By Melle Hany
A few months into my pregnancy, I had a dream.
I don’t remember any of the actual details now, only that I woke up knowing I was having a girl and that I was going to name her Caitlin Eve. It was the perfect name—a combination of my Irish and her father’s Jewish heritage: pure life. I held my precious girl in my belly for nine months (plus three extra days) knowing I would do anything to make her life as amazing as possible.
When she was born, she was beautiful. She was whisked away for a few hours after a difficult deliver, but when they finally handed her to me all I remember feeling was awe, and terror.
There is no handbook for having a child, especially when you are still a child yourself.
When I had her, I was 19 years old. I couldn’t drink legally. I had only recently been granted the ability to vote and to smoke cigarettes, but I, of course, thought I was a grown ass woman. I knew everything, had an answer for everything. I was ready to take on the world. In reality, I was barely a woman. I was still a girl, with a lot of growing up to do, and I had no idea just how much of that growth she would help me with.
The first years were easy; a rush of diaper changing, book reading and bedtime stories. There was a learning curve, of course, but with the help of my friends and family I mostly stumbled through those early years without too many tears on either of our parts.
My daughter is 13 years old now, 14 next month.
She is entering at the same time into eighth grade and a new, exciting (read: scary) phase of her life. She has developed breasts, curves. She has a colorful vocabulary—and even more colorful hair, a biting quick sense of wit and sarcasm with the typical teenage sense of entitlement and false maturity.
I think every generation thinks that it’s a little bit harder than the previous generation, but I think that’s mainly because the technology advances slightly faster than our ability to cope with it. There are so many more avenues for bullying and peer pressure than ever before. There is an app that allows someone to text you from a false number and make it look like it is coming from someone else. Anyone can comment on a photo and call you fat, stupid, ugly, etc. Rumors can spread like wildfire on Skype, Snapchat, etc.
Social media really takes body and slut shaming females to a completely new, preposterous level.
Making it even more difficult for me is the fact that my daughter was barely two years old when I was sexually assaulted. In retrospect, I am grateful she wasn’t older and that I didn’t have to explain what I went through while I was still trying to cope with it myself, but raising a girl after that moment took on a whole other sense of fear.
It’s gotten worse now that she is older and wanting to be more social (although she’d still rather stay in and play video games on Steam). I find myself wanting to install a GPS chip in her neck. The idea of letting her go out by herself terrifies me, more so because I am incredibly aware of what can happen.
The other issue, in my case, is not having the best relationship with my mother.
I love her and we talk, but we were really never close. In an attempt to not have that relationship with my own daughter, I can tell I may have gone too far in the other direction. My daughter and I are often friends before we are relatives, which leads to a lot more eye rolling and questioning than I think mothers with that more concrete set of boundaries deals with.
Trying to find that healthy balance between just enough and too much is something I have yet to conquer.
As a result, she gets away with more than she probably should. My hope in that, however, is that she feels less need to rebel because I’ve given her less to fight against. She has lived up to every parent’s wish for their children: to have a child just like them. Mine is me to a tee—snarky, bitingly funny, slightly judgmental (yes, I own that) and a general adorable pain in the ass.
I can barely even handle myself most days, so raising a mini me has proven to be just as problematic.
I guess what I’m saying is being a woman and raising a girl is tough. Society is rough on us. It expects us to be feminine, but not too feminine—or risk losing respect in the man’s world; the right weight—despite constantly assailing us with Photoshopped images of what that should look like; smart but not too smart; outspoken but not too outspoken—or end up with that “bitch” label.
Raising a child to not give a fuck about any of it while being bombarded with it on a daily basis is a daily struggle. I hope she takes on the system in her own way, that she walks her own path with her head held high.
Melle Hany is a thirty-something sarcastic, tattooed feminist know it all that doesn’t actually know it all. She is a wife, a mother (of both human and fur children), an employee, an avid reader, writer and student of life. She loves to hate labels, does yoga less than she knows she should and drinks more coffee than any human should be able to handle. Read her blog here, and find her onFacebook. She currently resides in central Illinois.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak