To my daughters: 15 truths about being female

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avniainsleyI was convinced I was having a boy. Complete strangers at coffee shops predicted it too, confidently sharing with me their unsolicited predictions while I was carrying my first baby.

Prepared for conversations full of gory villains and disgusting bowel movements, I imagined our closets would be filled with a tiny wardrobe of grass stains. In a few months, I thought I would comfortably hand off the leadership reins to my husband for him to share lessons of chivalry and tie tying, while sneaking in a few pointers about how to use cologne without smelling like a sock.

Later that September, I gave birth to a baby girl. I suddenly felt unprepared and quickly realized it would be my job to teach our daughter what it means to be a strong, independent and caring woman in a world filled with never-ending stereotypes, unrealistic expectations and unhealthy diets. Dove recently conducted a social experiment and showed just how critical women are of their own beauty.

Fast forward two and a half years. We have welcomed another little girl into our family and our toddler has no trouble wearing grass stains. While I know society will do its part to leave an impression in their young minds, I can only hope some of the advice I share with them about being a female in our society stands out a little more.

  1. It’s OK to get dirty (even in a skirt). Throw a baseball; dig for worms; sleep in a tent. Your clothes can be washed and won’t last forever. Memories will.
  2. Clean and cook because you want to, not because someone else expects you to. Knowing how to do both well will give you peace of mind.
  3. Don’t expect flowers.
  4. If you’re hungry, eat. It’s important to take care of and listen to your body. Eating will keep you healthy (and much happier!). Splurge on some chocolate every now and then, too.
  5. Be who you are. If you like science, great. If you would prefer to write a poem about the purple flowers blooming outside your window, that’s fine too. But, whatever you do, don’t be who you think others want you to be.
  6. Invest in a good bra.
  7. There’s only one man who loves you the most. Your Daddy loves you in a way no other man can. Even if he doesn’t always seem to know how to connect with you, he still loves you.
  8. Men don’t get it. They don’t understand females and it’s likely they never will. It’s hard enough for us to grasp the idea of periods, child birth and mood swings. It’s best to give them a break.
  9. Challenge yourself – physically, emotionally and mentally. Your body is more resilient than you can imagine. Find ways to test your limits and allow yourself to fail. Once in a while you might be surprised and do something you never thought possible.
  10. You will cry – sometimes for no good reason. There’s also a good chance you will fail to cry when others expect you to. Bring eye drops and thank your hormones.
  11. Speak up. Share your thoughts without apology and instead exhibit confidence, respect and tact. Anything you believe in is worth the fight.
  12. Be alone. Live by yourself and find out who you are. Find happiness and success by standing on your own two feet.
  13. Find an older brother. Well, not really – but, really. Every female should grow up with an older brother, and since you don’t have a biological older brother, find a male to stand in. While their pranks, burps and punches might not seem like an advantage now, you will thank them later.
  14. Wear comfortable shoes.  
  15.  Age is just a number. We are all in this together. Whether a teenage girl or a woman in her 80’s, all females share a common thread. You can choose to reject our differences or embrace the similarities.

I will always be a few decades older, ready to navigate this world alongside of you.  But for now, I am going to work on removing the grass stains.

 

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Coins from Daddy

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I was waiting in line behind a young man — late 20’s, if I had to guess. Next to him was a quiet, young girl; her dark brown hair pulled back in a loose ponytail. She wore pink sweatpants and a light blue jacket. From their loving interaction, it seemed she was his daughter; him her dad.

I was right.

The man stood at the counter in a conversation with the cashier, while the young girl peered at a nearby bulletin board, as if an adult shopping for modern art.

“Here is your change, sir.”

The man turned around, collecting the coins and placed them in the front pocket of his rugged blue jeans. 

“Thank you.” 

Just as the man and his daughter were gathering their belongings to leave, he realized he had forgotten to order something. I couldn’t see what it was from where I was standing, but it didn’t matter. I could hear what he said next.

The cashier  rang up his second total.

“That will be $2.44,” she said.

He handed her a twenty-dollar bill. The cashier looked puzzled.

“Don’t forget about the change I just gave you,” she said.

He sighed.

“I’m sorry, I don’t spend my change.”

There was a pause. It seemed silence was her way to exhibit confusion and ask for an explanation.

“I keep all of my change,” he said, smiling at his daughter. “Any change I have at the end of each day goes in my daughter’s piggy bank. Sorry, it’s our rule.”

The cashier smiled.

“Not to worry. She’s a lucky little girl to have you as her Daddy.”

The transaction was complete. The young girl and her Dad were on their way. And, the cashier was looking to help the next customer in line.

But, for a few minutes in that line, I witnessed something great. A father’s love for his daughter. And, one young woman with memories of life as “Daddy’s little girl”. Let’s make that two of us.