My first two children were girls and for a time it seemed I’d never have a son. Then the boys came thick and fast, one after the other, five in a row. By the time Liba was born, I’d had so many boys my eldest called the hospital to check if what she’d heard were true. Was it really a girl?
It was. A picture-perfect little girl with a shock of thick dark hair. “Black Irish coloring,” I think, gazing into Liba’s blue eyes, which is silly, because we are Jewish, not Irish. Still, when I look at her I think, “Irish rose,” for her beautiful coloring.
It is so much fun to dress her up in the early days. Since Liba is born in the spring, I can dress her in insubstantial sun suits. Things with puffy pants and frills, lacy edgings, floral fabrics and lots of pink.
She really is the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen and she is mine. Her limbs peek out of the openings in her clothes, soft and ringed with “bracelets” of flesh, her elbow the two tiniest perfect pink indentations you ever saw. She could be a Gerber baby, a magazine cover, she could win a contest.
I marvel at her exquisite looks and thrill to the fun of dressing her up in girly-girl clothes, but how will it ever be enough? How can I raise this delicate little girl to be strong and independent, to stick up for her rights, to stand out in the crowd? How will I arm her with the gumption to demand that people look at her work and not at her, when she is so beautiful?
It seems that being a girl myself, and having raised so many boys, I should have mastered this by now. I should know how to raise a girl who expects to be treated no different than a boy. But I don’t know how to do it.
I never did.
With the boys, I don’t think about these things. I just laugh and watch their antics, wondering if we’ll be as close as we are now when they are men. These other fears and worries don’t occur to me.
Liba whimpers, moving her head from side to side, rooting for a nipple, seeking nourishment. That single mindedness, the desire to be fed, will it last the years? Will she stay the course and find the way to success in a world that even today, seems made for men?
I give her what she wants, her petal-soft cheeks working in time with her little gulps, efficient enough. It seems I may just have to trust her to get ahead in life. She didn’t come with instructions and I have no degree in parenting; in raising girls to become strong women.
The only thing I know is that the future is wide open and that my love for Liba, my Irish Jewish rose, is boundless. Will my love be enough to propel her to success in the workforce? Will this lump in my throat, this warmth spreading in my chest, power her rise to the top at whatever she chooses to do in life?
These feelings are so strong. I stroke her tiny head and wonder if what I feel is at all sufficient. Will my feelings provide for her future? Will my love be enough to raise this girl to womanhood?