Before I had kids, I had a dog. I loved Bailey. I remember telling a friend that every time I saw that Sarah McLaughlin commercial about dogs I immediately got upset, “just wait till you have kids” she responded. And she was right, after I had Jack I scaled back my TV watching because I couldn’t take seeing kids hurt. I stopped watching shows like CSI or Grey’s Anatomy because every week it seemed like a woman or a child’s life was in jeopardy. Then I had Grace, and life changed in a way I had never imagined.
As a woman I know I’m more at risk than a man when I go out at night. As a woman I know to never sit in a parking lot in my car. I always make sure I have my keys in hand, ready to gauge a would be assailant when I walk through the Target parking lot at night. As a woman I know to watch my drinks at bars. I know the feeling of walking down the street and being whistled at. I know what it feels like to drop my head and walk a little bit faster. I know how often my emotions have been seen as a disadvantage. I know what it’s like to make less than a man no matter how hard I tried to reach. I know that doing my best isn’t always enough. I know that many times we are playing by rules put in place by men. I know that there are advantages that my son will have that my daughter won’t.
I know we judge girls by different standards. I know that I still get lectured about a few teenage indiscretions while my brother’s are laughed off. I know what it’s like to be told that “I can hope for a husband who makes enough money for me to stay at home” as if that’s a goal to achieve. I know that there are different rules for boys than there are for girls. That there are curfews and rules and lectures when you’re a girl because boys will be boys and girls will be.. what?
All my life I accepted these things, then I had a daughter. And I can’t help but see every girl on the news and picture my daughter. I can’t help but hear words like “grab her by…” and think of my daughter. I can’t help but see women judged by their looks and think of my daughter. I can’t help but think of all the barriers life throws at women and think of my daughter.
I choose my words more carefully now that I have a daughter. I love to talk about how fierce she is, how strong she is but I also love to tell her she’s beautiful because she can be both.
I parent my son differently now that he has a sister. We don’t say, “boys rule and girls drool”. We don’t have boy colors and girls colors or boy things and girls things. Because as I often say, “shouldn’t Grace be able to do that too”. I notice things more, like how all of Jack’s baby books are about boys.
Jack told me that he doesn’t always like the Disney Junior “Dream Big Princess” commercials because boys have big dreams too. And I get that. I would never want to diminish his dreams or make him feel less. But letting girls dream doesn’t mean that boys can’t. I explained that girls haven’t always been able to have the same dreams that boys have.
And that’s my dream, as a mother to a daughter, as a mother to a son, that both of my children will have the opportunity to dream big, equally. That my daughters dreams may be as big as my sons.