Raising girls to get a kick in the teeth
When a family member found out I was having a second girl, he told me I needed to get a shotgun. I know that’s not true as long as I keep my tongue sharp. After all, wars have always been started by words and not weapons.
I have said in the past that society has a war on boys. Now that I know I’ll have a second girl, I’ll be leading the charge.
As a man, there are these expectations that we all hope we will have boys if we have kids. That life is somehow incomplete if we don’t. Honestly, I thought I wanted to have a boy, too, with the sole intention of raising a man who would know how to treat women with respect. Now, I have the opportunity to raise two women who will demand to be treated with respect and to accept nothing else.
I think a lot about these topics, about how we can change the way we perceive women in society and how that intersects with parentings, primarily because I am raising girls. I was recently told I should focus on writing only about the intimacy of my marriage instead and to keep my larger thoughts about society out of it.
I didn’t know I had placed a virtual suggestion box on the subject of what I’m allowed to talk about. Unfortunately, the suggestion box was closed a long time ago.
We spend our lives pretending to be something that society finds acceptable. But only when we are comfortable in the privacy of our friendships, our relationships, and our thoughts, we start showing who we really are beyond the performative. We should be able to explore those thoughts because they are the ones that are driving how we are building our society.
For example, I often find myself weirded out by the things that other men admire. It feels isolating to not feel like you belong with other men because we have been led to believe that we should because we share the same toolbox below the belt. But being in the middle of conversations with dudes and being asked if I want to go to a titty bar is a strange concept. One that I don’t think I will ever understand.
It’s not because I’m puritanical. Boobs are great. Really! One of the best inventions of all time. But gathering around with a bunch of strangers in a place (a place I imagine having concrete flooring littered with peanut shells and used condoms) is not my idea of fun.
“You go so you can get teased by watching and not touching? Hmmmmmm. It sounds like someone had an abusive childhood.”
Why would I pay for that? I’m married. I can watch-but-don’t-touch at home. That’s literally the marriage motto.
The opportunity of raising a boy is not in my life. It is okay because instead, I will contribute to the upbringing of my girls so they can become badasses like her mom, her aunts, and her grandmas. I see strong women everywhere I look. I’m surrounded by them and I’m very happy I am. I’d be honored if I can contribute some of those strong women into the world.
At times I do over-worry and I have to catch myself before I over-parent my daughter. I never broke a bone but I have plenty of stitches from all my misadventures.
I know what falling from a four-foot retaining wall looks like.
I still remember Juan David Martinez pulling my leg from under me right as I jumped down from that wall. We were the first ones done with our assignments at kindergartner and they let us out while everybody else finish. We decided that a good game would be to jump up and down from said wall.
When he pulled my leg, I swan dove into the concrete and instead of goggles, I was wearing my permanent front teeth. Instead of tens from the judges, I received emergency dental surgery.
That’s what being studious gets you.
I don’t know if that is what killed the nerve in my front tooth almost three decades later right before my wedding. Or if it was the time I landed on it while wrestling with my neighbor Nando and instead of biting a gym mat, I bit the old red tile of his house.
That’s why when my toddler decides to balance between planks in our concrete hardscape backyard (fully compliant with drought requirements), I want to jump and tell her to get down. Instead, I coach myself to restrain my impulse and do nothing because I have to let her have her own experiences. Part of making her a stronger individual is letting her become independent.
If I’m unsuccessful, then my wife reminds me that I need to let her develop her sense of trust in her body and she will learn what to do over time.
I always have a desire to protect her from the bad I have seen or felt. It is the drive that pushes me to work hard and to provide for my family. I don’t want them to experience what I experienced growing up. At the same time, I have to let go of some of that apprehension, so my daughters can build a backbone of their own.
I would rather have a too-independent human being (even if it means watching them from the sidelines while they are tackling the world) than to have a kid who just won’t leave home because no one can cut the crust from their PB&J sandwiches as daddy does.
I also know that the most expansive periods of learning in my life always started with a spiritual kick to my soul’s teeth. How could I prevent my daughters from getting a good kick in the teeth? How, in good conscience, could I shelter them from all the horribles things that they will go through that will, in turn, prepare them for the life that they dream of?
How else will they know how to make mistakes and rebuild from them? Or how to trust their instincts? Or how to learn to discern between people that are naturally good and the people that are out to get you? And how to learn to trust regardless because the good people tend to outnumber the bad people?
Part of what my wife and I use in parenting is a method called Resources for Infant Educators (RIE) which puts a heavy emphasis on letting kids start developing their intuition, trust, and sense of the world and preventing the parents from editorializing and determining what the world “looks” like for their kids.
Think of it as an early Montessori that is very popular mostly among people with money to spare to pay for a child-rearing coach and time to spare to listen to such coach.
This brings us to the next subject in parenting: privilege.
We love to hate privilege. Especially now. It is the concept that everyone loves hating but isn’t that what we would like to give our kids? We work hard towards privilege.
Instead of hating on Shatner’s rocket, revel in the marvel of the human penis… I mean engineering. I’m obviously kidding.
There is a difference between driving a penis rocket into space to see nothing which is the epitome of being a dude. Those billionaires spent a lot of money and went to incredible lengths to feel good for a few seconds. Is there anything more penis?
It is so easy to confuse the privilege Jeff Bezos has and the smaller privileges we strive for that don’t affect the larger things of our society.
There is a big difference between the privilege of the ultrarich and wanting to leave a little security blanket for our kids. Right now, we hate on privilege because, unfortunately, we are incapable of nuance and we vilify anything that even smells of privilege. We warred against it when we can admit that we want it for our kids.
We want it for our kids because landing on your face and getting a booboo is a different kind of a kick in the teeth than when your electricity or your water get shut down for lack of payment — which I have also experienced and I never want my kids to experience it, too.
I still do my part to raise my daughter well-adapted even if I strive to provide small privileges as they grow up.
For example, I don’t like washing my daughter’s hair because she hates it. She really does. And I don’t like doing something she doesn’t like. But I still do it even though my wife gets breastfeeding and I look like I’m trying to waterboard her. Her face says it all, “and you wonder why I run to my mom when I have a boo-boo. She gives me nourishment and you try to drown me.”
But I still do something she doesn’t like because it is nice to have kids without flies over their heads as they show in the cartoons when kids are neglected.
Maybe we shouldn’t even try to provide privilege to our kids. As parents, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We want our kids to be perfect. But a quick glance around and we realize all adults are flawed and overflowing with shortcomings.
So if our parents’ goal was for us was to be perfect and to have perfect lives then they all failed. Why not learn from that?
We have to be gentler with ourselves as parents and hold ourselves accountable to easier goals like, “I will not raise a killer.”
So if you are in, let’s say, Kenosha Winsconsin and you are Kyle Rittenhouse’s mom, you failed. But if you are anybody else, you didn’t.
Isn’t it a big reward to know that you didn’t raise a human being who is a murderous asshole?
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