"Raising a Girl is too hard," says almost everyone.

What I write on here is dictated largely by my daily experiences.  This week I noticed something really interesting.  I was talking to two completely different social groups of twenty-somethings and somehow the same topic came up- having kids.  This is not an unusual thing for our age group.  We are watching friends and peers have kids.  We are excited/confused/terrified/anticipating doing this ourselves.  We chat about it at work or while eating meats cooked over fire.  It’s all very natural stuff to chat about.

At work this conversation spontaneously came up- I am not sure how (now that I am trying to remember, my mind is blank).  I think we were talking about siblings and birth order, and someone commented on how they hope they don’t have daughters because they are terrified of dealing with them.  That comment was followed by a chorus of “Oh yeahs” and “I only want boys”  or “girls are trouble.”

*Full disclosure- In the past I have only wanted boys, too.  My reason for this is totally different than those voiced in the 2 conversations I participated in this week.  I will get to my history in that arena later.  All you really need to know now is that I do not want only boys anymore.

 I was shocked that everyone in the ethnically diverse room- 8 people, 6 women and 1 man- all agreed that they wanted only boys (I am the 8th person, just in case you were using your fingers to count).  I am no statistician (despite acing college stats TWICE), but the odds are not looking good that all 7 of these folks will have male-only-offspring.  It makes me sad that when they find out they are having a girl, they will be disappointed, even if it is only a little disappointing.  I am sure they would feign happiness.  I am sure that if some of them had boys, they would then want girls.  I hate that girls would only be desired as an afterthought, though.  That is a disgusting shame.

I spoke up about this.

I said, “I want to raise strong women who love themselves.  And I want to raise strong men who love themselves and respect women.”  This response elicited a pretty solid chorus of head nods.  But their faces betrayed that they really didn’t want to be bothered.  Raising women who love themselves in this world is a tall order.  Yo.

Then yesterday, I was in a different social setting (informal backyard party), with a pretty homogeneous racial make-up.  Again the issue of having kids came up, and people expressed that they only wanted boys.  I think I was so surprised that I heard this same information again that I neglected to contribute to the conversation.  It is actually kind of shocking that I didn’t say anything.  I was too busy thinking about how I needed to write all of this down.

I think the thing that broke my heart the most about both of these conversations, was that the majority of people who did not want to raise daughters were women.  I won’t lie to you about this; I felt betrayed.  I wanted to say, “Come on guys, it’s not so bad.  Just be the mother you always wanted to have. Bam.  Get it done.”

I have a hard relationship with my mother.  So I never wanted kids, no matter their gender, because I did not want my future progeny to feel about me the way I have felt about my mother.  I have thought some pretty not-nice things about my mom.  Since I am a woman and my mother is a woman, I have some intense fears about repeating bad things and making the same mistakes she did.  It terrifies me, especially when I catch myself sounding like my mother.

 But here is the thing- I was not raised by a feminist.  I was not raised by a woman who is even my own race.  So I was/am ashamed of a what makes me ME.  I already have a cardboard children’s book on my bookshelf that is full of different colors of children that uses really fun adjectives to describe how all the colors are good and beautiful.  I want to be able to share that with my kids.  I want my kids to feel at home in their skin, no matter what color their skin happens to be.  I want them to feel like their hair is just perfect, no matter if they have little wispy frizz curls or beach waves.  I want my daughter to respect her own body and not look at menstruation as some dirty burden.  I want my boys to respect what women’s bodies can do (which is anything boy’s bodies can do) and not what they look like.  I will do this because I really wish that I was given that foundation.

I wasn’t proud of my Black history until I studied it myself in college (after being encouraged by my sister when I had the most epic identity crisis).  I wasn’t cool with my period until I read some great feminist literature and found the right products for my body (menstrual cups- it might be the product for you).

When I started my new job a few weeks ago, I went to the Target and bought myself a little make-up bag looking thing and filled it with all of the things I would need in case I got caught with my period at my work place (my cycle is just starting to regulate so I always need to be prepared, and I appreciate that you didn’t need to know that).  It has hand sanitizer, a mini bottle of advil, pads, tampons, liners.  I use a menstrual cup, but I don’t always remember to toss it in my bag.  I also know other people may come to my home and I like to have supplies for them just in case.  So I have my kit and I keep it in my bag (my co-workers think it is awesome and I am more than just a little jazzed that all the ladies come to me when they need supplies).  I said to myself, “boy, I wish my mom had made me one of these to keep in my backpack when I was in middle school.”  It would have made me feel so secure knowing I didn’t have to worry about getting my period at school.  And the make-up bag keeps everything nice and tidy and you don’t have stray tampons opening up in your bag and ibuprofen isn’t spilling out everywhere.  And if you carry a make-up bag to the bathroom, everyone just thinks you are gonna put on some lip gloss in there.  Note to self: make these kits for my daughters.

I am still terrified of being a horrible mother.  But I want to raise secure young people who love themselves and respect themselves.  I don’t want my kids to oversexualize their bodies or the bodies of others because they are not affirmed in their won sexuality or unacknowledged as sexual beings.  I also do not want them to be underprepared or uneducated about sex (am I the only person who never got the talk?).  I think if you raise kids to respect their bodies, they will respect everyone else’s bodies.  And if they are raised to love themselves, they will be loving towards others.  If they are raised to appreciate how they are unique and that being different is not bad, then they will see that people different from them are not terrifying.

I want to raise daughters because I want to raise good people.  And I really think you should raise some girls, too.  Odds are- you are gonna have to.  So better change your mind about it now.  I don’t think we can positively progress as a society, expect equal pay for women, get better maternity/paternity leave,  and respect for our bodies (Republicans: get out of my uterus.  I already told you I have a menstrual cup in my vag.  There is not enough room in there for the both of you.  Now git on home to your yacht or whatever) until baby girls are valued and wanted.  If you do not want to raise a girl, care for one, raise one to be a good citizen, then you can’t really be surprised when half our government doesn’t give a shit about them either.

Finally

I called my grandmother tonight on the phone just to see how her brother was doing.  Of course I have other things I want to tell her and I also want to see how she is doing.  I call her a few times a week now.  I never used to do that.  As my grandfather became ill, about 6 months ago, I began to call her once a week.  As he worsened my calls increased.  Now that she is a widow, I try to call 3 times a week.  
 
The calls are short.  I don’t want to be a burden to her.  I know that so many people call her all day and, in being such a classic and lovely woman, she will put her best smile on even for a phone conversation.  Recently I did call her because I needed her.  I felt really hesitant to do that, especially because the call had to do with my own marriage troubles.  I didn’t want her to hear about my marriage (even in its state of disrepair) and then consequently long for her marriage.  But, I have to realize that she will do that anyway.  And then something incredible and surprising happened, but also not so incredible and amazing, I suppose.  I poured my junk out for her to see.  I knew she would understand and she did.  She empathized with me about how hard marriage is.  And then she was able to tell me how hard it is for her that my grampa is gone.  Then we both cried on the phone.  
 
Back in December we threw this huge party at our house for a family member.  It was too much for me.  I can plan these things, but the execution makes me itchy.  I played the perfect hostess and tried my best.  The next day I called my grandmother and I told her that I don’t know how she did that for years with my grandfather.  And for some strange reason it cracked her up.  She just laughed and laughed on the other side of the phone.  It was hearty, belly, tear-producing laughter.  It was contagious and we both just laughed.  I called to tell her about it because as I was in the midst of serving appetizers, I thought of my grandmother entertaining in the 1950’s.  Her and I are so much alike.  We are best suited in the work place and out of the home.  I am a much better cook than her, but we are wild women.  We need to be free range.  We will do things that we have to do, but it will kill us.  We will serve our nicest food to the biggest bull-shitters and roll our eyes fiercely as we stroll back to the kitchen for more.    
I told her about my experience out of exhaustion, and we connected in this funny little way.  And then she just couldn’t stop laughing about how ridiculous it was.  I know exactly what she looked like on the other side of the phone.  Her breath got wheezy.  She laughed so hard.  
 
This evening, during our phone call, I shared with her another thought that I knew she could relate to.  Again she laughed and laughed.  My mother and aunt were with her and they didn’t know what was going on.  I laughed with her.  I laughed because she was laughing, and because life is ridiculous, and because I knew that her laughter was genuine.  I didn’t intend to make her laugh, I never do.  But I am so glad I did.  She told me that she will probably wake up in the night and remember and laugh some more.  I believe her.  I have seen and heard her do this.  It’s like she stores little bits of funny jokes in her pocket for a late night snack that she can enjoy on her way to the bathroom to sustain her for the long night of darkness and loneliness.  
 
In the moments after laughing where you sigh, and giggle remnants pop up, my heart felt full and glad and satisfied.  You see, it is not just that my mother and I have a strained relationship, it is that out relationship is non-traditional.  My mother is biologically my mother and she carried me in her womb and she has the cesarian scars to show for it.  But she was not able to be the mother I needed when I needed it.  We do not have a traditional relationship.  I am her peer.  She is my peer.  She did not mother me.  So our relationship exists because we have a similar family circle.   
 
I have always wanted a traditional mother, though.  Everyone does.  When we don’t have one we have a huge hole in our souls.  I am lacking in the parental unit department.  It has been a long and lonely road.  Yet my grandmother has been my constant.  She has been my sun.  I can safely orbit her and know where I am and where my home is.   When we share these moments and they make me feel whole, I have these tastes of pure happiness and completion I have been looking for.  It doesn’t make up for the times that I have felt like I have been hurled toward a black hole, or a concrete wall, but it helps.  Those moments where we are so strongly attached over the phone, draw me out from the event horizon.
 
In my college anatomy and physiology course I remember the day we learned about gametes.  Males produce sperm constantly.  Their bodies are on a clock where they constantly make new, fresh, sperm.  This is why Larry King has tons of babies and he is an old, wrinkly, man.  Females produce a fixed number of eggs and these are always with us.  We are born with these eggs.  All of our ovum that we are ever gonna have are in our little baby bodies before we are born.  This means that the egg that made me was once in my mother’s ovaries whilst she was in her mother’s womb.  My grandmother once carried me in her own womb.  That shit is profound.  When I heard that in class I thought, well at least the woman I love the most carried me in her womb.
 
I feel so glad for my snippets of joy that I get to have with my gramma.  I appreciate all of the memories and I cling to them.  I am so happy that I get to go through the relationship evolution and maturation with her that most children go through with their parents.   
Thank you, more please.
I hope and pray so desperately for all the motherless children out there to find someone that can bring them this feeling, too.  I hope for you, I really do.  I pray for you, I really do.