When I learned my first child would be a girl, I was both ecstatic and terrified. Being a woman in this world is not without its challenges, and thinking about my baby girl facing those challenges was unsettling, to say the least.
Like any mother, I want to protect her, but I know I have no control over the world or how people choose to behave in it. I can’t shield her from the bullshit, but I can certainly prepare her for it. So, as much as I hate to show her how jacked-up the world has become, I don’t shield her from it. I’m honest with her, even when it’s hard, because my hope is that by having an open, honest, age-appropriate dialogue from an early age, she will be well-equipped to face the madness, like a mini Gal Gadot.
There aren’t any parenting books that explain how to raise a strong woman, so most of my plan is based on experience. I know what I’ve been through, how it made me feel, and what I wish I would have known, so I jumped from there.
I talk to my daughter about our world — the perceived inequalities and the hate that seems to litter everything around us. I tell her how it makes me feel, and how I imagine it makes others feel. I ask what she thinks, and when she responds, I listen. I ask follow up questions, and “what ifs” to make her think. I want her to explore the potential of every situation, because part of resilience is understanding there are always other options and outcomes.
We talk about the negative outcomes a lot, because those are the ones that are harder to process. She is sensitive and feels deeply — I both admire and worry about that. She knows her family is always here for her. We are always in her corner, and we have her back no matter what. Our love and support is unconditional. We will always be her soft place to land, but we encourage her to jump — to take risks, and stand up for what she believes in, even when it’s hard.
The other day, when I picked her up from school, there was a first-grade boy seated next to his teacher with a tear-streaked face. The teacher was attempting to comfort him as he did his best to hide his emotions from the other kids. I watched as some children pointed and stared in his direction, and my heart immediately went out to him.
I saw my daughter walking toward the boy and the teacher. She hadn’t noticed my presence, so I stepped back and watched quietly. She grabbed the boy’s hand, leaned in and whispered something in his ear. He looked up, a weak smile crossed his face as he nodded. She smiled back, then saw me standing a few feet away.
“Mommy!” She rushed to my side, waving goodbye to her friends.
I asked what had happened with the little boy, and she explained that he was crying because he missed his mommy.
“He does that sometimes. So, I told him a secret to make him feel better,” she said. “I told him, it’s OK, sometimes I cry, too, when I miss my mommy.”
She knew what he was feeling and went out of her way to make sure he didn’t feel alone, and further, she validated his emotions. She didn’t care what the other kids thought, she only cared about his comfort. And man, I couldn’t have been prouder of my girl.
I have no control over the world or what it’s going to hand my daughter. I know there will be times she is angry and discouraged, because that’s life. But I have no worries about her heart, it is full of love and empathy. She is both sensitive and courageous, and when the world pushes her limits, she’s going to push right back, because strong girls grow up to be strong women.