One of our authors wrote what someone called a “beautiful love letter to her eggs” (it really is!) and I found it made me warm and sort of gooey. I thought about what I would like to say in a letter to a someday-daughter – I’m surrounded by children now, in my office, in my personal life, they’re everywhere – and I got a little stuck because, try as I might to think of something inspiring or powerful or comforting, something that I would have liked to read during the difficult years in my life, all I could think, the one sentence thundering through my head, was sad and resigned:
“I hope the world doesn’t fuck you up too badly, sweetie.”
I’ve only ever thought, when I’ve thought of having children in passing, of having a daughter. I think this is because I believe it represents, given my personal values, the greater of the two gendered challenges. By “challenge” I mean “a thought so fucking terrifying it cripples me.” Daughters. Little girls. All the neediness, the insecurity, the vicious things visited upon young women from infancy through adulthood – what could be more terrifying as a parent? It’s terrifying as a big sister, an aunt, a cousin, and a friend, never mind as the first and last line of defense that a parent often represents or expresses the desire to be. How can I fairly bring a girl into this world knowing that the odds of her being raped, assaulted, and abused are so very, very high? What of the smaller daily humiliations and their physical manifestations, like the high rates of eating disorders?
I think the best way I could raise a “boy” would be with self-respect, respect for others, kindness and feminist values. I think I would be almost too pleased to raise a gender non-normative kid, knowing that their challenges would be so utterly unique and hoping they would trust me so we could face them together, invent new ways to live. But a girl? A child who wants to present as a girl, be recognized as a girl, live and move through the world as a girl? That thought unhinges me. So much can go wrong. So much is beyond me, beyond my control. I would wake up every morning knowing for a fact that the world would enact some pretty awful hurts on her, and the best I could ever do would be to teach her to minimize the damage, to get up every morning and live with the most joy she’s personally capable of, and to never give up. Is the difficulty of life as a girl the life I would want to offer a child? I’m grateful for mine, certainly, but I wonder if I could consciously choose to bring a child into what I know would be a difficult if not debilitating reality. And, most importantly, I wonder if I could possibly rise to the challenge of giving that child everything it would need and never faltering in my own faith and belief.
We’ve got a baby girl in my office for the month whose mother is just rejoining us after maternity leave. This mama is fierce beyond belief; tiny of body but huge of spirit, her presence takes up a whole room. Baby is going to be bilingual, beautiful, and a force to be reckoned with. The earliest years of her life will be spent between continents, and in New York City; she will always be surrounded by strong, loud feminists who don’t hesitate to yell and share opinions, who never let her spoiled butt hit the chair because everyone wants to hold her and tell her how amazing she is. It doesn’t seem like a bad life at all, I’ll tell you. But what about when she goes to school? What about mean spirited classmates? What about the news, when she realized her parents are immigrants and she’s the only naturalized American citizen? What about the “what ifs” I can’t even contemplate here, the things that happen around the world every second of the day that break us? What about when we can’t all carry her all the time?
What do you think? Do you want kids? Do you think, or care, about gender? Anyone want to talk about the intersections of race, ability, class and sexuality that I didn’t even touch here? I have questions!