My husband and I decided to not learn the sex of our baby during my pregnancy. When I felt kicks, people would comment that I must have a soccer player in there. When the baby would move around, I would hear how strong he or she would be.
And then, on an early spring day, she was here. And it was wonderful. And life went on.
Except, my past history started getting rewritten by those same people. Those same kicks and movements of pregnancy were now an indicator of what trouble she’d be as a teenager. Just you wait… people would say. Everyone was rushing to tell me just how difficult my little girl would be. Teenage girls have all sorts of emotions to deal with. Everyone was quick to tease that she’d soon be bugging me to take her shopping. It made me so sad. Was that all my baby was- a collection of emotions and shopping bags? I wanted to hide her forever and keep her safe from the stereotypes of society.
However, I quickly realized that I couldn’t exactly protect her from the rest of the world. But there was one person I could protect her from- Me. I would be her first teacher in the nature of womanhood. I would set the tone. And I wondered what messages I was already sending her regarding self-esteem, body image and self-worth.
I was forced to take a long look at myself. When I get dressed each day, her little eyes watch me. How do I treat that woman in the mirror? Do I reflect her strengths or harp on any perceived weaknesses?
When I put on my makeup, is she seeing that I do it because I love it? Does she see that I put it on for me, because that’s the only reason one should wear makeup? Does she see that it makes no difference whether I choose to wear it or not? Do I show her that?
Does she know that being strong can mean many things? Does she know that there is immense strength in letting herself feel emotions of all types? When I cry, does she see that it’s just one way I express myself and that there is no weakness in crying.
When I head off to the gym, does she see that I go to stay strong, not to stay a certain size? When I go for a run, does she know that it’s because my 92 year old grandma would give anything for one day of running and I don’t want to waste a second with these able legs? Does she know I run so that I can keep up with her and not to fit into a certain pant size?
When I eat an apple instead of reaching for a brownie, does she know it’s because I feel better when I eat my fruits and vegetables? When I reach for the brownie, does she see that it’s okay because brownies are delicious and life should be, too?
The trouble with daughters has nothing to do with shopping bags and difficult teenage years. The trouble with daughters is being a girl has often been seen as a detriment, a weakness, a blemish.
So to my most wonderful daughter, own that strength you had in my womb. You want to use it to walk through stores and go shopping? Go for it! Just know that they may be unhappy with you bringing in all that mud on your soccer cleats.