I started my motherhood journey as a boy mom. I knew the names of all the construction trucks, I could build a LEGO set in record time, and nothing said about a penis could ever shock me. I could play in the dirt, tie on a Superman cape, and have a lightsaber fight all before naptime. But when I was expecting again, I saw that sweet little face on the ultrasound, and I knew—even before the ultrasound tech made the announcement—that my days as solely a boy mom were about to come to an end.
I was so excited to have a little girl. I knew I was about to get a reprieve from superheroes and Pokemon, and that someday soon there would be at least one baby doll in the house. I figured there would be tea parties. I knew there would be frilly dresses. But still, as a modern woman, I thought the differences between raising a boy and raising a girl would end there. Boy, was I wrong.
It turns out I could fill a book with what I didn’t know about having a daughter.
I had no idea that changing a girl’s diaper was actually harder than changing a boy’s, even without the threat of getting pee on my face with every change.
I didn’t know how hard it is to keep those sweet little dresses clean when they’re on an active, curious 9-month-old. Or that it would be hard to crawl in them, and how frustrated she would get by the lack of mobility.
I had no idea how hard doing someone else’s hair is. Even if my daughter sat still, pulling those tiny wisps into itty-bitty pigtails was a feat I was not ready to tackle. I didn’t know what to do in the in-between stage when her hair got in her eyes but wasn’t long enough to pin back. I still don’t know how to French braid.
I didn’t know that every inanimate object could be turned into a pretend baby. I had known they could all be turned into pretend swords, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I didn’t know that this little girl would inherently want to play mommy from such an early age. I didn’t know that watching her rock a baby doll and sing it a lullaby could so thoroughly melt my heart.
I didn’t expect to see so much of myself in my daughter.
I was taken aback the first time she peeked out from under her bangs and scrunched up her nose and squinted her eyes, just like I do when I smile, and I saw my face reflected in hers. The first time I dressed her in a frilly dress and white tights I had flashbacks from my own childhood—the memory and the connection to the present nearly took my breath away.
I didn’t know the depth of responsibility that comes with having someone who wants to do everything I do. My daughter watches me put on makeup, studying my movements, and I let her play with the lotion and chapstick as she smoothes them on in the same motions and rhythms as me. She sits with me while I cook dinner and copies the way I stir the sauce and wash the vegetables. She holds her little purse in the crook of her arm like me, throws on her sunglasses, and announces that she’s going to work, like Mommy.
I never before thought about her someday becoming a mother herself. The realization that one day this baby of mine may hold life inside her, that she might birth and nurture and love a baby as much as I love her, is extraordinary. When she does, I hope she comes to me for advice when she needs it, but even when she’s doing it on her own, I know a lot of her actions will stem from mine.
My behavior today will shape hers tomorrow.
I didn’t know how scary it would be to think of her someday facing mean girls and body image issues and boys who can break her heart. I never realized that watching her grow would be so much like reliving my own youth.
I didn’t know how much of a struggle it would be to let her find her own path. To embrace the fact that her life might not look like mine and that the things I value won’t necessarily be the things she values.
I didn’t know how proud I would be of her strength, of her fearlessness, of her no-holds-barred determination to do things her way.
I didn’t know I could look up to someone who was also looking up to me.