international women's day: 10 more things I want my daughter to know (by the time she's 18)


Today is International Women's Day.  The reasons behind the existence of International Women's Day (and indeed, the way in which the day is celebrated) vary around the world, but last year, I was moved to celebrate by writing a post about the 10 things I wanted my daughter, and all young people, to know.   At that time, during the heated election cycle in the US, I felt like we were forgetting how we're supposed to treat each other, and so I wrote that post in a bit of a hot-tempered mood. 

Now that I've cooled down a bit and it's a year later, I've re-read my words, and still feel strongly about those 10 thoughts.  So that's a good thing.

This year, however, we've just celebrated Alex's 9th birthday, and it's not lost on me that she's halfway out of my house:  if all goes as planned, in 9 more years she'll be getting ready to go off to college, and living away from home for the first time.  I find this somewhat shocking; more accurately, I've become obsessed by this sobering fact. There's still so much more work to do.

And so today, on this International Women's Day, I thought I'd memorialize what I hope to teach her before she officially becomes a woman.  Therefore, in addition to last year's list (because seriously, those first 10 are non-negotiables), here are 10 more things I want my daughter to know before she becomes a bona fide woman:

1.  I want her to know that she is stronger, smarter, and braver than she knowsWe all are.  And when the chips are down, it's amazing what wells of strength we are able to draw on.  If she falters, there are people who love her who will help her steady herself (and her father and I are first in line for that gig).  But it's important she try on her own first.

2.  I want her to know Friendship Math.  I want her to know that she will encounter many different types of people in her life, including (but not limited to):

(a)  people who truly love her
(b)  people who truly don't
(c)  people who seem like they love her but do not treat her well
(d)  people who treat her well all the time
(e)  people who treat her well, but don't treat other people well
(f)  people who cheer her every success and sincerely wish to see her succeed
(g)  people who cheer her successes to her face, but actually are jealous and secretly hope she fails
(h)  people who she thinks are really hot.

And therefore, I want her to know that:

(a), (d) and/or (f) = true friends;
(b), (c), (e) and/or (g) ≠ true friends;
(c), (e), and/or (g) = people she needs to be careful of, because they might look like true friends at first, but trust me, they're not, even if they're (h);
(d) + (f) + (h) = really awesome flings (which are always fun, but I want her to also know that they may become nothing more); and
(a) + (d) + (f) + (h) = potential life partner material (as long as she truly loves them in return)

That said, given and with full knowledge of all the above, I want her to always remember to look for the light.

(And I want her to remember everything we've talked about -- and will continue to talk about -- related to safe sex and unwanted pregnancy.  No, seriously, I'm not kidding.  I really, really want her to remember this.)

3.  I want her to know how to travel to a foreign country by herself, how to enjoy her own company and how to change a flat tire.  Also, I want her to remember that tattoos are forever, so dear God, child, think before you ink.

4.  I want her to know how to cook a delicious meal from scratch, without the need for a written recipe, the taste of which will make a grown adult weep in ecstasy.  Bonus points if it's cuisine from Trinidad or England, because I think it's important for every young person to know how to make at least one dish that comes from their people.

5.  I want her to understand that while fashion and makeup are fun, they are ultimately simply ornaments.  I want her to remember that even at Christmastime, while ornaments are pretty, an unadorned tree is beautiful in its own right.

6.  I want her to remember Newton's Third Law:  for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This applies not only to physics, but to the amount of work you put into something, or the type of energy you put out into the world.  I want her to remember to be mindful.

7.  I want her to be confident enough to say "no" when she knows that saying "yes" will make her feel like a tiny bit of her soul is dying.  I want her to know that saying "no" in these situations isn't impolite, it's honest.  I want her to remember to be kind, but firm.  Always.

8.  I want her to have a visceral understanding that she has life really good, and millions of people in the rest of the world have much tougher lives than she has.  I want her to realize that this is due simply to the fact that she happened to be born in a part of the world where opportunity is plentiful.  And therefore, I want her to find a way to use her own, unique gifts, whatever she discovers them to be, to help create opportunity for others.  Because gifts are nothing if they're not given away.

9.  I want her to know how to have good clean fun, and how to create good, clean fun.  Because good clean fun is important.

10.  I want her to remember to call her mother.  Because, what, she's such a grown bigshot woman now, she can't remember to call her own mother??

And with that, happy International Women's Day, and happy weekend, friends.

Song I can't go for that, as performed by The Bird & The Bee