Once upon a time I had a little baby girl. I told everyone she was a boy when she was inside of me, even though the doctor and the ultrasound technician kept telling me she was, in fact, a girl. I was scared, I was totally freaked out to be having a girl. Raising a daughter is one of the most intimidating jobs I can imagine, especially after the loss of my own mother.
There are so many complexities surrounding girls: their beauty, body image, education, achievement, societal roles, etc. I worried about how I would raise her and what kind of role model I would be. I have struggled with all of these complexities most of my life. What girl hasn’t?
It became very clear after she was born that all I wanted for her was to grow up healthy, happy and confident with a clear sense of her potential. I wanted to give her the skills and support to fulfill it. I am committed to raising her without a sense of limits, and to do that I will need to let her take the lead. Where do her natural strengths and interest fall. I want her to have true and complete freedom to choose whether she wants to conform to traditional roles and constraints or the new world ideal of women.
Very quickly into my new life as a mother the trappings of girlhood started to seep in. Nearly all my daughter’s baby gifts were pink. Our new life was so pink and so frilly. Pink is not a bad color, but it is not the only color, there is a whole rainbow out there. Also every single place I took JoJo everyone commented on how beautiful she was. Don’t get me wrong she was a very beautiful baby, but she was also so much more than that. I don’t want to raise a daughter who thinks her only value and her self esteem come from her looks.
JoJo went through all the usual young girlhood phases and is, in my opinion, headed in the right direction for her. She was given the opportunity to explore anything and everything and has progressed from Disney princesses to Barbies and now, to make her own Youtube videos. She is beautiful on the inside and out. She is recognized often for her academic prowess, good citizenship, care and concern for friends, and her athletic ability. I believe this is an equal part nature and nurture. Inborn biases are reinforced by a child’s environment. The environment in which children are raised affects their behaviors as well as their aptitudes.
Gender is a pretty weak predictor of a child’s potential gifts or challenges. My own behaviors have been hypocritical, inconsistent, and often times reactionary. As a mother I don’t want my daughter to feel compelled to conform to an impossible and unrealistic ideal. I am raising a daughter who has a reasonable and realistic perspective of herself: body, mind and soul. Everything about her is beautiful to me, and nothing is more beautiful than being authentically yourself. It is both internal and external. I never expected when I had a daughter, that one of my most important jobs would be to protect her childhood from the pressures of being a girl.
All I can hope for as a Suburban Goddess Mom is to help my little “princess” live happily ever after on her own terms, just as I am learning to do.