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.