Why I Was Scared to Have a Girl

Since I was little I have always been very aware of the kind of girl, lady or woman I wanted to be. I was frequently around men because I played sports with boys (not that girls didn't play sports - totally not true - but I played baseball in a boys league for example instead of softball in a girls league). I also idolized my brother like nobody's business and wanted to be just like him. He was 3 years older and I followed him around, tried to play with him and his friends and wore his hand-me-downs. To this day many of his friends still call me, "Adam Phillips' little sister."

I was always very thankful that parents never treated us as their "son" and their "daughter." We were just their "kids." They let us do any activity we wanted (within reason - safety, money, etc.), regardless of gender, age, height or whatever. I never really realized how lucky I was to have that until now that I'm older and I reflect on how that shaped me to become the woman I am now. I was very fortunate to be able to discover the things I liked and the things I wanted to do. Because I liked so many "boy" things when I was little, I was made fun of a lot. I learned very early on what society thought were "boy" activities and what society thought were "girl" activities, and a lot of times it hurt my feelings or was hard to understand.

I think because I was made fun of a lot when I was little for that, it made me very aware that I wanted to set a really good example for myself in a way that I felt very proud of. I remember when I was 12 years old I was playing in a baseball game and a dad who I had never met before pulled me aside and told me that his daughter wanted to play baseball, saw me playing in a little league game and knew she could do it too and looked up to me. I never met his daughter, and I never saw him again, but that moment really sticks with me. It still gets me teary eyed to this day and it meant a lot to me then and now

I never wanted to not be able to do something because I was a girl. And I sort of made it a point early on to take on things with my dad and brother. My dad was always handy, building things, fixing things and taking on house adventures (my dad and mom built our house when my brother was little and my mom was pregnant with me), and for whatever reason Adam didn't really like helping out with my dad, and I jumped right at it. My dad stuck me under the house to help re-wire things, I used my little fingers to pick up screws and help him assemble furniture we bought and whenever he took us to the hardware store I would come home with my pockets full of little kid size trinkets

I was both aware that the things I did were not conventional "girl" things and at the same time I didn't quite understand why they weren't. For that reason I was so scared to have a girl. I was afraid that she wouldn't like anything that I liked and I wouldn't know how to relate to her. What if she wanted to take ballet, have tea parties and have every toy in her closet be pink? Those were things I wasn't really ever into and I was so scared that she would hate me for not having anything in common with her. I was so scared

But now, I am so fucking happy I had a girl. Not that a boy wouldn't be great too, but honestly, it is so awesome getting to see Zoe be a strong little woman already. And I try to remind myself that my parents let me become the person I wanted to be, even if that meant I didn't like things that they liked. My dad and brother are super close - and Adam could not care less about building things. Although, now that he owns his own home he has taken to landscaping - but that's honestly mostly because when he sets up a drip system he can make a spreadsheet to determine his water savings and strategy. He's a weirdo :)

My parents love that we became people who are confident in our interests, always curious and strong and self assured. I think that's the best thing they gave us - the gift to go for something I'm interested in and not really give a shit what anyone else thinks. I admit, sometimes I'm not great at that, and I look for support in Chris, my family, or my friends, but I do think Adam and I tend to do what we want and go for the things we're interested in. And I want to give that to Zoe too

Zoe can be a ballet dancer, a football player, a cosmetologist, a banker, a teacher, whatever. She can like painting, playing with dolls, riding a bicycle, painting her nails, having tea parties, playing in the mud - I don't really care - as long as she's happy and confident in her decisions. I feel like that's one of my most important tasks as a mom to a girl - to give her strength and self confidence. I don't want her to be scared of who she is, what she's interested in or the things she wants to do. And I will love her for always reaching for something new and striving to become a better person. And let's all be honest, a strong bad ass chick is pretty fucking unstopable

I love you Zoe and all that you will become.


rosedel said...

I remember being told I couldn't be a doctor but I could be a nurse. I wanted to be a Boy Scout because they always went camping and Girl Scouts spent more time on crafty stuff. I am MUCH older than you.
On the other hand girls could wear pants and work boots but boys couldn't wear pink or have long hair or play with dolls or use the play kitchen. I did buy a doll for my godson and battled his father toe to toe over it.
I just don't see those stereotypes anymore. Do you?
You will build your relationship with Zoe as her protector and encourager and guide. Then her peer group will come along and it will all get shot to hell! lol What I'm saying is - She's gonna know she is awesome because you and her Daddy will leave no doubt about that.

Vincent P said...

@rosedel I think it depends on where you live. In my travels in this great land, I see it now and again. My guess is that you live near an ocean. But, yeah, it's getting better than it used to be for those who don't conform.

MaryAnn said...

I'm 56, the eldest of 4 girls, then we adopted my little brother. I always felt that I could do anything I wanted, I think my parents were too busy to tell me otherwise! I applied for an electrician's apprenticeship in my early 20s, didn't get in, but went on to become a drafter and then software quality engineer.
It doesn't really dawn on a person that they can't do something until someone tells them they can't. Your daughter is lucky to have parents who will tell her those people are wrong!

rosedel said...

@Vincent P, I laughed at the ocean remark. I do live on a coast but I never thought about that as being a factor. :) Salt air makes people more accepting? I like that!

meryl rose said...

Thank you, you fabulous folks. It's amazing to still see the limit people set for both boys and girls, but it's pretty awesome there are so many of you out there who like to destroy it :)

Kelly said...

This is exactly why I WANT a girl! To be a role model and show girls they can do anything and don't need to conform to any gender roles. But I've decided that boys also need to know that both girls and boys can do anything, so I strive to bring up my son that way.

Totally off topic, but I keep seeing that electrical outlet with no plate at baby height. Is there power supplied to it? If so, aren't you worried Zoe might get shocked?

Kelly said...

@rosedel, regarding boys having dolls, I saw a great rebuttal of that old gender norm recently. It was a photo of a little boy holding a doll and the caption was "You let your son play with a doll? Aren't you afraid he'll grow up to be... a DAD?"

rosedel said...

@Kelly, that's what I told the dad. "You don't want to give your son the chance to practice being a daddy?"
He thought I was full of crap but the doll stayed and was played with.

meryl rose said...

I know Kelly, I should have realized it was just the opposite - fear was really excitement :) And that is so awesome re "growing up to be a dad," it seems like such a shame that both girls and boys get so shortchanged.

Am I a bad mom that I'm not covering that outlet? Sigh... I probably should, but Zoe also seems not super interested in it and I she's becoming pretty good at following directions when we tell her certain things are meant for her to play with (we've left computer cords available, etc.)