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What It Means For Me To Have A Girl

Focus on the hands of a 3 month old baby girl holding the fingers of her father. Vintage style color filter.

When I found out that I was going to have a daughter, I was elated. People assumed that after having a boy, I was excited to shop for pink clothes, bows, and tutus, and to finally have a chance to decorate her nursery with girly flourishes. They thought that after having a son, I was recalibrating the symmetry of our family to a perfect balance.

I heard comments like, “Enjoy the accessories,” and, “Your family will now be complete.”

The truth is that I wanted a girl for other reasons.

I adore my son to death. If we weren’t related, I would wait until he was an appropriate age and convince him to marry me. But he is a foreign animal.

When he was born, I expected to feel a oneness with him. I had carried him inside me for nine months and forged a symbiotic relationship. I thought we would continue to be intertwined through his newborn months at least.

Instead, he was very much a separate entity and let me know it. I wasn’t his other half—I was an observer. I watched him explore and discover. He asserted his independence even as an infant and pushed me away once his needs were met. As he grew, I admired his confidence, his competence, and his determination to do everything himself. I adjusted my perception of the kind of mother I had intended to be, to the kind of mother he needed. I applauded his accomplishments from a distance. I guided him gently. I let him make mistakes and learn from them. I took a step back.

Two years later, I no longer have a fantasy of symbiosis. I now understand that every baby comes into this world with a distinct character and it’s up to me to be sensitive enough to give a child what he needs, and not necessarily what I need to give.

However, learning that I was expecting a girl solidified a bond with this unborn child that I hadn’t felt before. Regardless of her personality—she may be completely different from me in every way—our gender connects us.

I imagine identifying with her experience growing up as a girl, going through adolescence, and transitioning into a woman. I want to help her feel confident and attractive but also ensure that her focus and priorities lie with treating people well, contributing to the world, and developing her intellect. I will be by her side as she navigates all of the contradictions that women confront on a daily basis: to be gentle but strong, cooperative but autonomous, self-conscious but indifferent. I will support her as she finds herself and who she wants to be.

Of course I am wary of projecting myself onto her and will not presume that she is going to follow in my footsteps. But having a daughter makes me feel like we are a united front. She won’t be my other half, but I also won’t be an observer.

As my daughter, she will always be a part of me. I hope to forge the kind of relationship where we can respect our differences but also enjoy our similarities, our shared history, and our experiences.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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