When my husband and I were going through the adoption process, we didn't have a preference when it came to the gender of our future child or children. "Reasonably healthy" and "ours" were our only requirements. So when we found out on the morning we met our baby that we were heading to meet our daughter, we were ecstatic. I figured I already knew what raising a daughter would be like, since I was a daughter myself. Turns out, there are so many things that have surprised me about parenting a girl.
I've been reading about parenting for years, soaking up little tidbits of information around the internet from experts who cite research and bloggers who cite experience. In fact, to my friends and family I'm the one with the random institutional knowledge about weird parenting topics. I'm not very fond of intensive research myself, honestly, and would rather learn by osmosis which, well, isn't a terribly efficient way to gather lots of information quickly. Maybe there's an upside to it taking so long for me to become a mom.
But somehow, my institutional osmosis knowledge of parenting couldn't fully prepare me for what it would feel like to parent a girl (we don't have a boy yet, so I can't compare). Here's a roundup of some of the biggest (and more subtle) surprises.
How Fun It Is To Play Dress Up
I am not a frilly person, but once my daughter was old enough to reasonably graduate from one-piece pajama suits, dressing her up was way more fun than I ever imagined it would be. I try not to put her in totally impractical things, but the amount of joy I get from putting a bow in her hair is just silly. Halloween costumes have been pretty fun so far, too.
How Easy It Is To Make "Pretty" & "Beautiful" My Go-To Descriptors
It didn't take me long to realize how easy it is for the words "pretty" and "beautiful" to just slip out of my mouth when I look at my daughter. No matter how many times I've read that I should highlight more than my daughter's physical appearance, it's so darn difficult when my 2 week old can't really do anything but just sit there.
However, I have tried really hard to replace those words with others, especially ones that aren't so attached to gender or how my daughter looks. After all, she's also smart and courageous and strong.
How Important The Lesson Of Consent Would Be
It wasn't until I had my daughter that the topic of a woman's or girl's right to consent to every decision about her body could send me into a frenzy. If you try to challenge my daughter's right to consent, I will likely go red in the face and start stomping my foot until you seem like you at least understand that I do not want my daughter to ever lose her right to complete bodily autonomy.
How Challenging Diaper Changes Would Be
When we found out our first child was in the hospital waiting for us, my partner and I were overjoyed. We were going to be parents of a daughter! To me, and among other things, that meant easier diaper changes were in my immediate future. I mean, changing a baby girl's diaper is easier than changing a baby boy's diaper, right?
I was shocked to open my daughter's diaper for the first time and be totally nervous of all her little delicate parts. I also can't believe the number of times I've had to reiterate front to back to my husband.
How Problematic Bubble Baths Can Be
Somehow I made it through 33 years of life before I knew that bubble baths can cause urinary tract infections in babies and toddlers. Who knew!? I definitely didn't.
(Apparently you can bubble bath, just rinse really well down there when your kiddo is finished.)
How Much My Daughter Would Love Dirt
I don't mind dirt. In fact, my kid can eat it all she wants, and I rarely remember she's had her hands deep in sticks and rocks until I realize I probably should have cut her fingernails a little more recently.
However, dirt and stains on clothes drives me nuts, mostly because remaining stains feel like a challenge to my (very minimal) household abilities. My first reaction is to prevent those stains from happening, but I'm also conscious that I've got to let my daughter get dirty and messy and stained sometimes, too.
How Much Drama Her Hair Could Cause
My daughter was born with a head full of hair, almost all of which stayed except a long-lasting bald patch at the back of her head that finally filled in about the time she turned 1 year old.
Now that my daughter is 19 months old, we spend at least 20 minutes every morning wetting it and combing it out, then wrestling it (mostly wrestling her) to get it into a pony that won't frizz to electrocuted levels by noon. All this and she's not even 2 years old, you guys.
How Often My Daughter Mimics Me
My daughter has now taken to putting anything with a handle over her arm and saying "Bye!" as she walks to the door. Everything, apparently, is a purse. I knew I was going to be setting an example for her, but the amount of mimicking my daughter does is just insane. She's a mini-me, which makes the things I do and say all the more important.