When I dreamt of having kids, it was always a daughter. She was always this bright girl I would raise, who would be active and smart and kind. I got pregnant, and I felt it deep in my soul, it had to be a girl. And it was.
I never dreamt that having a girl would mean worrying about how people felt of her as a girl, whether they’d see her as smart or funny and not just cute. Yes, she’s only 19 months old, but she’s watching and listening to everything.
I wrote recently about talking to our children about weight positively. In light of recent events in the country, this is so much bigger.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
I was not raised worrying about someone’s skin color. I was not raised to think women are less successful than men. I was not raised thinking immigrants should not be in this country. I was not raised thinking one race was superior to another. I was not raised thinking I couldn’t go to college, get degrees (plural, yes – I have two degrees), and do whatever I wanted.
Before becoming a mother, I often said to my own mom “I don’t know how you raised me to be how I am, but thank you.” I still think that. She never once made me feel I didn’t deserve what I wanted in the world. There’s one instance in my life where I felt very worried and unsafe and needed my parents to tell me everything was OK. It was 9/11 and I was 13. I came home from school and asked if we were OK. If our family was OK (we have family in D.C.). If the country would survive. My mom told me she was scared too, but we were OK and we would continue to be OK. The people in charge of our country were smart and would take care of us.
My daughter’s been on this planet for 19 months, and there are already more times I would have asked my mom if we were OK or if the country was OK then in the 18 years I lived under her roof. And I don’t know if she would say “yes.” I don’t know if I could tell a child everything will be alright.
The world is scary, but let’s remember there is still good out there. Earlier this week, our entire country got to witness an eclipse. Millions of people looking at the sky at the same time. People will start to gather around TVs on Saturdays and Sundays to cheer on their favorite college and NFL teams. The holidays are literally around the corner which seems to bring out a lot of good in people. Then we have the chance to turn over a new leaf with a new year. Hate is strong, but love can be stronger. We can all learn something from our kids, who get confused about why adults care if a man loves another man, or if a person is white or black, or if woman runs this country instead of a man.
I don’t know how to make her immune to all the bad in the world, or how to love instead of hate. I don’t know how to make sure she seeks out the helpers (and later become a helper). I don’t know how to make sure she never lets anyone crush her dreams. But I’ll try every damn thing in my power to try.
Here’s to raising strong kids with lots of love in their hearts.