That’s my girl: How parenting changed when I had a daughter


When Parker was born, I was so happy to have a boy because I thought that whatever child I had next, he was the big brother. When Celia came (my husband first announced her as a boy because her umbilical cord was hanging between her legs!), I couldn’t wrap my head around having a girl. Every woman looks forward to raising a girl–because well, we’re girls and we want to relive all of our girl stuff with them. But, when I couldn’t stop referring to her as “little buddy” as an infant, I knew Miss Celia was going to teach me a big lesson: raising me will not be the same as raising Parker, Mom. So buck up.

Celia’s eyes are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Everyone remarks about her baby blues (which are my Dad’s eyes by the way). She’s so happy and so sweet. She waves to people in Target and bats her eyelashes at all the older boys at day care. 16 months old. Pure toddler trouble.

This week, she started to pull my hair and pinch me. And is not responding too well to correction (she laughs at me, great) I don’t remember Parker ever doing it and she has never done it to my husband- proof that the teenage years will be semi-tortuous and frustrating. And proof that: I am raising a girl.

I talk a lot about how frustrating my Parker can be. I’ve written many a post about him and his adorably infuriating antics. His sister, I believe will be a whole different ball game of infuriating. Like girl-infuriating. Like hormonal infuriating. Like me when I was a kid.

My Mom likes to recall the time she sought a psychologist’s help with her out of control three year old. The psychologist told her to sit on me. When I wouldn’t stay in time out, when I wouldn’t listen. Sit. On me. If the fact that my Mom had to sit on me gives any indication of what little Celia is going to be like, well, I’m in trouble. Big trouble. Already I can see her little spirit developing. And I see a lot of little Bridgette in that spirit.

Already she is asserting her independence, her willingness or unwillingness to follow directions and already has that Daddy-only sweet face that melts his heart. As a girl myself, it is occurring to me–slowly–how scary it can and will be to raise a girl. I mean, raising a girl with texting and the Internet and Facebook? Oh my goodness.

But more it’s the pressure that comes to mommies– former little girls, all of them–about raising girls. We are girls who doubted ourselves, our bodies, our personalities, our reputations. We are survivors of girlhood. And none of us intended on going back. But now we have to.

There are things I never want my daughter to have– a chubby phase, boys make fun of her, heartbreak, a mean friend, be the subject of gossip, and I can’t do anything right now to prevent that. A lot of it is by chance, by circumstance and by way of when-you-have-tough-crap-you-learn rationale.

I also want her to be things I was not: good at sports (not a cheerleader), musical, artistic. I want her to be me without the bad stuff and then add in about 5x all the good stuff. Is that too much to expect?

Well, I have recently been clued in to some Moms of teenage girls about the “street angel- house devil” philosophy of teenager-hood. This was after witnessing firsthand a girl speak sweetly to me and then less than five minutes later speak to her mother so rudely and inappropriately that I almost stepped in myself to go all pissed-off- teacher on her ass.

For twelve years I have been teaching teenagers English. So I’m well versed in teenage-ese, right? Wrong. When it’s my own daughter, I will be as effective in figuring her out as I am in doing a quadratic equation. And even though that’s roughly 13 years away, I’m scared already.

When I look at Parker, I just see a boy. A boy I will feed and love and hug and be proud of. He will be a man soneday but I will always see my baby boy. The little redhead that toddled around saying “To invictadee and Bee-YON!!!”

But when I look at Celia, I see all the insecurities I don’t want her to ever, ever, ever have. I see all the tribulations I wrote about in my diary from age seven on. Why is that? Was my girlhood so bad? Were my mistakes so huge? No and no. But every struggle I had as a little girl, teenager and twenty-something somehow hovers above her sweet, beautiful head.

And I can’t help but think of the old saying my own Dad repeated to me, “A son is a son until he takes his wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.” And so, Celia, we’re in this for the long haul kid. So buck up.

Today, I am making a commitment– to put up with the metaphorical hair pulling that comes along with raising a little girl-person– as long as she forgives me for all I have done wrong someday– and does this long before I forgave my own mother.

And, somewhere along the way, I hope I can see– as I was so positively sure my Mom never did– what it’s like to be my daughter and how that may not exactly be a walk in the park. I mean, I guess I won’t be as fascinating to her as a Tween as I am right now. And I think I’ll learn to be okay with that (someday).

And, together, mommies and daughters everywhere can embrace the love and the love/hate- the pinches and the pulls– the power struggles and the surrenders, the Absolutely Everything that is the making of a little woman– my Celia–strong, beautiful and sweet.