My Fears about Raising a Daughter in the World Today

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labeled for non-commercial reuse on Flickr.

When Owen and I had the talk about pregnancy after our 3rd was born and walking, we decided to be content that we did not have a daughter. We wanted one for sure. Each baby after my first, I hoped was a girl because I wanted both and I had already had a son. But when we found out we were having boys, we were still incredibly joyful and maybe even somehow deep down, relieved…because despite the fact that we would greatly miss the tutus and tights on chubby legs, we both were not looking forward to the teenage years.

Is it just me, or does it seem that teenage girls have a lot more trials and antagonists out there in the world than boys?

But the Lord gave us our wish, anyway…5-6 months after  a vasectomy (which we chose because c-sections become increasingly dangerous as they increase in number), I missed my period and took the pregnancy test, to find out, we were pregnant. And at 17 weeks, we learned we were having a girl.

Let me be clear.

I am so excited.

I cannot wait for tutus and tights on chubby legs. For big bows and dolls and kitchen sets. I cannot wait for calm….the child who will more likely (yes, there are always be exceptions to the rule) be less crazy and running around and aggressive as my three boys. I cannot wait for smelling lotions and bonding over a chick flick and talking girl talk. I’m looking forward to see how this delicate creature softens my husband’s heart as well.  I truly believe every man needs a daughter. I think it is good for them. Makes them stronger and yet more compassionate.

But I am not looking forward to the teenage years.

I know it is not always bad.

There are a few families that I know who have beautiful, well-balanced daughters who seem to be doing just fine.

I also teach high school and see a few of them as well. Of course, as a teacher, I don’t know all the secrets. I don’t know all the unseen turmoil. I know very well, they could be giving me a false impression than what they show to their friends after school and on the weekends. But I can also certainly see in my classroom the ones who are clearly struggling with the pressures of this society. But regardless, with all of them—I know the pressures they face.

I see the fashion that they are being exposed to and expected to wear by their peers if they want to be fashionable.

I hear the music that plays on the radio and the pictures of musicians they have plastered to their binders. Women who claim independence and “girl power” but who are enslaved to a world of drugs and sex and image image image. The men who talk about them in their music like they are something to be had and thrown away.

I see the movies they watch where kissing and premarital sex and provocative clothing is the common, light-hearted, lifestyle of the female protagonist.

I hear the way boys talk about them in the halls when they are listening or not listening.

I hear the way their friends talk about boys to each other.

I hear the stories of what their friends are going through….the anorexia, the cutting, the depression, the abortions or secret pregnancies, the baggage…

I don’t want that for my daughter. I don’t want it anywhere near.

Who does?

And what parent goes into their role as a mother or father of a daughter with the expectation that their daughter will go through these? Not much. I know most parents go in with the goal to prevent these things from happening (although some are more okay with the sexuality aspect…no one is okay with the consequences that often comes from it).

 So of course, I go in saying “not my daughter.” Of course I go in saying, “We are going to raise her differently.”

But I also know parents who said the same thing and yet their daughters are still struggling.

We can do our best. But the rest is up to them. Up to God. Up to their circumstances and all the combinations in between.

I grew up in a home with parents who feared these things too. And in their attempt to protect me from them, I felt they went too far in some ways…over protecting me to some degree and over-punishing me when I messed up so there was no room or opportunity to try again or grow from my mistakes. And despite their best intentions to protect me, they did not give me the solid Christian foundation to help me build my identity so that I wouldn’t be wooed so much by the world out there that seduced me. I didn’t even read one book from the bible until my late 20’s. And so what did I do? I rebelled. And then when my mom and step dad separated, my mother went the other extreme. She let me do whatever I wanted. And I went out there with no strong sense of self, no confidence in my identity or my dreams, no value for who I was…and I threw everything good and pure and valuable about myself away—washed myself away with alcohol and drugs and premarital sex and all the emotional baggage that  came as a consequence of those choices.

Is it my parents fault? Partially. But I also chose to rebel. I also knew right from wrong and chose wrong. But I also did not have that strong identity in myself as a child of God to be able to see why I should chose right.

So Owen and I plan on all sorts of ways we plan to raise our daughter differently. We definitely plan on rules and guidelines. We definitely plan on raising her to have a personal relationship with Jesus and to be confident in who she is. We will have limitations on what kinds of music she should be listening to and movies she can watch (but not super strict and sheltered where she can’t even understand the world and what they are going through).

We plan on all of this.

And the rest we leave to prayer.

But I can be honest when I say, I don’t have some strong peace that everything is going to be great. I don’t automatically assume disaster. But I am realistic in knowing that we can do everything within our power and it still not go as planned.

To the parents out there who raised daughters and had them survive their teens without eating disorders, hyper-rebellion, cutting and suicide attempts, promiscuity, and the like…what are your tips? What insight can you bring to the moms of young baby girls? To give yourself the entire credit? Who else and what else can help?