little girl on the big ice

We were walking in Central Park. We followed the music to the outdoor skating rink, where a figure skating competition was about to begin. We paused to watch, bundled up and runny-nosed, as little girls in bright pink leotards with miniature, flowy skirts twirled on the ice below, practicing for one more minute.

A tiny girl in pink took her place at the center of the huge, empty rink, quivering, poised. The music boomed to life, and she lifted her arms, fingers intentional, every inch exact. She launched into her choreographed dance across the shining ice, posing as she went, one hip cocked, her body language stylized, coordinatedly flirtatious. She was so small and spindly out there in the cold, a flash of color, her legs working. And for some reason it made me start to cry.  I pretended not to be crying, because, COME ON. Can we just let a kid be a friggin’ kid for a second and not a kid-shaped funnel for all of the meaning in the world?

Nope. Too many pregnancy hormones.

I felt like I was being slammed in the heart with this: one girl, purposeful and nervous, alone in the middle of the towering city, her face intent, fragile.

This is being a girl, said my brain. Not in a particularly dramatic, artistic way. Not as though I am so profound. Just, yes, this is a part of girlhood. Of growing up female. Part of it is you, alone with your body, performing for the crowd. You’ve memorized the poses, the smiles, the little feminine twirls and the teasing hand on the hip. Even if you don’t do them, you know all about them. And this performance of femininity, it’s a little dangerous—your skin is bare in the middle of the winter, and you are told to smile and to keep smiling, but you are also always a fraction of an inch from slipping and hitting the hard ice.

I am scared of having a girl. Maybe that’s why I have convinced myself I’m having a boy. 


I can’t believe that I was once a little girl. That I learned all this. Not this, exactly. Please, I was never graceful. No one talked to me in ballet class. But I learned. Not the leotard, necessarily, but the way that eyes land on me, the way my body is on display, the ways to move that are considered lovely and the ways that aren’t. The practice and performance of femininity. And something about that aloneness that is hard for me to articulate.

Tomorrow, I will see my baby on that blurry screen, little organs lit up, spine undulating delicately, with a whole brain already alert inside a proper skull. I will wear something loose and elegant for the occasion, something that I can pull up easily so it won’t get goo on it. I have scheduled brunch at our favorite brunch place, and I am planning on asking the technician to write the baby’s sex in an envelope, so that we can open it, just Bear and me, alone at our table, probably while waiting for omelets. I’ve felt this whole time like it’s a boy, but now I am beginning to think I might be wrong. Really, it could go either way, of course. And it already has. I already have a son, or I already have a daughter. It’s insane.

I used to skate a lot, too. During the winter, our local homeschool hang out group met every Friday morning at the rundown community skating rink. I started skating when I was seven or so, but I wasn’t good at it—not like the girls in Central Park in their leotards. I kept tripping on the toe pick. So one day, after years and years of clinging to the wall, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I could wear hockey skates, even though only boys had them. I asked my mom if I could get some, and she took me to a used sporting goods store in some guy’s garage and we found a pair that fit me perfectly. They were chunky and black and white and snub-nosed and fat-laced, and they didn’t have toe picks. I loved them immediately. And almost just as quickly, I became a good skater. I could finally go fast, which is what I’d always wanted to do. I’d never wanted to do pretty spins. I wanted to skate backwards and play tag and do those quick stops that sent up an explosion of shaved ice. I could do those things now. I was a holy terror on blades, zipping in between people, around slow-moving gushy couples on a corny date, pissing off the skate guard. I was free! My cheeks stung and I was dying of thirst, and I stripped off layers and layers because I was suddenly hot. It was amazing.

I still have a pair of hockey skates. They’re in my front closet, on the shelf, high up. A few times in the city, a guy would take me on a date to the rink, and he would wobble around, slowing me to a frigid crawl, until finally I broke away and tore off on my own. And then he would be really surprised and a little confused and I would grin and feel badass.

The little girl in the middle of that same rink yesterday was anything but slow. I was cheering for her in my head. And for the next one. For every single one of them, brave and exposed and smiling precisely. There was something helpless in the scene, something scary, but the girls on the ice pivoted and glided neatly. Each one looked as though she believed she had to be there. She wasn’t really delicate—she was an athlete. She was competent and fierce. She was competing, and she didn’t miss anything this time, even though she fell while warming up.

“What if we have a daughter?” said Bear, just behind me.

“What if we do!” I said, overwhelmed. I haven’t let myself think about it, all this time. It just doesn’t seem possible. What if we have a daughter?

When I glanced down there was a little girl, maybe four years old, by my side, riveted, wide-eyed, staring down at the girl on the ice. A few minutes later she was replaced by a boy around the same age, dangling backwards off the railing, snot on his face, sticking his tongue out and then bellowing, “Mom! Mom! Mom! Can we go now?”

God. I don’t even know.

I am scared of having a daughter because of all the ways that it’s been hard to be me.

But for some reason, the figure skating girls made me feel better. It was weird for them to have that effect. They were out there, doing it, shoulders back, despite the silliness of their tiny skirts. They were confident with knives on their feet, cutting the ice. They were balancing on the surface of something big and difficult, and they were even managing to dance while they were there.

(photo by my amazing, talented friend Lucy)

There is something triumphant about being a girl. I am proud of girls, as a group.

“Would we let our daughter do this?” Bear asked me doubtfully.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess if she wanted to.” What do I know about being a parent? Obviously nothing.

But I think I might suggest that she try hockey skates, too. Maybe even first. There is a chance that, like her mother, she might just want to go fast, so fast that sometimes it almost feels like flying.

*   *   *

Did any of you guys ever figure skate? I want to hear more about it!

If you have kids, did you get that “feeling” that it was a boy or a girl while you were pregnant? Were you right?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look halfway through my pregnancy, with my belly popping. Finally!

P.S. I linked to it in the text, but in case you missed that and want to check out my Mirror Mirror column about pregnancy and body image and how I feel much more practical about my body now than I’ve ever felt, please go right ahead. Yup, still writing a lot about pregnancy. Trying not to apologize for it.

Oh, and the giveaway is still happening, if you want to enter to win $100 to spend on gorgeous, gorgeous stuff at Shabby Apple


Kate on March 11th 2013 in beauty, being different, body, pregnancy

38 Responses to “little girl on the big ice”

  1. Lily responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Nobody knows how to be a mom, until they become one. It will go naturally and you’ll do just great. If it’s a girl; Always make sure that your insecurities don’t get to her. You’ll be her rolemodel, so be a strong one, at least seem to be confident. Daughters pick up insecurities from their moms and reflect those on themselves. You, having a confident seeming mom, made you that much stronger. You might not realise, but ot’s true. Try not to worry. You’ll be great! (:
    Greetings from Holland.

  2. teegan responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 10:40 am #

    i thought it would be a girl. i was pretty sure. it may have been in part because my boss (of whom i am not a fan) was certain it was a boy.
    thomas is obviously, you know, male.
    but i felt the way you do. i was terrified of having a girl. i had such a rough time as a kid. i remember crying to my mother, asking her why no one liked me, and she cried back because she had no idea what to tell me, because she had been called ‘fatty patty’ in school. a chain of women mothering women who were embarrassed and scared and self-conscious.
    i would have loved a girl, but i am so relieved to have thomas. even if i have a girl or two after, i’m hoping he’ll give me the confidence for it. i cried during pregnancy so many times, asking mark what would happen if we had a girl, if she struggled with weight. if no one liked her. we’ve talked so much about emphasizing to our kid(s) how good healthy food is, how much fun it is to be outside, to hike, to run, to bike, and avoiding as much as possible calling foods bad or activities bad.
    it’s scary. but then i think about how awesome it would feel to be the mother of that girl you saw, to know you’re doing it right, you’re raising a girl who is fierce and brave and strong.

  3. Erika responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 10:49 am #

    I was petrified to have a girl, for the reasons you describe. I was afraid I would put all my insecurities on them, all my food issues. I remember how hard it was for me. That if I had boys, it would be easier. They’d have different issues, issues I could help them HANDLE.

    And I have two girls. I cried when I found out both times, which I felt shameful for but don’t anymore.

    My therapist calls my girls a “gift.” Without them, I would still be stuffing all my feelings down. It’s hard, but at least it’s all coming out.

    And I’m sure boys would not be “easy” like I imagined they would.

    I think it’s wonderful that you’re already thinking about this now.

    Also, for some reason I still always get choked up at my kids’ performances.

  4. Kate responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 10:51 am #

    OK, I’m glad I’m not alone with this…

  5. Raia responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    I have a daughter and when I was pregnant, I was convinced the baby would be a boy. I had dreams of little boys mostly. There was one vision, not a dream, of a young girl – maybe 12- with long dark, wavy hair – like my husband’s – who I thought was my daughter.

    For me, the “pregnancy hormones” thing never went away. My daughter is over 2 years old now and I still cry at the drop of a hat. Things that never seemed to bother me before. It’s like my emotional being (geez that sounds new-agey, but it’s the best way to describe it) is totally open since I became a mother, the emotions of others just pour right in and I feel them too. Especially other mothers, children and girls. I teared up just reading about your experience with the ice skaters. I used to think my own mother was just overly emotional, but I think I understand why now. It’s a wild ride, the transformation to parenthood :) .

    Good luck at your ultrasound! We did the same thing, having the technition write it down so we could open it, together, alone, later.

  6. Kate responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Oh no….And here I thought the crying might be temporary :-)
    Honestly, I kind of like being so touched by everything. It makes the whole world feel full of meaning all the time.
    And I’m glad you did the same thing at the ultrasound! Weirdly, I’m a little nervous about asking them to do this.
    Also, you have a gorgeous name. I’m thinking about girls’ names, suddenly. I hadn’t given them any thought before.

  7. Ashley responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    I figure skated from when I was 3 until I was 9. I reached a level where I would have had to choose between pursuing figure skating as a career or just putting it aside to be a hobby. I had private lessons once a week (only the last couple of years I was figure skating) and group lessons twice a week. My mom would pick me up from school and drive me 30 minutes to the rink. I’d have to change in the car, and most of the time I worked on homework on the way there. Had I chose to pursue it as a career, I would have had to switch to a rink an hour away (they had a better program) and add on training sessions in the morning. I chose to enter my brother’s sport, car racing, instead. If you have 10 minutes to kill, here’s a poorly lit and poorly edited video blog I made about it a couple years back:

    It’s been exciting following you through your pregnancy, even though I am years away from this process myself. Good luck tomorrow! From what I know of you and Bear through your blog, it seems like you guys will raise a great kid no matter the gender. Difficulties will arise no matter what, so you just have to roll with it.

  8. Kate responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Um, figure skating to car racing? Your life is fascinating.

  9. Mandy responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    “They were balancing on the surface of something big and difficult, and they were even managing to dance while they were there.”

    Wow. LOVE that phrase! I mean, doesn’t that pretty much sum up what it is to be female?

    And, what if you do have a girl? You are uniquely qualified to raise a girl, because even if you haven’t figured them all out yet, you know where most of the pitfalls are.

  10. Amanda responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    I was sure I was having a girl both times.

    I have two sons :)

    And as for not knowing anything about being a parent, I’ve got to say it’s one of the best on the job training programs extant. At the beginning it’s primarily about meeting physical needs; as your skills in that area grow you get to handle the emotional and psychological areas as well. You’ll be fine. Bear will be fine. And your child will be fine :)

  11. Janet T responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Kate, maybe less focus on gender? I know this is a very exciting time for you but he or she will be who he is- it is just the way of things.
    We tried with our son to not get into too many boy focused areas (we despise guns, yet boys will make guns out of anything, sticks/legos/candy canes- anything. I found this fascinating and strange) Our son was laid back and mellow, our daughter competitive and intense. And they have changed so much over the years. My daughters 2 best friends in preschool were two brothers in her class. She had play dates with them constantly. My son’s best friend in early grade school was a girl- again back and forth between our houses constantly. We never thought this weird and they both still have good friends that are of the opposite sex. We tried to teach them not to see gender, just like we tried to teach them not to see race/disabilities/financial status. I think they have both done well on this front.

    What if you have a boy and he wants to figure skate? Would that be different somehow from a girl wanting to? Or a girl that wants to play ice hockey?
    Having a daughter terrified me too, because I was a terror as a teen. And she was too, in a different way. But I have learned so much from both my kids, and would not change a thing about either one of them.

  12. Molly responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    I was so certain I was having a boy when I was pregnant–loads of dreams about little boy babies, and just that “feeling” that I “knew.” When the 19-week ultrasound showed it was a girl, I felt completely, utterly freaked out, though my husband was thrilled. I spent the next several weeks in a state of mild panic, for all the reasons you and others in the comments have stated: How could I raise a girl to be strong, and confident, and happy with herself? To not have any of my food issues (I had a very bad (not that there’s such a thing as a good!) eating disorder ten years ago, and still have very disordered thoughts about food and my body).

    Well, she’s 13 months-old now, and although all of this is still very much on my mind, I’m realizing that it’s something I have time to work on as she grows. Right now, her body is just a tool that allows her to crawl and walk and eat and laugh, and watching her enjoy her own body has been something of a revelation to me. As cliched as it sounds, she’s teaching me as much as I’m teaching her. Not that my body issues aren’t still a struggle, but having her gives me all the more reason to want to overcome them. Now just to get to the point where I overcome them for my own good, because I deserve it…!

    By the way, I only just found your blog a few days ago, and I can’t tell you how powerful some of your past posts have been to read. You put into words my feelings about my body, and gaining weight, and food, in a way that I often can’t. I completely relate to your feelings about pregnancy; it was the only time since high school that I’ve truly loved my body and felt weirdly, unbelievably sexy in it, I think because it now served a purpose greater than housing me.

    Enjoy your pregnancy, and your beautiful baby (whatever the gender!)

  13. Ashley responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    I am scared of having a daughter because of all the ways that it’s been hard to be me.

    Wow; this is exactly my fear of having a little girl. There are so many more pressures on a girl (maybe I feel like this because I am a girl). How do you prepare your sweet, innocent child for the world, let alone a girl’s world? Scares me to death. Probably 99.9% of the reason, my husband and I have not yet had a child. How could I possibly be an appropriate mother of a daughter, when I have had so many issues?

  14. RachelEve responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    While I am not a parent by any means, I have had many a conversation with my newly parented friends and the discoveries they’ve made about “what it is really like” to have a child and how that challenges the original “I’m pregnant and I’m glowing” expectations. Just wanted to share an amusing little video on debunking some myths and challenging some parenting taboos. This couple gave a Ted Talk on their experience. They talk about love for their children and how that played out as the children grew, the woman talks about the feelings of loneliness she experienced after she had her first baby — feelings she did not expect to have at all. I found their talk to be right on with the things I’ve learned from friends. It helps give some perspective on those pre-baby expectations. Here’s the link, if it works to share it here:!

  15. Kande responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    I thought for sure my first was a boy. 100%. How floored was I when I found out I was wrong – I remember turning to my husband and saying “But … but …. I don’t know HOW to be the Mom to a girl!” then bursting into tears. Almost ten years later – I could not have been happier to be wrong, as she is – perfection.

    I was worried about the trials I went through but then I realized (1) boy or girl – she is who SHE is. She isn’t me. She has her own unique characteristics and talents and skills, some of which mimic me, some her father, but in the end – are all her, not me. And (2) what is the point of having bad experiences if not to learn from them, and pass on the lessons? We may not be able to prevent everything … there will always be Mean Girls – but I can teach much better coping mechanisms, and I have already seen the benefits of that – and THAT is nothing short of awesome!

    My second is also a girl. We were only having two kids, but I had no feeling, maybe because I had no preference. My second journey to pregnancy was a lot longer and more convoluted, and I was much happier just being pregnant than worrying about gender or health issues … I just wanted a baby! A boy would have been fun, but so would sisters – I saw only the benefits to either.

    Then I got my second girl, and it is sooooo cool – because while she does share typical “girl” traits (like of her own accord liking pink and dresses) in so many was she is vastly different than her sister.

    And that’s when I realized – it doesn’t matter. Because in the end, while there are things unique to raising a girl, and unique to raising a boy, there are enough variances within those set gender states that really? In the end, we are just raising a child. Our child!

    And there is NOTHING better than that!!

    (*our* of course expands to any parent raising any child no matter how they found their way into their forever home :)

  16. Caitlin responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    There’s a bakery in my area (no where near New York) that will bake cupcakes and fill them with blue or pink frosting so that you can find out your baby’s sex by biting into a cupcake. Although then the baker would know before you.

  17. RitaMarie responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    Wow. This essay was lovely. I am not a mom, nowhere near being one, but I cannot thank you enough for putting into words what I have felt. For some reasons, silly reason, I have always wanted a girl, but for everything you have mentioned I hope I will have a boy.

    I know every gender comes with its own issues- but I can’t believe I survived being a girl!

    The idea of having a child at all and not being able to protect it when the world is harsh- when people are mean- when children are mean not realizing how they could truly be affecting someone’s future- I know it all sounds like too much thought, but I worry about that. I know that I will be able to make a strong child- an independent child- a carefree child, but its little heart and self beliefs are of utmost concern to me.

    Thank you for this essay. Beautiful.

  18. em responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    I don’t know about being the mother of a daughter, but I know about being a daughter, of a thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive woman who’d had a rough time through her girlhood and all the way along. She’d been not as ‘cute and pretty’ as her own mother and her sisters, she’d been bullied a bit in school, she’d experienced plenty of painful and confusing things at the hands of men. She had a bunch of sons, and then I was her first and only daughter.

    And everything she’d been filled with trepidation about concerning me, I experienced none of it. Every way she’d planned and thought to have prepared herself to be the mother of a daughter, everything she experienced raising me was different. She was so ready, mindful, prepared to nurture and aid me along through the struggles she’d known, and my personality, appearance, identity, talents, friendships, life experiences were all different than hers had been, quite profoundly so in our case.

    I was always correct in my “feelings” of what gender a baby was. I can imagine how excited you are to find out!

  19. lk responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    I was a figure skater from when I was 5 until I was 18 – learning my triple jumps and making my way up the ranks of regional competitions. I was never going to be national champion or Olympics bound. :)

    I was on the ice each day at 5 am. I skated until school at 8. Then after school I saked from 3 – 6. On Sundays, I was on the ice for 6 hours straight. In the summer, I skated 10 hour days.

    My senior year in high school, I realized that I wanted a ‘normal’ life and quit.

    I miss it sometimes.

    It taught my discipline. I couldn’t eat what I wanted. I had to workout. My first private coach (I was 9) taught me that “Real skaters stand straight and tall. They do not stick out a hip and lean to one side”. Any time I stuck out a hip, I’d get called on it because it wasn’t right. I catch myself critiquing girls in church who stand like that – knee popped, hip out.

    It taught me how to both win and lose gracefully. You couldn’t always place first, but when you did, you had to remember that other girls didn’t.

    It helped me learn to sew and bead by hand. Those dresses are EXPENSIVE if you have them custom made – which most girls do. Thankfully, my mom was a seamstress. She sewed and I beaded. I spent many nights nursing needle pricks on my fingertips prior to competition!

    It taught me that it was ok for a girl to be strong. I was stronger than most of the boys through middle school. In high school, I could outskate the best hockey players on our varsity team. They were always shocked by how strong my legs were.

    It taught me poise and gave me ‘presence’. You can’t take the ice alone and blend in with anyone – there’s no one else there. You skate out and own it, or you’ll never get the marks you want!

    It gave me an incredible behind. :) My nickname in high school was “Bunz” – my last name was Steele. Hence, Bunz of Steele.

    It gave me a VERY unhealthy body image. Figure skaters cannot have an extra ounce of body fat or you see it in your dress. I was required by my coach to turn in food journals. Most days I ate under 1000 calories with the extensive workouts that I did.

    Now I have a daughter of my own who refused to figure skate, but she LOVES HOCKEY! :) That’s hard for a figure skater. When you’re a figure skater here in the upper middle region (I hate midwest, cause we really aren’t!) of the US, you’re not allowed to like hockey players or hockey in general. It’s hard to deal with for this mama, but if she’s happy, that’s all I care about.

    All of that being said – figure skating was an all around wonderful experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

    – lk

    (ps – sorry this got so long!!!)

  20. Kate responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    SO interesting! Thank you for telling us about it! And I was actually wondering about the costumes, if you have to keep buying custom outfits, especially as a kid, since you’re always growing. Amazing that you made them yourself. I love that your daughter loves hockey! :-)

  21. Rapunzel responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    My twin and I took a class in college in order to learn how to skate. It was a Pass/Fail class, and really you only had to show up in order to pass. One girl in our class never got past the “shuffle shuffle shuffle” stage of learning how to skate. Maybe she’d never rollerbladed before, which I think helped my sister and I.
    We never learned to stop on the side like that (we learned some other way, or I basically just slammed into the wall) but it was fun all the same. Hockey skates are a million times better than figure skates!
    Anytime I think of “what if I get knocked up?” I wonder about the sex of the kid. Sometimes I’d think I’d like a girl because we could be friends someday like on Gilmore Girls, or most of the time I just think I want a boy because they do seem so much easier to raise. Hmm.

  22. Sheryl responded on 11 Mar 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    The image of that little girl figure skating seems like it captures so much of the contradiction of what we expect from women in the world. Small and delicate, yet strong and capable and how very hard it is to ever embody both. So often the one outweighs the other and it’s so rarely the side we want that wins out.

  23. dee responded on 12 Mar 2013 at 9:20 am #

    I am scared of having a daughter because of all the ways that it’s been hard to be me.”
    I’m a mom to two young men, trust me on this, boys have just as many issues and obstacles to overcome as they grow. If you are human, you will struggle in this world…and at one time or another it is hard to be who you are.
    Maybe having a boy will be a good learning experience for you so you can see that your angst has not been about gender, but about being human.

  24. onebreath responded on 12 Mar 2013 at 11:17 am #

    I am not a mom but I have recently been privy to a number of conversations on this theme. What I think is truly wonderful is how each mom believes that she has the “better” gender – I think it’s like anything – we often like what we know :) So if you parent a son then it’s hard to imagine what it could be like to parent a girl and vice versa. I love hearing how parents of each gender are so sure they have the better deal – I think it’s such a gift how we adapt to and embrace the reality nature gives us. I am sure you will do the same.

    As another poster alluded to, though, there is of course the question of whether gender is actually a two pronged quality or whether there is more a spectrum… But that strays off your topic so I won’t go there!

  25. morgaine responded on 12 Mar 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Do you think Bear feels similarly about having a son to how you feel about having a daughter? Have you talked about it?

  26. Sara responded on 12 Mar 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    I am not a mom yet, but my fiance and I are planning on kids in a year or two. Although I’d be happy with either, I’ve always had the feeling that I will only have boys. I wonder if it’s a subconscious fear of raising a girl after reading your post. I never felt like I quite knew how to be a girl either. I was a tomboy and had mostly boys for friends until middle school, and by then it seemed like I’d missed some essential learning about girl-dom and always felt like I existed on a different wavelength from the “real” girls. Even now, nearly twenty years later, I still don’t feel like I’ve quite caught up.

  27. Jenn responded on 12 Mar 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    Oh, this is so beautiful.

    We had a son, then 15 months later, a daughter. With both of them, I couldn’t guess who was on the way. Now with number 3 on the way (!), my gut tells me it’s a girl. I can’t say why, but I have a 50% chance of being right! My husband thinks it’s a boy…so at least one of us will be “right?”

    And I love love love your idea of having the gender be written down on a card so you and your husband can know at the same time. I am totally going to steal this idea, since my husband most likely will need to be watching the other 2 kiddos while I go to that appointment!

  28. Flo responded on 12 Mar 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    I have been in this positioned – desperate to have only boys because I was scared at the prospect of bringing up a girl with the same issues as me, the same issues as my mother, my grandmother and the subsequently strained relationship between all of us.

    When told I was expecting a girl, I cried. I sobbed my heart out for days. How on earth was I going to bring this child up without screwing her up?

    My daughter is now 4. It’s not been easy, but it’s a challenge that I’ve simply had to face up to and I’m determined to right the wrongs made by past generations of my family. Rather than look at it as a disappointment, it is a blessing full of positive opportunity. You discover just how strong you really can be despite the difficulties faced earlier in life.

    But you know now whether it’s a boy or a girl right? :)

  29. Cait responded on 12 Mar 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    This was really beautiful. I too, was never graceful, and felt awkward and alone more often than not. But sports, and growing strong and fast in pursuit of a goal, joining teams and finding a community of other girls – that saved me.

  30. Gracey responded on 13 Mar 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Oh wow, I have the opposite feeling. I want kids within the next few years, right now I am hormonally desperate for them, and I selfishly want a GIRL.
    I know it’s not about the gender, but I have always imagined myself having at least one girl. If I had no sons, I wouldn’t mind at all. If I had no daughters, I think a tiny part of my would grieve. I’m not even sure why. It’s just that I know girls. I am one, I have one bio sister and three more non bio sisters who came into my life later. I was a girl guide leader. I nannied one beautiful toddler girl, and now I’m nannying another.

    Boys? Boys are a mystery. I can’t imagine producing one out of myself, husband’s influence be damned.

    I’d be delighted with a boy, I’m sure, but I’m kind of horrified at how loaded gender is for me.

  31. jen responded on 14 Mar 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    What a lovely way to find out! I am 26 weeks pregnant with our first and we decided to wait until birth. I have no feeling one way or the other what gender this child will be. We have 16 nephews and nieces and are both from large families so I think I’d be comfortable with the challenges that come with either one. I am a tiny bit more scared of a girl simply because I don’t have a confident mother, I don’t have a good relationship with her and I don’t want that with my own daughter.

  32. Five For Friday | to be dancing... a novelty yarn responded on 15 Mar 2013 at 12:33 pm #

  33. Kelli responded on 20 Mar 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    This piece was so well written. I teared up reading it.
    Well, I have to say that I think raising a boy is equally intimidating to raising a girl. At first I didn’t think so, but I’ve changed my mind now that I have a boy. It is just different. But boys can have body image issues too! And being a man in this world is a tough thing right now too. I think that we expect men to be both tough & strong as well as empathetic & emotionally sensitive, & those are hard roles for men to fill. I think a lot of women want an “alpha male” but at the same time we want to be equal partners. I don’t know if I worded this in a way that makes sense but the more I think about my son’s future the more I worry about how to influence him.
    Anyway, I just wanted to point out that I think being a boy or man in this world is equally complex, it just comes with a different set of issues.

  34. Rosanne responded on 21 Mar 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    What a beautiful post, Kate. It is stirring up so many things in me, it’s hard to explain. They’re mostly about being a girl, feeling fragile and, dare I say it, a sudden urge to become a mother (which feels so strange, since yesterday I commented on another, more recent post expressing my serious doubts on the subject.. ahh – being a girl is confusing!!) I’ll have to let it sit with me.

    Anyway, superbly written and beautifully captured in that picture. Loved this.

  35. Weekly Feminist Reader responded on 24 Mar 2013 at 11:25 am #

    [...] On fear of a daughter. [...]

  36. Heidi responded on 24 Mar 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    This was beautiful writing. If I had encountered such a compassionate and strong way of thinking about what it meant to be a girl, I probably would have been brave enough to have children myself long ago. I chose a professional path caring for children instead, hoping to soft the ice. Thanks for this.

  37. Julia responded on 24 Mar 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    I had a girl. I desperately wanted one, though I would have loved having a boy, too. She’s five now, and she’s just amazing. The most overwhelming thing for me is that I’m the first person who shows her how to be a woman. I don’t call myself fat (even though I could stand to use a few pounds)–I don’t call other women fat (or men). I don’t call people ugly. I try to avoid calling them stupid (this is harder, I gotta say).

    Boys have to perform too. I’ve talked to my husband about this–masculinity is every bit the performance that femininity is, and the gaze can be just as terrifying and baring, even when it’s different. I know mothers of young boys–especially entering their teens–who weep for the things their sons go through. Don’t think that for the mom of a boy it’s easier, ’cause it ain’t.

    But enjoy it, whichever you have. It’ll get hard, but just give them as much help as you can to deal with it, and make sure that your door, as they say, is open.

  38. aria responded on 24 Mar 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    If I have a boy, I will treat him just like a would a daughter. If I have a boy, I will treat him the same I would my daughter.