This was in my daughters art pile from school yesterday. It’s not “pretty”. It’s tough and a little sad but with a tiny smile and achingly beautiful. Just like my girl. I asked her who it was and she immediately said, “OH THAT’S ME”.
Of course I added the wording, but when I saw her self-portrait it took my breath away. This is how she sees herself. THIS is how she sees herself. I was so excited and proud of her that it counter balanced the daily barrage of men in power being outed for their bad behavior by the women they’ve harmed.
It made me think of all the things I want my daughter to know. Things I had to learn the hard way, and she likely will too, but at least I can put them down here and pass them along some day when she’s ready.
Be exactly who you want to be. No matter who that is, don’t ever let friends or teachers or employers or coaches or directors or even YOUR PARENTS dictate who you are. It’s an honor watching you grow into yourself and your short haircut last year was just the beginning of you claiming yourself exactly as you want to be no matter what anyone else thinks. You gave me the courage to cut my hair and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. You’ve given me the strength and courage to do so many things I never thought I would do.
Rise up. Keep rising. You are already a fireball and I know we are going to have our moments of heat between us, but I welcome your fire. You don’t need to tone it down. You need to be somewhat appropriate at times, but you don’t need to tone it down. You don’t need to be sweet. You don’t need to be pretty. It took me a long long time to learn I could look and behave exactly as I wanted to and people would respect me for it. And those who don’t, well, their loss. This is not an excuse to be rude and disrespectful across the board, because respect is earned as well as given and you want that respect. It is earned through kindness and generosity and yet standing firm in your convictions and your boundaries.
Men aren’t looking out for your best interests. Sure, #notallmen, but mostly, they aren’t. There are too many #metoos out there to believe otherwise. Every woman I know has a story or multiple stories of sexual, unwelcomed mistreatment by a man at some point in their lives. Your mama has stories. In personal relationships, in work relationships. That’s what we are trying so hard to change. Look out for yourself. Many men won’t care for you the way you are accustomed growing up in our loving, respectful home.
VOTE. ALWAYS VOTE. ALWAYS VOTE IN WOMEN’S BEST INTERESTS. It’s so so so important. There will always be men (and unbelievably some women too) who want to take women’s rights away and it’s up to us to keep moving forward instead of losing the progress so many women before us have fought for. Get loud about it. You will be in good company.
Don’t make fun of people or judge them on the way they look. That’s too easy. Too simple. There is plenty to criticize when that is needed, but looks aren’t one of them. It automatically lowers my opinion of someone when they tease or make fun of someone’s appearance.
Care for yourself as you do for your brother, for Bella. Take great care with yourself. Look out for other women and girls. Stick together and stick with the winners. You’ll know who they are and lots of times they are the ones that many don’t recognize as winners. But you’ll know because of how they make you feel about yourself. A person that makes you feel badly about yourself, well, you don’t need them.
SMASH THE GD PATRIARCHY. You and all your girlfriends. A bunch of us moms and dads will be cheering you on and celebrating how far we have come knowing it’s about time. We are just now getting to the point where these men – mostly white men in unquestioned, unaccountable positions of power – are being taken down by these women who shouldn’t have to be courageous and come forward, but they are and I’m so thankful. Hopefully by the time you’re older, this will be the norm and these assholes will be ripped from their positions and replaced by women or at least more compassionate, good men who don’t act like they own women. Your mama and lots of other women (and men) are angry. We are fed up with the status quo and want more, better for you. For all of us.
After we smash the patriarchy, we rebuild. It’s happening now but it will keep happening and we get to be a part of it.
As your brother tells anyone who will listen – “GIRLS ARE STRONGER THAN BOYS”. But we can also be softer when needed and that is so desperately needed.
Men aren’t the enemy. But it can feel like it at times. Men are so sensitive. If they’re not allowed to feel their feelings in constructive ways, they can work against them or get stifled inside and come out in the wrong ways. But that’s another post. There are a lot of good men out there. Your dad and I are doing our best to raise your brother in such a way that he is respectful and kind to women in every way as I want to raise you in a way that is kind and respectful to men. That’s different than blindly following. Your dad has seriously questioned himself as to if he’s harmed any women in his past in any disrespectful way. He believes women. What is happening right now is causing men to call each other out, to question each other, and that’s a good thing. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for a man for 16 years who has never so much as expressed a whiff of disrespect or inappropriate behavior. Not only with me, but with everyone he works with. That should be the norm, not the exception.
Your optimism and creativity are two of your greatest gifts. They will carry you far if you let them. You play your cards close to your chest, but you listen closely and take it all in. You are quick to make friends and I see how girls are drawn to you. I admire that. I encourage that. I want what you have. You care so much about animals that you and your brother don’t want to eat them and of course I’m great with that. But it’s your choice. You are empathetic to kids that don’t have as much as we do, and that’s one of the most heartening things I could ever witness.
You are kind. But you also know how to push buttons when you want to hurt someone. This is human behavior 101. Just be careful that you don’t hurt the people you love the most too much….you want that trust in tact.
Never ever be fooled by sizes of clothing or designs of clothing or how other girls look in their clothes compared to you. This is all a system set up to make you feel badly about yourself. Buck that system. Since you were born and the exact same size as your twin brother, I’ve had to buy you bigger clothes because people who design little girls clothes are some sick people feeding into this system to make women feel badly about their bodies. Know that your mama screamed and yelled about this from day one and your daddy got real tired of hearing her but he agreed it was some serious bullshit. We are living in a time where it’s getting better and there are many more options out there, but know you are in this perfect body. It couldn’t be more perfect. Clothing is simply a wrapper and sometimes wrappers are warped.
Always always always remember that no matter where you are, who you are with, or what you are wearing, mistreatment by men is NEVER your fault. You never owe a man anything you don’t want to give him.
You are perfect. You are perfect. You are perfect. Of course nobody is perfect, but you are. Your fire is one of my favorite things about you even when it infuriates me at times. It gives me hope that you are not one to be walked over. You scream at the top of your lungs when it’s called for. That primal scream will keep you safe and keep you true to yourself.
Be careful with alcohol and drugs. I won’t say don’t try it, hell, even enjoy it, but know that we have a history in our family and know that it ruins entire lives. You know your mamas story. It has a happy ending, so far. I am always always always here for you when the time comes. We will talk about it a lot, but I will never tell you that you cannot do what you want to do when you are old enough.
Love is intoxicating. Don’t ever let a person do, say, write, sing, exist in such a space that has control over you. I know of what I speak. I did this. I let myself be miserable for men before I knew better and while I wish I hadn’t, while I wish you wouldn’t, if it happens, your mama will understand. I will cry with you I will weep with you I will shoot out the sky with you. And we will learn and heal and move on to be even stronger next time.
Trust women. Believe women. Be the kind of woman you would want to be friends with. My mama always says this about me, that if I weren’t her daughter, I would still be a woman she would want to be friends with. I hope that we always feel this way about each other. We can argue and disagree and be angry and yet we can love more than I ever dreamed possible. Don’t let this life make you hard and cold. There is so much good out there and your mamas goal is to help you see that, along with the reality of how awful it can be. There are scary monsters out there and they are people. Usually men. But there are so many beautiful kind loving people out here too and I will help you navigate. You can help me too because as you say, “we are big enough to help with being responsible now”, I am still not quite big enough sometimes to know the difference. We will need each other.
I want you to be a proud feminist, but you are going to have to come to that on your own. It took me a long time to claim that title and be entirely who I am, but I’m here now and I’m not going back. I know too much, and I hope to pass some of that on to you in time.
I am so lucky to be able to watch you grow into this incredible person. I never dreamed I could love a pixie cut blonde little girl (who sees herself as such a strong dark character) as fiercely as I do and root so damn hard for her to claim her space and not let anybody knock her down. But when you do get knocked down – and you will as we all do – I will be here to help you back up. Always.
Don’t worry – I know everything has to be fair so I will be writing one of these for your brother as well.
I love you so much my baby girl. There is so much more, and I will be here through all of it.