Parenting is hard, and I will never claim to be an expert. I already know that some of the things I swear I’ll never say as a parent–like “Because I said so!” or “Because I’m the parent!”–are going to slip out eventually.
But I know what it’s like to be a girl, to be a young lady, and to be a grown woman.
Femininity is something that will always be a part of my life, and while I might forget the frustrations of some aspects of childhood, there are some lessons in being a woman that I will always remember learning and wish I hadn’t.
1. “That’s not ladylike.”
What IS “ladylike,” really? Why do we have all these arbitrary standards that define what a girl/woman/lady should be, and why are they so restricting?
My daughters can get dirty. My daughters can be bold and brash and sarcastic. My daughters can play sports, play drums, wear what they want.
I don’t care if my daughters turn out to be “ladies.” I want them to be people, with all the love and fire and passion and fury that comes with it.
2. “You’ll never get a boyfriend acting like that.”
See also: “Honey, boys don’t find that attractive” or “Don’t you want to be married someday?”
No girls of any age need their value reduced to their marriageability. This isn’t the Victorian era where women need to be able to marry well to have success.
If my daughter desires love, that’s fine. If she desires to take charge of her own life? Even better. (Nothing wrong with wanting both, either.)
Besides, who says she’ll like boys anyway?
3. “You can’t go out dressed like that.”
Whether because it’s too revealing, too unconventional, or looks too much like some negative stereotype that makes old ladies in church gasp and scowl, I care most whether what she wears makes her feel comfortable and confident.
People will look at you funny. People might think you’re trouble. Boys might get the wrong idea!
None of that is her problem, because she doesn’t dress for them, and others’ assumptions have no place on my daughter’s body. She knows who she is, and her clothes don’t affect her value.
4. “You can’t date until you’re 30!”
See also: “I’m going to have a shotgun ready every time a boy comes to pick her up,” or any witty, clever variant on “I’m going to control my daughter’s romantic life because I am unable to resist projecting my fears onto her.”
I get it. Boys only want one thing and she needs to be protected. No one wants their children to get into a sketchy situation, especially THAT kind.
But I hope that I can raise my daughters to have sound judgment and to know their own value.
I will teach them what to watch out for, to understand the dangers that can come up within relationships (especially sexual ones).
Rather than trying to control their relationships for them, I want to raise my daughters with the confidence, judgment, and sense of self-worth to give them the agency to control their own relationships. And should they find themselves in a tough situation, I want them to know I’ll HELP them–not control them.
5. “Big girls don’t cry.”
This one starts young. I remember hearing this as young as 6–not usually from my parents, but often from other well-meaning relatives.
Big girls DO cry. I’m a grown adult and I cried three times yesterday. Big girls experience emotions, too, and sometimes emotions are overwhelming and scary and you need to cry. It’s good to cry.
If my daughters are able to process and deal with their emotions in a healthy way, a lot of other difficulties in life will be just a little less difficult.