Thursday, 26 July 2012
32: Bringing up daughters
I still remember the first, second AND third time each obstetrician announced Matt and I were expecting a daughter. And each time, I was dubious. Maybe the child had a shy member? Sigh. Denial? Yes. But I grew up with brothers and I guess in the back of my mind, my subconscious always expected at least one son. But I didn’t realize the affinity until the third time. Nevertheless, three daughters later, the ‘shop’ is well and truly slammed shut (and sealed with super-strength cement for good measure); and unless you count Buddy (formerly known as “Homer” before we rescued him from the SPCA), I am well and truly a mother of daughters.
The first time round though, I distinctly remember telling anyone who would listen how I would NEVER EVER dress my daughter in pink. Famous last words. And once it started, I realized going against the tide of girlish paraphernalia Matt and I suddenly found ourselves drowning in was fruitless.
Fast forward nearly 13 years since our first daughter (and I finally see their pink phase coming to an end!), I am very thankful someone ‘up there’ had the compassion to give us three girls who are not only healthy but also very tolerant and accommodating. Well, to be honest, to me, yes. Towards each other, not as much as I would like. But its all good.
A couple of weeks ago, our dinner companions seemed somewhat surprised when I voiced how going to university was non-negotiable at Chez Farlow. The girls know the reasons behind my firm stance:
According to hearsay, in the days following my parents’ break-up my mom rang her successor to discharge a barrage of accusations. This was followed by a missile, from the new adult in-charge of my brothers and I: a vow that none of us would finish our education. And so, I was ‘nudged’ out at 17 – a year before finishing high school. What followed was a series of lousy jobs and, not surprisingly, painfully limited choices. Long story short, after years of juggling the realities of supporting myself and signing up to courses that ranged from typing to various writing certificates and diplomas, I finally came to my senses and enrolled as a mature age university student. I sat my final paper at the ripe old age of 32 – just before Tia was born. And when I was done, I felt SO much better about myself – which is why I never want my girls to be hampered by the same inadequacies or be limited by available options.
But its not just about education. I counsel the girls not to be in a hurry to have children or tie themselves to anyone for life; waxing lyrical about the importance of financial self-sufficiency, of the benefits of traveling the world to experience all it has to offer, of learning about themselves. I urge them to do things today their future self will thank them for, preaching the importance of finding the courage to be authentic and to live with integrity. I remind them to be kind to themselves, to show empathy and the importance of balance. And I tell them how beautiful they are and to make sure whoever they give themselves to treats them with the same love, care and respect as their father shows to me. And finally, I encourage them to dream.
I never expected to have children, let alone daughters. And though sometimes I wake up in a panic in the middle of the night, worrying about how I can protect them from the pests of the world, my daughters make my heart smile and their existence spurs me on to be the best person I am – if only to lead by example.