There is magic in being a mother to a daughter.
There is magic in being a mother to a son too, but it’s different. Not better or worse. Just different.
I think it’s because it is impossible to look at your daughter without having an intimate knowledge of everything that lies ahead of her. You go back to your own experiences - the good, the bad, and the down right ugly (for me it was ages 10-13). All of those feelings are so...there...when I look at my daughter.
On the other hand, there is stuff about being a boy that I don’t think I ever want to know. I will probably find out anyway, but I won’t know it in the same way that I know what is happening to my daughter.
I want things to be different for her, yet I know that most of it will stay the same. So how do I ensure that she has the grace to meet all of the contradictions our society will throw at her?
She is so smart. She already knows that there is a difference between what she wants to be and what she will have to do to earn money. Maybe I can convince her that these things could be the same, but right now she wants to be a mermaid who doesn’t need to work because she can just get money from her dad. I only wish I made that up.
She loves wearing barrettes and jewellery. “Get me my jewels Mommy!” she calls and I dutifully respond, like I’m the farm boy. “As you wish,” I say when I give them to her. Someday she might know what that means.
She wants to keep her hair long and prefers to wear dresses or skirts, and leggings or tights. Never jeans. She has enough of her own style to know that she wants to wear a pink hockey helmet.
Maybe by the time she’s old enough to have a daughter of her own she won’t have to worry about whether or not there are enough daycare spaces, or if she will be able to afford the ones that are available. Will she know what it means to “lean in”, or will it just be a way of life? She will go after what she wants and she will be able to achieve it. It doesn’t have to have a label.
Is it wrong of me to say that I have my own dream that one day she too will solely be judged on the content of her character? But I want that character to be based on those things that are true, things like whether she is the kind of friend who will come rescue you if you call in the middle of the night or if she will stand up to the school bully. I don’t care that much about what she wears while she’s doing that.
Several weeks ago I asked her to do something and she said, “But I’m delicate!” If there ever was a word that I had never used to describe my daughter, it would be “delicate”, so I asked her where she learned that. Apparently the boys at preschool were being rough and so the teachers announced that they needed to stop that because the girls were delicate.
I told her that she is STRONG. Humpty Dumpty, on the other hand, is delicate. He breaks. You may fall but you will not shatter.
I went to the library to find books with strong girls. Girls who know they can be whatever they want – princess or cowgirl or race car driver – and who don’t make apologies for it. These books are not easy to find. “Ronald [...] you are a bum!” announces my most favourite princess ever, the one who outwits the dragon and saves her fiance while wearing a paper bag and who sends him packing when he says that her achievements are second to her appearance.
“Mom, Humpty Dumpty isn’t that delicate,” my daughter remarks a few days later. And I suppose she’s right. I mean, just because he can break, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he will. He might be stronger than his exterior suggests.
Just like you baby girl. Just like you.
On March 8, countries around the world recognize International Woman’s Day. Let's work to make the world a better place for daughters everywhere.