We didn’t find out the sex of our kids until after they were born. When I had my first, a girl, I remember my mother telling me, “Now you’ll know.” I guess she was attempting to "warn" me about life with a daughter, from the other side and as a mom. That thinly veiled warning, however, did nothing to adequately prepare me. There are things no one tells you about raising a daughter; Things that can inform you; Things that can help you create better parenting tactics. Luckily, I have strong memories of my own girlhood, and those memories have helped me empathize with my daughter. I usually know exactly where she is coming from when she acts out. “Oh yeah,” I think when she slams the door to her room. “I’ve been there.”
Since my second child is a boy, I have a pretty good handle on the difference between raising sons and daughters and, honestly, there isn’t much. They are both new humans who need love, support, trust, respect, and boundaries to navigate the world. The main difference I’ve noticed, though, is what the world expects from and tells boys and girls, and how those expectations and messages are different. From toy ads to clothing styles, our culture is still delivering our kids gender-based narratives, something my partner and I are working hard at home to not only avoid, but undo.
I can’t claim, with absolute certainly, that everything my daughter does is because she identifies as a girl. I'm sure that not every mom with a daughter experiences the following things, because every kid is different regardless of gender. The following are just things I’ve learned raising a daughter, and while they may not ring true for all moms raising daughters, at least you can say you've been adequately warned of all (or at least some) of the possibilities.
Your View Of The World Will Change
As a woman I have dealt with sexism my whole life, whether it was getting catcalled on the street as a 13-year-old, or having my math skills undermined, or being called “emotional” for expressing simple feelings, like any sentient being. However, the feminist lens through which I saw the world sharpened when I started to look at everything through my young daughter’s eyes. It's one thing for me to experience gender discrimination, but I'll be damned if my daughter is going to have to suffer. With a daughter, you go into full-on maternal mama bear mode, staunchly fending off gender-based attacks and roaring at the world in moral outrage.
She Can’t Be Labeled
Maybe it’s all these quizzes we’ve been taking online lately, but adults seem obsessed with trying to categorize ourselves. Like, honestly, what does our coffee order say about us? What does our heel height indicate about our sex lives? How to tell what kind of mom you are at preschool pick-up by analyzing your search history. We really need to take a lesson from our daughters. Mine is a wannabe rock singer with plans of working in the White House (in the President’s security detail), while studying dance, karate, and French so she can order room service at the Plaza like Eloise. I love how she refuses to be labeled, and we all can learn from kids who shun the boxes society is always trying to place them in.
She Will Worship Older Girls
Since she was three, my daughter has been inspired by and in awe of older girls. Everything about them is fascinating: their speech, their interests, their style. Now, as an 8-year-old who worships at the altar of Disney’s tween sitcoms, I have to be careful that she doesn’t take the word of these broadly drawn characters (whose dialogue is penned by grown-ups) as gospel. Luckily, there are plenty of older girl role models at her school, her dance studio, and in her Girl Scouts community, who seem to be thoughtful, ambitious, and kind leaders. So, between limiting her screen time and encouraging interaction with these girls in our neighborhood, I hope she can connect with positive influences.
She Wants To Be A Princess Because Princesses Are Badasses
Don’t fret when your girl seems to have been swallowed whole by the royal fantasy. Princess culture is not a bad thing. She doesn’t want to be a princess who demurs to some dude riding up on horseback. She wants to rule the kingdom, become friends with animals, and get decked out in some frothy finery. All admirable traits, in my opinion, and none that foreshadow any kind of “weakness.” We have to shake off our old stereotypes of princesses and embrace how the new generation is seeing these young women: as role models with goals, who take action towards achieving them, and are defining themselves by their confidence and cleverness instead of by their ability to land a rich man to take care of them.
She Won’t Take ‘No’ For An Answer
I love this about my daughter, but I was hoping it wouldn’t kick in until she was fighting for equal pay on the job. I did not realize that her strong sense of righteousness would mostly be directed toward me, and especially when I put my foot down about second desserts or wearing open-toed wedge sandals to the playground.
She Will (Maybe) Never Stop Talking
It never ends. Questions. Observations. Internal monologues that she feels compelled to recite out loud. She even talks in her sleep. At least she doesn’t call out in class though, right?
She Can Be Bossy For Good...
My daughter has always been quick to call out a social injustice. She never let anyone run roughshod over her, whether it’s another toddler at daycare snatching away her book, or speaking up for a bullied classmate. I’m proud that she believes we all should stick to a code of honor, and that she speaks up when she feels someone has done her wrong.
… And She Can Be Bossy For Evil
The "problem," if you will, is that my daughter also wants everything to go her way. She likes inventing games, but enjoys enforcing the rules even more more. It’s a fine line we walk, as parents (and especially as moms), because I don’t want to discourage her from being outspoken, but she does need to respect others and not elect herself as the final decision maker of all things. This is tough to enforce, but totally necessary. (Especially if her little brother even has a chance at making a decision when they play together.)
She Can’t Wait To Grow Up…
Everything she is too young for entices her: heels, her own phone, escorting her younger sibling to camp by herself. No matter how many opportunities to be independent we give her, she wants to skip the intermediate steps.
… But She Doesn’t Want To Give Up Her Little Kid Perks
As grown-up as my 8-year-old wants to be, she refuses to get rid of her size 4T raincoat she loves. She still wants me to tuck her in every night. I distinctly remember the night my mother no longer escorted me to bed. I was eight. I went up to her and said good night and asked if she was coming to tuck me in. “No,” she responded casually. She kissed me and smiled. “Good night.” I guess I was too old? My mother wasn’t working at the time and maybe she had hit a parenting wall. I still tuck my kids in, and even stay in their beds for a minute or so. Their low, calm breathing is so peaceful. In fact, I think I do that more for me, than for them.
She Will Always Want What She Can’t Have
In my daughter’s case, it’s a little sister, a dog, a cat, a pink flute (she has no idea how to play one), and commercial-free radio (sorry kid, I’m not paying for the ad-free service). She is no different than anyone else on the planet. We all need some reminding to be grateful for what we have.
Gratitude has been the hardest lesson to teach my children, because it seems they are trained to look for people who have more than they do. While there are plenty, there are also so many people who don’t have many things we take for granted — food, free public education, clean water, access to safe play spaces, our health, our love for one another. Telling my daughter how fortunate she is is not enough. I have to be showing her. I need to add “gratitude practice” to my to-do list. Catching her mother in the act of being thankful may be more impactful than hearing me bark: “Do you know how lucky you are?”
She Will Live To Prove You Wrong
I can declare the sky is blue and my daughter would disagree. “It’s not really blue. It’s more like a tinted white.” I don’t even think she cares about being right herself, but rather that I am wrong. It is so frustrating, but I can understand where why this character trait is a thing.
Remember being an 8-year-old and basically having no power whatsoever? There is so little you can control in the world at that age, so you just want to gain an inch over someone else, anyway you can. Usually, that means trying to prove your mother wrong. It drives me bonkers but I choose my battles. Sure, the sky is whatever color you want to call it, kid. You can have that one. However, there is no way I’m budging on my stance that Empire Strikes Back is a better movie than The Phantom Menace.
‘Reverse Psychology’ Does Not Work On Her
You may consider trying this technique — where you encourage her not to do the thing you actually want her to do — because, as mentioned, she loves proving you wrong. Rookie mistake. She sees right through that nonsense, even before she can form full sentences.
She Already Knows She Can Do Anything A Boy Can Do
Duh. After all, your daughter isn't the one telling herself that she's somehow less capable than a boy. It’s what she starts to experience outside her head, or her home, that can potentially giver this fictitious impression. Things are changing for women slowly, for the better, but we have a lot of work to do if we want our girls to maintain their confidence as they get older. I don’t believe they all have to think they need to be leaders or go into STEM to fulfill a feminist destiny, they just need to be afforded every opportunity we give our boys.
Your Feelings About Her Can Change By The Minute
I love her so much, but that means she can disappoint me terribly. Her attitude. Her behavior. Her whining. Sometimes I have very strong negative feelings about how she is acting during a particular moment. Simultaneously, I know that I should feel thankful that she can unleash such terror. It means she’s totally reassured that she won’t lose my unconditional love. Oh, parenthood. You're so strange.
Her Feelings For You Will Be Just As Fickle
Like mother, like daughter.
You Can’t Show Her Too Much Love
I guess you could say this about all children, but sometimes my daughter likes to give off an air that she’s "too cool" to need her mom's affection. She never will be. While she might not ask for a hug (since she’s going into fourth grade and is definitely no baby), I know she’ll never regret the days I gave her one anyway.