Since I was a little girl, about 12-years-old, I knew I was going to have a daughter. There was no doubt about it. I would grow up, get married, and become a mother. I didn’t know how many children I would have, but I knew that I would definitely have a daughter. I want to say when I did just that it was everything I hoped for, but in all honesty it was nothing like I expected.
I knew that I would dress up my sweet little girl in ribbons and curls and cute little pink skirts. I never thought I’d be telling my daughter that she couldn’t wear her favorite dress to the park because there are predators out there that loiter around the swings watching and as fun as it is to jump from the swing and tumble on the ground, he might see her undies.
I remember people showing their kids embarrassing toddler pictures, which almost always included a bath pic or a nakie-baby pic. I was shocked when it became “bad” to share these precious—and usually hilarious—moments of their childhood because it was suddenly considered obscene. I was even more surprised when I eventually understood that some perverts found something less-than-innocent in these pictures and that they eventually stole those precious keepsakes from me because, God forbid, you actually have possession of one then you are automatically considered a “sicko”.
I knew I’d want to take her swimming or watch her play in the sprinkler in the front yard, but I didn’t know I’d end up making her wear a pair of shorts over her swimsuit because someone at the pool was gawking at her just a little too hard. I didn’t expect to have to pass on the ultra-cute ruffled two-pieces because a grown man might think her tummy showing meant she was inviting his disgusting thoughts.
I looked forward to going on outings with my daughter and visiting new places. It never really occurred to me that first I would have to teach her that it was safer to use the restroom with someone she knew; something in-grained into our female brains long before there was such a thing as a “transgender bathroom-issue”. That men often mock and tease us for “herding” without realizing they are the cause of it.
I knew I would want to take my daughter to the annual fair to see the pretty lights and ride the rides, but I didn’t expect I would find myself tying a rope from my belt loop to hers out of the growing fear and anxiety that someone might snatch her in the crowd. That people might point and laugh at us and some might even give me dirty looks for being that mom, but somehow that little length of rope would give me a sense of security and ease.
I came to terms with the fact that, the older and more independent she got, the more she would want to play alone or be more adventurous. She’d want to ride her bike around the block, play in a friend’s yard, or go for a walk with friends. I was heartbroken when I realized I would have make her sacrifice most of her independence for safety, and shatter her understanding of the world around her by telling her about stranger danger and bad people. It broke my heart to watch her lose some of that trust in human beings. It completely destroyed me knowing that I had barely even touched on exactly how terrifying and bad the people in this world could be.
I expected my daughter would eventually have the puberty class, as we all did in school. It would be informative and embarrassing, and a little funny, but she would learn more about her body and what it does and why. What I wasn’t prepared for were special classes teaching her about good touches and bad touches, because 1 in 4 children are molested. That means of the 20 kids in my daughter’s class, 5 of her friends will have experienced “bad touching”.
When I separated from her father, I knew to expect troubled times and difficulty with co-parenting. I knew there would be times when she was with me and she wanted to see daddy instead. I could barely bear it when I ended up having to keep the truth from her about her bio-dad, because the things he later did to another little girl are too terrible to burden her with, and now when she says she wants to meet her dad, it doubly hurts.
I hate to say it, but I even knew there might be a time or two where my daughter would get in trouble at school and I might even have to come and speak with the principal about it. She’s a kid. It’s a given. But I never dreamed I might be called out of work, missing a day’s pay, to meet with the principal because my daughter wore a tank top to school— which lacked proper air-conditioning—because her shoulders were “distracting” and “disruptive”. Meaning, because my little girl dressed for comfort on a very hot day, she’s not allowed to stay in school because of it, because her education isn’t as important as the boys who were somehow too distracted by her shoulders to focus on their studies (I can tell you, they really weren’t. Give our boys some credit).
I dreaded, but expected, my daughter’s teenage firsts. First car, first phone, first date, first prom… All scary, but memorable, times. What I didn’t count on was that she’d have to walk in parking lots with pepper spray or self-defense training just to go to the store alone, that she’d be pressured into sending boys nude selfies and then find out at school the next day that everyone saw it, that she would have to be assertive when she said “No” to a boy because they don’t always listen the first, second, or third time, and even that I would have to worry that she knew she was worth more than her body and if he loved her, her boyfriend wouldn’t pressure her to give it to him.
Sending my daughter to college will be bittersweet, and I know I will have to trust in her to take care of herself and get her studies done. I just hope, when it comes time to put down work and go to play, that she remembers to go to parties with friends and watch each others backs, to never ever leave her drink unattended or accept an open drink from anyone, and to not get too drunk that she can’t defend herself because being a girl, she can’t do those inconsequential things like boys get to do.
But I also knew I would have a son of my own, too. Someone I would raise to treat everyone with respect and to protect anyone that needs help. I just didn’t understand I would have to teach him to not look at girls like meat but to treat them like human beings and to love them rather than lust after them, that he should never ever take advantage of a girl who might have had too much to drink and instead get her to a safe place, that he needs to take responsibility for his own mistakes and not blame his inability to focus on what a girl is wearing, that he is not owed anything from the girl he is dating, and that he should focus on what a girl adds to his life rather than what she can give him for a night. I didn’t understand I would have to teach these things to my son because my daughters will forever be forced to deal with boys who weren’t taught the same by their mothers and fathers. But one day, he will have a daughter of his own and it will hit him as hard as it hit me. When that time comes, I hope he will have lived as the kind of boy he would want his own daughter to date.
**Not every anecdote written here happened to my daughters. Some are examples of stories I’ve heard from other women, as well.