My daughter is 14 months old, and I am astounded by how much she knows, sees, and absorbs. I ask her if she wants water, she nods yes. She’s fussy and I offer a snack. She claps her hands, happy again. I pick her up around nap time to take her into her bedroom, and she cries and shakes her head no. She fake sneezes just to hear me say “bless you” and then laughs and laughs.
I didn’t teach her these things.
When I found out I was going to have a daughter, I thought hard about the mother and woman I want to be and the example I want to set. I knew, even then, that the most important lessons I’d teach were not when to say “please” and “thank you.”
I want to teach her to be kind and open, confident and assertive, to be forgiving and gracious, to be a friend to everyone, to feel strong, to be good and honest. I want my girl to squeeze every ounce of happiness and love and light out of this life. I want her relationships with both friends and lovers to be defined by mutual respect and love. I want her heart to always be as open as it is right now.
When I found out I was going to have a daughter, I looked to myself for these qualities. I didn’t see the person that I wanted her to become.
It’s been nearly 10 years since I donned a cap and gown and received my degree in Women’s Studies. Life seemed so easy then, and I had no doubts about the person I’d turn out to be. I was learning how to be a strong woman, coming into my own. Life seemed so black and white. Right and wrong felt so easily defined. Hot topics were the subject of heated discussion and debate, but it was all academic. I didn’t carry with me the weight of everyday decisions or the reality of every day life.
It all feels so much more complicated now. The details have crept in, and there are bills and budgets, grocery shopping and laundry. I don’t revisit feminist theory in everyday life. I favor easy camaraderie over heated debate. The black and white world of my youth has blurred into real life shades of grey. But the seed that was planted in me those years ago – and really, much earlier – is still there. It just needed a little sunlight. A little water.
So, for my daughter – and for me – I have shined the light back on myself. I am reconnecting with old friends. I am renewing my confidence in myself. I am standing up strong for what I believe in and for who I am. I am embracing what makes me happy in myself, in others, and in my relationships and I am stepping away from the rest. I am going out and living life instead of watching it pass me by.
When I found out I was going to have a daughter, I worried I might lose myself in her, in parenthood, in the details of everyday life.
Instead, I found myself.
I have a long way to go. But I am on my way.