I read this article this morning, and felt that I needed to respond. I, too, had been terrified of having a daughter. Not only because I had been a somewhat difficult child, stubborn, strong-willed, and bad-tempered, but I was a truly terrible teenager.
My parents were very strict, but honorable. In my junior year in high school, my mother stopped calling my friends' parents to confirm sleepovers. We were FREE! And so, at least once a month, or more, one or more of my best friends and I would hit the clubs. We'd go to Max's Kansas City, where we knew everybody. When they closed the back room at 3:30, sometimes we'd take a quick nap in the booths until they woke us up at 5 am. Then we'd head to the Mudd Club or another after-hours until they closed at 8 am. We'd take the subway (we spent the cab fare our parents gave us on drinks or, rarely, door charges) to 86th Street, go to a coffee shop, and sit there drinking coffee until 10 or so, at which point we'd go home. I'd tell my mother that we stayed up alll night talking about boys, and after church, I'd fall asleep. We went to Studio 54, to CBGB's, to all kinds of clubs large and small. We loved Great Gildersleeves, and some odd club that had telephone cable spools for tables and old sofas everywhere. I played Magenta in the floor show of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, at the 8th Street Playhouse, for several months.
The closest that I ever came to getting busted, at 16, was when Max's was raided by the NYPD one night. I came out of the ladies' room to find a cop standing there. He said, "Let's see your ID, lady." I saw my friends being hauled away and panicked. I KNEW I'd be grounded until I was 18! I drew myself up, looked the cop in the eye, and said, "I don't HAVE an ID. I'm 34 and I have four kids." He said, "Get out of here! You make me sick!" I fled, took a cab home, and told my mother that Leiza and I had had a huge fight.
I tried to confess this to my mother when I was 24, and she put her fingers in her ears and said, "I don't want to know, la-la-la." So, I was understandably terrified of producing a daughter that might be as rebellious as I was.
Years passed. My college years were completely uneventful. I went to school in Boston, where the drinking age was 20. Most weekends, I'd fly back to NY on People Express ($29 one way!) and go out with my friends, but I had a curfew of 2:30. I went to frat parties, but since I don't drink beer, I stayed sober and played Fashion Police with one of my roommates. I wasn't much of a drinker, anyway, since I'd seen too many people get sloppy and out of control.
Even more years passed. I got married, and due to my control-freak nature, got pregnant exactly when I wanted--Labor Day weekend, although I didn't realize it until I saw the Tampax box and realized I'd missed a period or two--and delivered my blond, blue-eyed son the week after Memorial Day, when he was supposed to have been born but wasn't.
DH and I had agreed on two children before we married. I thought I wanted two boys, because boys were so much EASIER. I was flying home to Denver from a trip to NY to see my parents, when the woman next to me started talking. She was on her way to see her son and her new grandchild in the Denver airport before flying home to Portland. She said, "I so wish I had had a daughter. Sons always leave their mothers, but daughters stay close." I realized that she was right. We spend our summers and Christmas with my family. I speak to my mother a few times a week. My brothers are both close to my mother, but only one remains in New York.
At that point, I decided that my second child would be a girl. And she was. She was an incredibly beautiful baby. Even the nurses at Rose said so. I posted a picture of her at 4 days old on Fertility Friend and one comment was, "She has porn star lips. Oooh, trouble!" That struck terror into my heart.
I, too, was a beauty. But I never really thought about it, or even understood it, until my 20's. My parents never talked about my looks except to tell me to get my hair out of my face, stand up straight, watch my weight. Their emphasis was on teaching me that I could do anything, be anything, that I wanted. They took pride in my intellect, and expressed fury when I didn't do something as well as I could. Daddy taught me to use power tools when I was 12, and shoot a rifle. I remember him bragging to a friend, "She can carry an 80-pound cement bag, and she's only 10!" the summer that we laid bricks around the pool at the beach house.
At some point in my teens, we were sailing the catamaran and I broke a nail. I said, "Oh, crap, I broke a nail," and my father exploded. In an absolute fury, he delivered a lecture on "real" and "fake" girls. The gist of it was that real girls quietly file the nail. Fake girls worry about their appearance and what people think of them, and nobody really likes them.
And so...my daughter, at 8, is a little fashionista. I was a tomboy, so I'm mildly bemused by how this happened. But I am teaching her to be true to herself, to stand up for herself, to be able to DO things. She's in a new school, and she was being bullied by a boy. She told the art teacher, who said, "Well, that's not very nice." I was furious, but told my daughter, "This is how you deal with him: When he comes up to you and starts teasing you, fold your arms and just look at him. Don't say a single word. When he's finished talking, look sad and shake your head. Then walk away." The boy didn't know how to react. He ran up to her three times and told her to go away. She did the same thing. After that, he never bothered her again.
The most important thing in raising a daughter is to give her self-esteem. I am shocked and saddened by how many beautiful women I know that have very low self-esteem. Their parents never instilled confidence in them. I praise her when she does well, tell her that she is my very smart girl, and don't let mistakes slide. I grew up with a great deal of constructive criticism, and as an adult, I listen calmly to criticism and then decide whether it has merit. I don't get upset. I am trying to instill that in her, too. But she's more emotional than I was, I think.
I haven't started teaching her to use tools yet, but I will. That was one of my father's greatest gifts to me. I can FIX things. I've taught her to love books, and learning, and to never take the easy way out and give up. I was involved in the March last April, and OFA, and she has a very strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. The majority of children in her class were "voting for Romney." My daughter stood firm and said, "He's a bad man. We are for Obama." So proud of her :)
I haven't had to deal with the beauty issue yet, or inappropriate clothes. I kept a change of clothes (club clothes) and high heels in a bag in the mailroom of my building and changed back into normal, parent-approved clothes when I arrived home. Oooh, I was bad. I'm somewhat grateful that I am raising my kids in Colorado, rather than Manhattan, but there are dangers in driving and suburbia, too.
The teenage babysitter of a neighbor is pregnant. When my daughter told me, she said solemnly, "You can't control when you have a baby." I was livid that someone told my daughter such nonsense, but she is only 8. I told her, "Well, you can, actually. I will tell you when you are older. Maybe (babysitter) didn't know." I will tell her, and I will probably have her fitted with Norplant or something when she needs to be. I would like to hope that she will remain a virgin until married at around 25, but I honestly think that is unrealistic. The best that I can do is teach her to cherish herself, to respect herself, and to recognize and avoid those who seek to use her or manipulate her.
I am carefully laying the groundwork for a strong, confident, accomplished woman. When my mother was visiting once, I showed her the bedding that I had made for my daughter's room and the guest room, the fireplace surround that I sponge-painted, the chairs that I had reupholstered, and my mother said, "Is there anything you can't do?" I was completely surprised. I looked at her, and said, "I don't know. Never occurred to me that I couldn't do anything I wanted. I got that from you and Daddy!" My mother shook her head. What a gift from my parents: confidence.
8:14 PM PT: Thank you so much for the rescue, and republishing to Community Spotlight!! I am honored :) I love reading the comments :) So many stories! I wanted to keep politics out of this diary, so I didn't go into what a terrible world for girls it will be if we don't dump the GOP in 2014/2016...
Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 8:21 AM PT: Wow, made the Rec list! Thank you! And thanks again for the rescue! I'm so happy to read all the comments. There's some wonderful advice in there, and stories of amazing daughters :) I had no idea this would strike a chord with so many of you. It was meant as a response to the article. Turned into a ramble/confession/mini-autobiography.
Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 12:47 PM PT: Added two photos in comments. One of me in late 20's, the other of DD. I respectfully ask that if you recognize me from long ago and want to say hi, please message me rather than posting my name in the comments. I cherish my anonymity :) Thank you!