What I Wish I’d Known About Raising Girls

In the spring of 2011, we suffered a devastating miscarriage. Seven months later two pink lines sent us into a frenzy of joy, gratitude, and fear. We held our breath through the first twelve weeks and finally exhaled when the first trimester came and went uneventfully. Only then, I think, did it dawn on us that we were having a baby. A real one, with wants and needs and a personality and … a gender. Oh yeah, a gender.

At thirteen weeks, he asked me what I wanted. I told him a healthy baby and I meant it; I was and am fully aware that a healthy child is an undeserved miracle and I never take that for granted. But in the back of my mind was a familiar voice that’s never afraid of being perceived as selfish. “A girl,” it said unapologetically, and I smiled because I love its bravery.

She was born on May 1st, 2012. Tiny, precious features and a head full of dark hair. My girl, the one I’d been secretly longing for since I was a child. And then a year and half later, a sister.

I’m only two years into this mommy gig, but every day my heart and wine glass overfloweth. The former because I’m so in love and the latter because I’m so in trouble.

Why didn’t anyone tell me I’d never again leave Target without spending at least a hundred bucks on glittery shoes and pint-sized jeggings? Come on, ladies, we’re raising daughters here; the least we owe each other is fair warning. All I have to do is look at that red bulls-eye and my bank account plummets. It’s terrifying and thrilling, distressing and blissful, and I love it – buyer’s regret and all.

Speaking of fair warning, here’s some for future girl moms. That precious replica of yourself will want to do everything you do, which is great if you’re folding laundry. Not so great if you’re yelling colorful four-letter words after stubbing your toe on her dollhouse. “I hold Molly like Mommy,” she’ll say, wrapping her arms around her sister and melting you into your shoes. Then she’ll yell at her teddy bear to “sit still!” and you’ll let out a heavy “I-wonder-where-she-gets-that-from” sigh while your guests squirm (because this will, of course, only happen when other people are around) and you cringe. Future girl mommy? Relax. Take another sip of that overflowing wine.

Not because it gets easier, but because sometimes, like when you’re trying to raise a confident woman in a world obsessed with physical attractiveness and instant gratification, it’s the only thing you can do. The battle feels lost before it begins, but you’re not unarmed. You’ve got your own strength, the kind that’s brighter than what she sees in magazines and louder than what she hears on television. So that? That’s something.

What I wish I’d known about raising girls, item #4: I have many friends with sons and whenever we get together it becomes increasingly apparent that there’s a certain symmetry, or orderliness, to the way little girls play with their toys. Farm animals get lined up neatly within the confines of the fence, baby dolls get fed and then burped, books get read from beginning to end. Some days I love watching their games unfold so linearly, but other days I just want to scream, “C’mon, ladies, color the sky green and the grass blue!” Because … well, because it’s rebellious and fun in all the right ways.

“What do you want?” he asked me three years ago, and when the voice inside my head said “girl” I knew why. I wanted a little me, a chance to revisit an innocent and elusive childhood that disappeared like smoke – slowly and completely. They’re here now, my girls, and in many ways they’re the replicas I’d envisioned – Savannah with her passion and willfulness, Molly with her laughter and messiness.

But perhaps what I’d least expected about raising girls is that they’re so totally not me. They’re themselves, indefinable and unquantifiable and, oh, so perfectly unique. Unchartered territory that, despite what everyone told me – “it’s a girl, you’re a girl … you’ll know what to do” – excites and petrifies me with its unfamiliarity.

But the fear?

It’s nothing a little Target trip can’t fix.

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