I had my 20 week ultrasound last week, everything is in its proper place, it seems, the heart is pumping properly, baby kidneys are functioning, 10 fingers, 10 toes, and after a few moments of struggling with a stubborn and comfortable fetus, the ultrasound tech was able to see that we are likely having a baby girl this time. A girl baby is not as easy to say with certainty, all we know is that there are no testicles.
Now what? I don't even know where to begin.
I'm a huge player in the cult of the girl. I was a Girl Scout longer
than it was cool (wait, it was cool at one point, right?), I went
to an all girl's high school and an all women's college. I have been a
feminist since before I knew there was a special word for it, eat sleep
and breathe all things equality, mostly with the well being of women
and children first and foremost in my mind. I have always imagined
having a daughter of my own. Maybe because I was a girl, it is something
I can relate to. I have never been a little boy (although, please, do
your gentle hearts a favor and go listen to "When I Was a Boy" by Dar
Williams when you're done here [sentimental cry face]. If you don't get a
lump in your throat, then you need a hug as big as life itself. Carry
Maybe I want to replicate and see from the other
side what it was to be my mother. Those formative moments stick to my
memory-- the time she told me "girls can be whatever they want to be
when they grow up", and I challenged her. I thought it over and
remember thinking "ok, I've got it. Girls can't be firemen and boys
can't be cheerleaders". Bunny was not having any of that, and
corrected me. Then, I remember, argumentative as ever, telling her that
I knew girls could not grow up to be dads (Funny, how my 'gotcha'
moment 25 years ago is now my jumping off point today. Like HELL girls
can't grow up to be dads! I know of plenty of little girls who grew up
to be great dads). The finer points of gender identity aside, my mother
never let me think of myself as "just a girl". I want to feel the pride
my mother must have felt when she finally knew that feminism "clicked"
for me, when she knew there was no going back. But can I carry on that
legacy? Can I promise to challenge every stinky, stupid stereotype I
see, in language my daughter will understand? Will I get lazy and give
in when Cinderella comes seeping in through the cracks in the doors,
bringing her sister-princess along for the ride? Will I tarnish every
viewing of my own beloved The Little Mermaid by asking Girl Baby if she really thinks trading one's voice for the pursuit of a love interest is really
the healthiest way to start a relationship? Can I just let her enjoy
the simplicity of Disney's rigid gender roles? Will I force her to play
with Isaac's tool bench trough the denial of a pair of glass slippers,
or maybe she will just gravitate toward it anyway? What did my parents
do? Well, they built me a Barbie house of my own, if that's any
indication. I guess I'd better dust off my old tool belt (just kidding,
I don't have one. Eek!).
As I grew older, my mother never shied away from talking about
the realities of pending adulthood. Not one to mice words, the phrases I
remember her dishing out most frequently were "They all look the same
upside down", referring to how many men view women, and that men's
brains react to beautiful women the same way they react to money and
cocaine. She kept it real, these lessons started around sixth grade.
She wasn't being a misogynist or man hater, she just wanted to make sure
I remembered myself as I became an adult. She was warning me
that as I aged I was going to encounter men who do or say anything for
sex, that I would find men who wanted to collect, own, control and
possess me in the same way they wanted to win money or get high. She didn't want me to consider, for one moment, that fairy tales came true-- or even happened.
She wasn't a dream crusher-- she wanted her daughters to have dreams
about something other than boys. No daughter of hers was going to be
looking for a mythical knight. Not when she had outfitted us in our own
armor. (Worth mentioning that we did read a lot of fairy tales. The
Grimm's versions. Eyes gettin' pecked out everywhere. Also, we began
to receive condoms in our Christmas stockings somewhere around 17 or 18.
Like I said, she kept it real. Real uncomfortable!) With all this as
my jumping-off point, I love to think that I am going to be the most
sex-positive mom out there. The fact bringer, the truth teller. I will
be body positive, careful not to shame myself or others, I will be a
crusader for my children in the complicated realm of adulthood. I will
shield them from the hyper-sexualized world that seems to start around
age six these days, I will let them ask questions and be honest with my
answers...I think. Until I watch an episode of "Friends" with one of
my nieces, and squirm when something remotely sexual comes on. Do I
say something? Do I ignore this situation or explain it? Does she even
notice that this is adult content? Am I doomed to eternal awkwardness
for ever and ever into eternity? Is she old enough for this talk yet?
It's certainly not my place to have the 'big' talk. Is that even still a
thing? Does she have questions? How will I know if I don't ask? She
needs you to be a role model, Sarah, get it together! ok. So then I
go "this seems a little mature for us to be watching right now" and turn
to something like the Disney channel or maybe suggest we go make
popcorn. Cool aunt fail. In this realm, I need more practice. I need
more guts. I need more Bunny B.
I've been doing this all
week. Back and forth. I want to buy a cute "girl" outfit to celebrate
our news. But...should it be a dress? Should it have pink? Ruffles? It
won't say "princess", that's for sure, or have writing on the rear (so
help me GOD, if any daughter of mine...). What color for the nursery?
Gaah! This poor babe is going to wear nothing but white onesies and live
in a colorless void, all due to my inability to make a decision! I try
to remember that I turned out to be a pretty ardent feminist in spite of
wearing a dress now and again, playing Barbies and having a room
decorated with flowers. What would Bunny do? This is the umbrella that
covers me in moments of crisis, of doubt and in times when I just need a
shove in the right direction. What would Bunny do? Have a Manhattan
and...probably encourage me to go read a book. I can accomplish half of
that, I suppose. Now if I could only find a book...
What really amazes me about my mom is that she was
able to be a strong role model for me without the umbrella of her own.
My mother lost her own mom when she was only thirteen years old. As I
age, in a way, I bring the shadow of Bunny along with me. "By this age,
my mother was (getting married, had two kids, was working on her
masters, had a perm, wore shoulder pads)" what have you, "all without
her mother". Every time. Without her own mother's hand to guide her, she
managed to raise us all. With only the memory of Louise to answer her
when she asked "how would my mother handle this?", she got through it.
How fortunate I am to have someone so wonderful to turn to, while she
had her mother only as a reference. Half an umbrella on what certainly
must have been some rainy days.
We all must wonder if our parents are proud, if they are
satisfied with what we have done with the gift of life they have given
us. I didn't realize until I was a parent that it works the other way
around: I'm just thrilled for the gift that the children have given me
by existing. They can do whatever they want with their lives. With that
mentality, I, my mother, and surely her mother, set about parenting.
We all teach our children how we value them, and how they should value
themselves. I suppose I will let the tool bench sit and hope it gets as
much use as the Barbie house. I will consent to Cinderella, on
occasion, but not without letting my feelings be known. No pink Lincoln
Logs shall pass over my threshold, however, nor shall a professional
wrestling match be viewed. Grandparents and over-zealous girlfriends can
offer her the tulle alternatives to the overalls I provide. She can
sweet talk her dad into her first pair of fancy shoes. I know how those
things go, Girl Baby, for I invented those moves, and my job is not
only to be your mom, but it's also to be your Fairy God Feminist. Sorry, but I must stay the course. For you.