A lot has been on my mind lately, especially with the baby being on the way.
We found out last week that we are having a girl – our very own daughter. We would have been just as happy to hear we were having a son, but there’s just something that seems so right about my carrying a daughter in my womb.
As an eighteen year old girl with my guitar strapped across my body, I stood in my room, playing along with my Jennifer Knapp records. I knew every line, every yodel in her voice, nearly every hammer on the strings, and could play nearly every song without the assistance of a tab or chord chart. Her cover of Shawn Colvin’s “Diamond in the Rough” was a favorite to sing and play to. I had an intense crush on Jennifer. (I had a huge poster, every album – even her independent full length release, and played some of her songs as covers at my own shows. I saw her live several times, and even brought a pack of slim jims and gave them to her manager to give to her at a show, along with my demo and a letter I wrote.)
But, when I would listen to “Diamond in the Rough,” instead of swooning, I got caught up in how much I related to the song.
As a little girl, I really did go down to the water. I would skip stones and fish and just stare at the river along the banks, just below my grandparents’ house. I loved the river, and I still do. When I smell river water, it fills me up and makes me feel alive and comforted, and it gives me a sense of peace when I see the shimmering surface or can skip a stone across it.
Now, over a dozen years later, I have an intense crush on my wife, I still play guitar, and when the words “it’s a girl” hit my ears, the song came to me once again – this time the bridge, which I often thought of as a metaphor for holding on to our childhoods. But now, I see it in a very literal way.
I cannot wait to take our daughter to the water, to shimmer and sing, and to pass on the knowledge we have. To see her catch her first fish, teach her how to skip stones, and to cultivate within her an appreciation for nature and life.
We went to a popular retail store after we got the news, so that we could check on some of the items for our registry. As we walked around, I noticed all the extremely gendered clothing and toys, and I felt a little sad and afraid. I have never been a fan of pink, and I have a strong aversion to sparkles and anything “princess” related. So does D.
We, and many of our friends and family, have joked around about how our daughter will probably be “super girly” or “frilly” or “the girliest girl ever.”
I know what it sounds like, but the truth is that is not what I am afraid of.
I’m not afraid that she will ask me to braid her hair (I need to learn), or that she will want to wear a princess dress and play dress up (I’ll be happy to give her what she needs to let her imagination run wild), or that she will recruit the two of her moms to sit down and have a tea party (Heck, I will help her make crumpets – anyone have a recipe?).
I am afraid that like countless other girls, she will feel less than. I’m afraid that no matter how much we affirm her worth, she will succumb to the pressures of society and media and will feel bad about who she is, who she loves, or how she looks. I see stories meant to be comical which are really full of sexism and heterosexism. I see lists dividing who is “good at being a girl” and who isn’t. I see lists that demean ultra traditionally feminine behavior and others that exalt it, while demeaning those who do not fall within the confines of tradition.
I’m afraid someone will tell her she would look good if she wore make up, or that she shouldn’t wear it.
I’m afraid someone will tell her she needs to wear more skirts, or that she should be more comfortable in jeans and hoodies.
I’m afraid she will see how girls who dress certain ways get more attention and better treatment, and that girls who don’t often get ignored.
I’m afraid she will feel awkward around friends because they have interests she can’t relate to.
I’m afraid she will feel like I did.
I know I cannot live in fear. I cannot let those thoughts prevent me from being a good parent, or from enjoying the fact that I have life growing inside of me.
So, now, I know it is time to focus on what we can do and the things we can take comfort in.
We can take comfort in knowing that feminism is not a dirty word, and that there are more and more people realizing that all the word means is equality. For women and men alike.
We can take comfort in knowing that whether our daughter wants to wear dresses and eye liner or ripped up flannel shirts and a ball cap, she will have supportive parents who love her for who she is and however she wants to look.
We can know that we will support her interests, and that she will never have to feel awkward around us – as long as we do our job.
We can rest in the fact that no matter how she dresses, we will listen to her. Truly listen to her.
We can have peace in that no matter the messages from others, she will have a strong foundation of love and support and acceptance.
And that even if she feels like I felt, she won’t have to stay that way. Because home will be a sanctuary – like it was for me when I came home crying that girls were making fun of my big teeth, and my mom and aunt comforted me.
It will be a place where she will have two mothers ready to take her in our arms, and tell her truths – truths that bring not just comfort, but healing and resolve.
And we can go down to the water, and take in all that beauty, as we shimmer and sing. And though we may not know everything, we can know what’s real.