How to Raise a Woman

Girls, especially, become aware of their changing bodies and, equally, of how these changes are received by those around them, both intimately and publicly.
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The way her smile falls reminds me of how her hair hits her shoulders.

It's easy and natural, and it meets me with the same curly bounce.


Her eyes twinkle, and I wink at her -- something I don't do -- and she smiles with even more careless joy.

I think of the smiles that she gifts to me, and I grow astounded at their variety. Mostly, I'm in awe thinking of how they merge together completely-in-the-moment happiness with, at her tender age of 5, more self-awareness than many have.

I think about how her smile will, inevitably, change.

Self-awareness grows more and more, along with her inches and pounds. Girls, especially, become aware of their changing bodies and, equally, of how these changes are received by those around them, both intimately and publicly.

I am not ready for these changes.

Yet, I feel already on the cusp of her truly being a "girl," and not a tiny toddler lady. She's definitely a "girl" child, and I specify this because to pretend otherwise would be gorgeously deceitful of the reality of growing up a woman.

As a woman myself, I've alternately shunned the role, embraced it, loathed it, loved it, flaunted it, hidden it and, lastly, come to terms with my gender and my sex in a way that, I hope, will one day benefit my own two daughters.

Her smile is luminous. She's a casual social butterfly who breezily floats and flirts and puts into action the idea that "a stranger is only a friend we haven't yet met." I hope she maintains this as she grows, but, frankly, only time will tell.

Right now her curls are cut at the salon, so that she can do her hair without much effort. She's a person who appreciates style and clothing, but she's never wanted to spend much time processing her hair. (And anyone who knows and loves people with curly hair knows, too, that it has a mind of its own.)

I choose to embrace her curls. I don't brush them, or try to tame them, or typically put them up, even for school. Instead, I work with them, with the deepest mother-prayer that she will find other things to fight with in her life besides her hair. (Also, it's unintentionally beautiful, like she is.)

Life, for women, is full of battles. I've had my own experiences with quitting over receiving lower pay for the same job as male coworkers, and with being treated inappropriately; I've also accepted, gratefully, advantages like bearing my children and having close sisterhoods with my own twin sister and other friends.

Her smile falls off of her face and it's replaced by thoughtful introspection.

She's looking at me and, I think, wondering where I've gone off to. This, for me, has been the ultimate challenge of raising children: to stay present and here with them, even and especially during frustration.

I smile at her, but it's fraudulent and her still-childlike self can tell.

I tell her that I adore her smile, and that I'm taking it in -- really taking it in.

Her smile charges the room again and, for now, I'm off the hook. I won't be off the hook forever, though, and, as I prepare for lengthier, more serious mother-daughter discussions and greater displays of strong-willed emotions, I remind myself -- again and again, I remind myself -- that maintaining a strong foothold in the place where I currently stand is my most helpful tool for all wars waged. I know this because my own yoga practice, self-awareness and ability to speak my truth where I reside have helped me abundantly in my life.

My truth is that I'm a woman raising girls -- and I truly wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

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