Every morning when we get Abbie out of bed and get her ready for the day, I’m thankful to have a daughter. Every time I feel this newest little girl wiggling away in my tummy, I’m thankful for the chance to have two daughters. Not everyone is so lucky.
I grew up the eldest of four daughters, so raising girls is something I was always familiar with. Most days, I love every second of it – the dolls, the hair, even the tantrums. Then there are other moments that it scares me out of my mind that we have the responsibility of raising two daughters. Those days are the ones where I hear about stories like this – where justice was not appropriately served for a woman horrifically attacked. Where a criminal was given a light sentence because of who he is, and a victim has to live with his actions the rest of her life. I see his refusal to take responsibility for his actions (and his family’s denial) and I hope that my generation is raising our children better.
This is the world I am tasked to raise my daughters in. A world where I have to teach them to protect themselves from monsters disguised in the faces of fresh-faced boys. A world where I will worry about them every night when they’re without me, where I won’t want to let them walk alone, where I will without question pick them up regardless of where they are. Because this is the evil in the world we live in. This is what I have to teach them about and protect them against.
I suppose if I had sons, I would be teaching the counterpoint to all this. If I had sons, I would teach them to be compassionate, kind, and brave men. I would teach them to stand up for people when they need it, but especially women. I would teach them that every person has a voice and value, and every woman could be your mom, your sister, your aunt. I would teach them to be respectful of others – their needs and decisions (to be fair, I am teaching my daughters that as well). I would teach them to fight rape culture in their words and actions and stand up for the women who have been silenced.
But I don’t have sons – I have daughters. It is my job to teach them to always be aware of what they’re wearing. It is my job to teach them to watch how much they drink. It is my job to teach them to always travel in groups and never leave a party or concert alone. It is my job to teach them to call for safe ride services and not be afraid to call for a cab if they need it. It is my job to be their support, their guidepost, their teacher in safety and recognizing their surroundings. It is my job to fight for campus and city safety plans. It is my job to be sure they are exposed to young men who have been raised right and treat women well so they can recognize the opposite. It is my job to raise, strong, self-reliant women who are also unafraid to ask for help when they need it. As a mother of daughters, that is my job, regardless of the unfairness of much of it.
It’s a big job, and it’s absolutely the scariest thing about raising daughters. It isn’t the tantrums or the fights over clothes. It isn’t the hormones or the sisterly quarrels I know from my own sisters are headed my way. It’s not only protecting them, but teaching them to protect themselves. I only hope I’m up to the job.