I did not know how much having a daughter would change me.
I was always secretly terrified of having a daughter. I have two younger brothers, and I knew boys. I understood boys. I struggled a bit with female friendships growing up, and I witnessed firsthand the complexity of the relationships between my mom and my aunts. If all that were not enough, I also saw the horrendous things that happen to women in this world during my time as an advocate, and having a daughter seemed a monumental task. I was certainly buying into some stereotypes in my fearfulness, but I was more confident in my abilities to raise kind and decent men as a woman than I was in my ability to model womanhood for another woman.
Then came Hattie.
She snuck into my life a little under the radar: my doctor confirmed I was pregnant with her before I had suspected it. As soon as he confirmed the news, I knew I was going to have a girl. We did not find out before I gave birth to her, but I knew and I was preparing. I wanted to avoid the barrage of pink tutus and frilly dresses. I wanted to avoid princesses and the obsession with beauty. I wanted more for her. I wanted everything for her.
This month, my daughter turns two. It is hard to put into words how much she has taught me in these two years, but the most important lesson has been how amazing women are from the start. Boys are just as incredible, but a mother/daughter relationship is special. There are specific things that my daughter brings to mind:
Even in the womb, personality is forming. Just as she snuck into my life, everything Hattie does is quiet and deliberate. She can be loud and crazy, but she is always studying and intently paying attention. She has a vocabulary that is astonishing, and she uses it with purpose when she wants you to know she is paying attention. She reminds me that all people matter, and that it is useful to listen sometimes.
Honesty is truly the best policy. She asks for help when she needs it and refuses it when she is confident in her abilities. Hattie has no problem letting you know when she needs a nap or when you need a nap. This helps me to be cognizant of my own abilities and to remember that it is okay to ask for help.
Children reflect the good, the bad, and everything in between. I can see myself in my daughter. She loves to draw and listen to music. She also knows how to swear and expresses her anger in the same ways I do. I see her carefully studying me as I care for her baby brother, as though she is taking notes for future reference. One morning, I was in bed nursing my youngest. He fell asleep and I sat up to see her in the bed fast asleep, with her baby dolls on either side of her in the same way her brother was next to me. All these things remind me that I am one of her primary educators. My womanhood is important to her. She will learn about what it means to be a woman from me and she will also learn how to handle the injustice that is currently part of that package. How I approach life as a woman (and as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend) will impact her.
Females are remarkable. Hattie likes what she likes because she likes it. She does not allow someone else to tell her she can’t like cars, a certain color, or a toy. She asks for what she wants. When asked what she wants to do when she grows up, she said, “I want to sing, and dance, and take a bath.” She likes pirates, dragons, sparkly shoes and the color yellow. She is no push over, but she has this way about her that is different that it is for my sons. It tells me that she is going to be a remarkable woman one day. Equal in every way to a man, but unmistakably a woman.
Hattie has a fire in her that unlike any other. I could rattle off a list of attributes and gush about her for pages, but I’d just be another proud parent. All the things that my daughter brings to my life are exactly what used to terrify me. It is still terrifying sometimes, Sure. I make mistakes at times, but she has fabulous instincts so it is mostly exhilarating. I am so thankful that Someone knew better than I did, and blessed me with my daughter. Happy birthday, sister!
Do you remember your middle school or high school reproductive health class? When I think back to my education about periods and “How babies are made” my memories are brief. I can remember short parts of videos or awkward condom demonstrations and disgusting pictures of STDs. Does this sound familiar to you?