I’m about to have two little ladies running around my house instead of just one. (I’m expecting a girl.)
And raising a girl is nothing short of a blessing.
But sugar and spice and everything nice? Nah.
I’ll take a sprinkle of naughty and a hint of “likes to roughhouse.”
I’ll throw in a pinch of burn-your-mouth spicy and maybe an occasionally sour too.
Because I’ve been thinking a lot about raising girls and about being one too.
I’ve been thinking about my own experiences, hardships and hard-won lessons, and what exactly being a woman means to me.
So, here we go: a compilation of my memories, self-experiments, personal gender studies, stories and teachings.
How to raise a girl:
Let her pick out pink, frilly dresses—and wear them outside to play.
Throw the baseball with her in the backyard so that she can break in her new baseball mitt.
Be comfortable with her nudity and with your own, so that she can grow to be comfortable in her skin.
Let her take off her teenage bra and not wear it for a year. Don’t freak out if she stops shaving her armpits. Let her disown her girlhood because she’s rebelling against—and mourning—leaving it behind.
Let her cover her breasts and wear baggy clothes—but make sure that she’s not covering more than her body from the world.
Let her eat, but teach her that self-indulgence is not self-care either.
Hold her when she’s fallen down and then help her learn how to get back up, for when you’re not there to grasp her hand.
Make sure she knows that she can date whatever gender she wants. Teach her that nice guys and girls do win, and teach her, preferably through example, to choose partners based on qualities that matter and not what’s between the legs, inside wallets or behind “mysterious” demeanors.
Teach her that she is whole alone.
Help her to be proud of her femininity when (and if) she discovers it, and teach her to appropriately equate this word with strength.
Encourage her to develop her voice. Reassure her that she can be loud and large when she wants to be.
Remember, if you’re also a woman, that she is not you and that just because she’s a girl, this doesn’t mean you will share experiences, perceptions or personalities.
Kiss her and hold her and hug her for no reason. Let her know that she owes no one any of these things.
Toss her giggling, toddler body into the air. Wrestle with her and don’t tell her to “be careful” when she shows signs of being a daredevil.
Show her how to cook, do laundry and clean—not because she’s a girl, but because it will help her be self-sufficient.
Make sure she understands that “being good” doesn’t mean putting herself last or being small. Rather, it means being authentic and kind (and to herself too).
Dry her tears with your love and willingness to witness her pain, but don’t tell her that her crying should be stopped or that it’s a weakness. Show her that it takes courage to wear an occasionally tattered heart on her sleeve.
Tell her she’s beautiful. Tell her she’s beautiful when she’s just woken up, when she’s sweaty and not only when she’s all dressed up. Tell her she’s beautiful when she’s laughing and sharing her ideas and baring her soul.
Allow her to wear bright red lipstick when she’s old enough, but help her develop self-confidence without it.
And, most importantly, raise her not as a girl, but as the individual who she already is—and love her for it.
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Editor: Emily Bartran