I started talking to my son the day I found out I was pregnant.
I talked to him about how he was Mama’s baby, and that Mr. T and I were thrilled that he chose us as his parents.
I talked to him about his father, and how he should strive to be a great man like him.
I talked to him about how much he was loved.
I imagined a nursery filled with blue teddy bears and tiny elephants in blue ties.
I had a dozen name ideas. I was obsessed with the baby boys’ section on Zulily. I bought blue charms for my Pandora bracelet to use for my gender reveal.
Then I found out my baby boy was a baby girl. And I cried like a baby.
Don’t get me wrong — I was an elated mama-to-be, but now there was an element of fear. How would I help my daughter navigate a world that’s obsessed with princesses — most of who don’t look like her? Could I teach her to thrive in a world that will likely applaud her beauty long before appreciating her brain?
If she had been a he, I could’ve stuck Mr. T with the hard work. But with a girl, I had to do some parenting, too. (Just kidding … but not really.)
I needed a game plan to navigate the situation (I live for a game plan). Here’s what I’ve come up with (so far):
- Mr. T. and I will praise Baby Bird for who she is and what she does, not just her appearance. We will, of course, tell her she’s beautiful (I told you before, my kid is gorgeous), but we’ll balance it out so she knows she’s not defined by her looks.
- We’ll make sure she knows that beauty manifests from the inside out. This won’t be difficult because we have friends and family in a variety of shades and sizes, and all are strong, intelligent, and big-hearted.
- We’ll encourage her to find an activity she loves. Pursuing a passion — whether it’s chess or musical theater — should teach her to tackle challenges. That’ll hopefully help sustain or boost her self-confidence.
- We’ll teach her that she has control over her body and sexuality. As I’ve said before, we’re working to teach her that her body is hers, and that she doesn’t have to share herself with anyone.
- We’ll make sure she knows she can talk to us about anything. I’m hypercritical of myself, but I never want to be that way with her. She needs to know that her feelings are valid, that there’s no expectation of perfection, and that we won’t shame her for her mistakes. (And I need to stop being so hard on myself so she doesn’t pick up the bad habit.)
I know this list is far from all-inclusive, but having these baby by-laws has made me feel more confident about parenting Baby Bird.
I’m preparing my daughter to run the world (thanks for the reminder, Queen Bey), so being afraid really isn’t an option.
[…] Girl Power: Raising a Strong Girl in a Rough World […]
This was wonderful! I raised 4 daughters and was delighted that each of them were girls because I knew just how I wanted to raise daughters. A lot of your ideas were my ideas all those years ago and I’m so proud of the women each one of them became- strong, independent, courageous, fighters of all things just, they stand up for what the believe in and are never afraid to speak their minds. The list is long of their amazing attributes. In August, DD1 will have a baby boy. None of us got all excited at first. We were stunned and wondered what in the world to do with him. LOL Now we realize we raise him in with lots of love and teach him the things I taught my daughters. But we will include a healthy respect for women. I never shared my political beliefs or social philosophies with my girls because I wanted them to form their own opinions and beliefs based on their experiences and observations (though let me tell you how thrilled I am that they all followed their more liberal minded mama…LOL) but these days, I’m not sure we can still do that. And that’s a whole other story for another day. 🙂 I really enjoyed your post! Sorry for the long comment but I just couldn’t seem to stop. Ha!
Thank you for the long comment; I enjoyed reading about your family!
As a first-time mom, I’m glad to hear my ideas aren’t just lofty notions that aren’t actually practicable.Hearing about your daughters gives me more hope that, barring anything terrible, I’ll be able to use my plan to raise a powerful, confident girl who wants the world to be better for her children.
And congratulations on your grandson! Since he’s being born into a family full of women, I can’t see how he wouldn’t be the greatest defender of women. 🙂
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[…] Messy Mommy: Raising a Strong Girl in a Rough World […]
I was prepared to have a boy when we found out I was pregnant, because my husband is one of four boys, and all five grandchildren on his side were – you guessed it – boys. Then, at about 11 weeks, we learned we were having a girl, and I had a moment of panic. We girls come with more waves of feelings than boys usually present. I knew how to behave like a human jungle gym for my nephews, but with a girl…? Ten years later, I can’t imagine my child being that boy I felt ready for. Parenting is a crucible and a portal of full YOU-ness – aspects of me that need to be built up are, in great part, prompted to grow and strengthen in response to the type of parent I want to be and to the needs of my daughter. I think the only thing you can truly count on is that you’ll be surprised, delightedly, continually, by how awesome your kiddo is as she grows.
Already, I can’t imagine my life with a son. My daughter is everything I wanted and nothing that I expected. It’s wonderful!
And I absolutely agree that children force you to stretch and grow. She makes me want to be a better person overall so I can be the best mama for her.
Thank you so much for your comment!
I have a girl and two boys. They are all an awesome adventure. Raising strong children who can think and act independently is a wonderful thing.
I was so scared when I found out Baby Girl was going to be a girl. Boys I can handle and relate to, since I’m not very girly and like the “boy” stuff, but makeup, princesses, dresses? Gah. Add in the extra crap girls have to deal with…gah.
I COMPLETELY understand! I can’t apply makeup. I can barely do my hair. I didn’t play with Barbies. (There was this whole thing about how she bought that dream home before becoming a doctor …)
I just hope I can raise Baby Bird to be comfortable in her skin, whether it’s covered with makeup or not.
Oy, so tough…. I hear ya, with two girls. :/ They are already very girly girls … and I am not. Jeans-wearing military engineer here!! I tried to tell my oldest today that her beauty is within, but then she said something like, “But I need my skin to cover up all my insides.” Umm, work in progress…
Lol, your daughter is so right, though.
I’m not a girly girl, either (I can’t apply makeup to save my life), and I’m not sure what I’ll do if Baby Bird is. I want her to know that I support her no matter what she does, but my support won’t really extend to teaching her how to apply eyeliner (or lipstick or foundation). 🙂
I totally agree with you! I’ve got 2 girls and I want them to feel confident in all settings!
It’s just another intimidating part of parenting. Kids seem to be growing up so quickly these days, and it doesn’t feel like I have a lot of time to build up my daughter’s self-esteem. I really hope I’m overthinking this whole thing (as I do with most things)!