did.
First, every child is unique. The most obvious epiphany ever, right? Even my own son Luke is not like any other boy we know, so why would I expect to think of my daughter any differently? She will be unique. Her own person with her own agenda, just as Luke is. Following her lead will be my joy and privilege, just as it has been with Luke.
Second, talk. The idea that open communication is the key to, well, pretty much everything. If I talk to my daughter about the shows she watches, the clothing she wears, the idols she adores, then I have the chance to help her become a critical consumer of the world. And teaching her (heck, both her and Luke) to think instead of just blindly follow is, I believe, my most important job as a parent.
I never thought I’d say this, and I know the people who know me well are going to laugh at me, but for maybe the first time in my life, I’ve decided to keep it simple. Raising a child is difficult enough as it is, right?