Before our children are even born, we want to do right by them. From when we have them and with whom, to what we eat, how we give birth; so many of our choices and actions are devoted to giving them the best chance at the brightest future possible. Our choices for our children establish and reinforce who they are and how they will move about their world. There is no perfect combination of choices (thankfully), but there is one tiny thing you can do for your newborn that'll actually affect the rest of her life. It's a small thing, but it must be committed with persistence and dedication throughout her life, starting from the moment she's born.
When I found out my second and last child was going to be a girl, I was thrilled — just as I had been thrilled two years earlier when I found out my first child was a boy. I honestly didn't have a preference either way, but getting a better idea of who my already beloved uterine tenant was filled me with excitement. When I shared my happy news with others, I invariably heard the following "Now you'll have one of each!" A boy. A girl. In order to have a complete family set, I needed to "diversify," apparently.
My daughter, like all other women and girls, lives in a world with a long and insidious tradition of women being defined by their relationships to men
By and large, almost three years since we learned my daughter was my daughter, I have found very little difference between raising a girl and a boy. That's not to say sex or gender has nothing to do with who our are, or impacts their personalities, but at this point in their little lives it's hardly at the top of the list (within the walls of our home). At five and two, their love of Tangled is more important to them than their male or femaleness. This, of course, is within the walls of our home. In the world at large, among those who do not know who my kids are, they are seen by designations we have collectively decided are among the most important "boy" and "girl."
Try to let her feel every joule of love you have buzzing between each individual atom of your body. Then say to her a strong, clear voice “You are not mine. You are your own person.”
My daughter, like all other women and girls, lives in a world with a long and insidious tradition of women being defined by their relationships to men. A world where women are given an impossibly long and contradictory list of the things they should and should not be. A world that will dismiss her ambition as "cute" or "reaching too high." A world that undermines, second-guesses, and undervalues her accomplishments. A world in which her femaleness is a liability that it is difficult if not impossible to ever completely escape.
So what could we possibly give a newborn to help her combat this one day? Here's what I want you to do. Hold your amazing, tiny little daughter close. Gaze into her sweet face, stroke her downy head. Try to let her feel every joule of love you have buzzing between each individual atom of your body. Then say to her a strong, clear voice “You are not mine. You are your own person.”
As a parent, one of our most difficult challenges is seeing our children as individuals outside of their connection to us. They're our little babies. Our mini-me's. This is true of any child, male or female., but one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is to let them know — from before they can even remember — that we see them for who they are, not just what they mean and who they are to us. And in the face of all the ways the world will attempt to define your daughter exclusively be her femaleness, she will need an indomitable sense of self in order to live authentically.
We aren't the only force in our daughter's lives; indeed, there will be a barrage of outside factors that will attempt to bend and break them in ways they would never consciously choose on their own. But by forcing ourselves, as their parents, to see them as their own people from day one, we give them the confidence and reassurance to resist.