I’m trying not to think too much about who this baby is. They’re their own person already, even inside me, and they have their own story. I don’t want to have too many expectations about what I want or hope for them.
Still, I hope they get their father’s musical talent and his easy way with people. I hope they love learning as much as we both do, and we can foster and build that love in them. I hope they feel my sense of wonder, but maybe direct it a little better. And now I’m projecting things again… I don’t want a baby to do the things I couldn’t or be what I can’t.
I hope they see the world is beautiful and magical, and that they have power within it — power to make things better; to change things for themselves and others; to get what they want if they have the courage and grit to work for it.
I hope the world is still a place worth living in when they’re grown. I hope my generation will do more than my parents’ to ensure that happens. I hope I can be a good mother. (I know Brazil will be a good father.)
Mostly, I think, looking at my friends’ kids and myself as a child and the world as it is right now, I hope they realise that life is an active thing, a verb to take and run with. This world loves passive box-ticking: school, work, mortgage, car, TV. You can follow all the rules and never actually live, never realise that your life is yours, and unique, and meant to be lived, not just consumed.
I desperately want my children to know what it took me so long to figure out: that there are more choices than anyone will ever give you. That breaking the rules isn’t always bad, and won’t always get you in trouble. That grown-ups don’t know everything, and you don’t have to listen to them when they tell you writing doesn’t pay and you should probably be a lawyer. That there’s time to figure all of this out. That your opinion of yourself matters more than anyone else’s of you. That you can’t please everyone. That love shouldn’t be hard, but it does take work. That you deserve it.
I hope I learn to listen to myself, too. I realise, the longer I think about it, that I need to work on some things myself if I want my children to be healthy, well-rounded people. I worry, if we have a girl, about everything society will teach her about the way she should interact with the world. About marketing and pornography and instutionalised, insidious sexism.
But I also think about how my mother was on a diet for most of my childhood, and my grandmother before her. I’ve been obsessed with my weight to varying degrees since I first noticed, probably around 11, that I was tall and strong and needed a bra. (Although I remember worrying about it earlier than that.) My self-confidence is so directly tied to my bathroom scales I can look at any photo of myself and tell you exactly what I weighed that day, and how I felt about it.
How can I teach a little person that their happiness isn’t tied to their size if I still don’t believe it myself? How do I show them that society’s arbitrary standards of beauty are bullshit when I wear makeup and shave my legs and sometimes buy stupid heels that make my feet bleed?
That stupid, endless feminist battle: sometimes I like to look pretty and dress up. I feel good when I look good, and I do that for me, not for anyone else. But I hate that it’s expected. I hate the sneaky, slimy subliminal messaging that tells girls from before they even hit puberty that everything about them needs to be altered or improved or removed to be found suitable for society. Wax this, dye that, tan these, tone those.
And, if we have a boy, how do I teach him to respect women in a society that still doesn’t? When he’ll grow up with violent mainstream entertainment that features women as passive set decoration, if at all. When anything for girls is considered shameful to everyone but girls. When porn.
We’re considering not finding out the sex in advance, partly because my head will probably explode at the inevitable deluge of pink gifts if it’s a girl. But there’s nothing wrong with pink just because it’s associated with girls. Deriding things for girls just because they’re things for girls is fucked up too. Pink isn’t the problem. Tiny tutus and glittery shoes are awesome, and every child who wants them should have them. Every child.
“Girls’” lego makes my blood boil, because lego is a children’s toy, not a boys’ toy. Heavily made-up baby dolls in tiny skirts make my blood pressure skyrocket. But I’d love my little boy to have a sparkly tutu and a baby doll, and I hope my little girl will be into dinosaurs and space.
But those are their own decisions, because they’ll be their own people. If I wish for anything, it’s just that they have the freedom in this crazy world to become whoever they want to be. To be true to themselves. To be kind to themselves.
And to listen to their mother.