Blissfully Ignorant

“I think I’m afraid of her already,” I told my therapist.

“What do you mean by ‘afraid’?”

“I don’t even know, I’m not sure ‘afraid’ is the right word at all. But I feel something foreboding. Something that is like fear.”

I’d been trying to find a word to name the feeling that keeps coming up whenever people ask me if I am just so excited to have a daughter. I mean, I don’t want to say “no” because that’s not true.  But “excited” seems not right either. Or maybe it is.

I do get excited as I sort onsies by size and decide which of the boys’ jammies (the ones that don’t say “mommy’s little man”) Alice will be able to wear. Each pair of shoes or dress that someone gifts her makes me smile in a way I never did over all those little man clothes I so love.  It’s almost a smooshy, ridiculous smile. The kind you get when you’re twelve and you fall hard for that one boy in class you will never talk to…a dreamy smile.

Imagining headbands and white mary janes makes me turn all goofy in a way I never have before. So I guess I can’t say I’m NOT excited, because those seem like pretty clear indications of excitement on my part.

But there is something else pulling at me.

Something unsure.

“You know what I think it is,” I tell my therapist, “it’s that I remember too much.” I was pretty pleased with myself for this breakthrough, but it was clear she didn’t get what I was talking about, but it was becoming clearer in my mind.

I remember way too much of my childhood…of what was rough as a girl growing up. I remember how tough middle school was. I remember the choices in front of me in high school and college. I know what adolescent icky feels like for a girl. I remember all the uncomfortable firsts that felt not just “uncomfortable” but horrible.

With the boys, I don’t have these memories. I was never a little boy, or an adolescent boy, or a teenage boy, or a college boy.  I knew many of these boys. I married one, but I was blissfully ignorant to their first-person experiences. I didn’t have to go through it, so as a mom, I could be the facts and support when my boys went through it, but I would never be “re-living” it.

I have never had a desire to have a daughter until I knew there was one in my tummy. The thought of re-living my girlhood is the last thing I ever want to do. In fact, I hate that I can remember so much of those painfully lonely and embarrassed moments so vividly.

It had nothing to do with my upbringing either. My parents were wonderful and loving. No, it had everything to do with just “girl stuff”.

Girl stuff that I has, up until very recently, been shoved to the back regions of my memory never to be brought out unless a Boys II Men song comes on and inadvertently triggers it.

Now I will go through all those stages again via my daughter, and just like the first time, I won’t be able to “fix” any of the loneliness that goes with it. I won’t be able to prevent the embarrassment over non-embarrassing things. I won’t be able to stop that boy (or girl) who Alice likes so much from saying that mean thing that she never forgets.

So I guess I’m not afraid of Alice. I’m afraid for her.

I am sitting here, feeling her turn and kick and hiccup, and I can’t do a damn thing about what is coming down the road that “happens to us all” and I hate that.

The best I can do is love her.

I hope that is enough.

I hope that love with be what leads me to the right words when she feels ugly or ashamed or lonely. I hope that love closes my mouth when necessary and opens my ears and arms.

I hope the good outweighs the scary.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl…wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. As the mom of two girls (ages 10 and 5), I completely understand your anxiety. The one thing I can tell you since I am now on the other side of the unknown (with my oldest approaching those middle school years) is that your little girl is not you. She will have her own experiences, be her own person and have her own journey. My oldest has my sense of humor but approaches life with such fearlessness (that I don’t have) that it amazes me time and time again. These girls are strong and I am proud to be with them on the road to their own independence.
    Angie K. recently posted…Saturday, Jan. 13, 1934My Profile

  2. As a boy mom, I know exactly what you mean. I feel like I know my boys and the thought of a little girl would be different and a little intimidating. I remember being a young girl and teenage girl too – it was so hard at times. But I know that you will be there every step of the way and be the very best role model and support and cheerleader for Alice.
    Kim recently posted…6 Stages of Dealing With a Bad PhotoMy Profile

  3. I know these feelings all too well. My daughter recently turned 13 and is in middle school. Not to scare you, but it’s not always sunshine and roses. That being said I’ve learned a lot over the past year or so with her. I think one of the best things to do is to be open and honest. When the time comes, let Alice know that it’s ok to talk to you and even though it may be uncomfortable (for both of you) and you may not have the answer, you will be there with her through it all.

  4. I had such similar thoughts when I found out the twins were girls. I also pictures tons of pink and tutus and tea parties, and I didn’t know anything about that stuff. But you will adore her.

  5. Omigosh, Katie, I have similar fears for my daughter. I don’t think being a girl is necessarily harder than being a boy (though in some instances, it’s probably true), but I think girls go through these experiences that we as parents feel like we should and want to protect them from. Sigh. So hard. I have no advice, except that yes, I hope that with love and our wisdom, we help them through it as much as possible.
    Alison recently posted…Through The Lens Thursday: DeliciousMy Profile

  6. My daughter terrifies me in new & more interesting ways, every day.

    I love the bejeezus out of her. But she terrifies me like nothing else, and she’s approaching her fifth birthday. I know your trepidation.
    John (Daddy Runs a Lot) recently posted…Where I ruminate on resolutionsMy Profile

  7. I was pregnant with Cady and worried that I couldn’t feel her moving yet. Another mom told me, “This is the least that you will ever worry about your baby. Right now you are in complete control.” Wow. So true. I will tell you this, it is hard to watch, but it is survivable, more so. Because you don’t only get to watch her hurt, you get to watch her over come, and let me tell you, that is the best feeling in the whole world.
    Jennifer recently posted…Find Your Joy, Happy Mama MovementMy Profile

  8. I get it. I was worried about raising a girl until I realized I just wanted to raise her to be like me.

    But in having my kids in the other order (girl first, boy second) I have come to realize that I have the exact same worries about him. While I wasn’t a boy, I know that there are a different set of expectations and adjustments and worries and situations a little boy has to go through, too.

    Boy stuff, girl stuff, it’s all rough. But loving parents make it easier, and that’s all you need to worry about doing. 🙂
    Isha recently posted…Clayton at 7 months! (A little late!)My Profile

  9. Hi Katie,
    I am a mom of 2 boys (8 and 12) and 1 girl (8). I also have a now grown stepdaughter (25). I’ve known my stepdaughter since she was 9, so I’ve seen the progression from elementary, through middle school, high school, college and now after. And now with my 8 year old. I can’t help but internalize her experiences. From Kindergarten on, I watched the girls, already at that young age comparing clothing, shoes, hair, etc. She is in 3rd grade now, still innocent, and I dread the day she enters middle school, when girls start using text and getting really mean. I do worry about my boys too, but with my daughter it is more intense. I think about how uncomfortable I felt when I was teased about my flat chest in middle school (I was a late bloomer). I think about how friend’s came and went. How some were mean and talked behind my back and how sometimes I was mean and laughed at things I didn’t think were cool. I remember crying for days when the boy I LOVED stopped calling my sophomore summer. I wish I could somehow prevent the pain she will feel. I try to tell her to march to her own drum, to ignore what other’s say about her, to develop a thick skin, to be herself. I try to tell her all of that. But, as I found out with my older stepdaughter, she needed to experience things her way, in her time. However, recently, I learned that my words did resonate, even when I thought they went in one ear and out the other, as she rolled her eyes at me. She thanked me for kicking her bootie (I watched her like a hawk). For being there. For all my lectures! I wouldn’t trade the world for having those two girls. I love my boys immensely but having girls around is a wonderful thing. Just think about what you can share and talk about once she reaches about 25 (usually the age when all those things you tried to tell her and teach her sinks in.) It will be great! Thank you for writing!

    • You know, this reminded me that when I was about 25, I actually started telling my mom how much I appreciated her too. And then once I had my own kids, we became closer because I suddenly “got it.” All the worrying she did, all the lectures. I am so glad I had the mom I did, and I hope my kids will feel the same way. Thanks so much for your encouraging words!
      Katie recently posted…9 Things I Wonder About Other WritersMy Profile

  10. We all want our child’s experiences to be soft and smooth and good. We project our own fears on them before they even know what they should be fearing. We say we’ll do better or more or different than our parents did and we do some of these things and not others. And like us, our kids turn out fine and complicated, just like us. You will be a great mom to Alice just as you are to your boys. Your life is not hers, but your experiences will help her because you love her. xo
    Andrea recently posted…Then and Now: 10 YearsMy Profile