I just want my daughters to know what a complicated world we live in. But here’s how I’d like to help you navigate it.
To My Daughters,
You are currently 3 years old and 8 months, respectively, and man, what a world it is.
Let’s start with the good stuff.
Women have come very far in being recognized as equals in most respects. This is pretty incredible. It’s true, we have more work to do, and more ground to cover, but things are getting better every day. I think your great-great-grandmother would be proud.
While we’re on the topic of women, I want you to remember the names of some very strong and smart ones who got us here today. These women had to be ten times as strong as the system they were fighting against (and man, that is crazy). When you vote, when you go to your job, when you marvel over our beautiful freedoms, when you make a decision that asserts the dominion you have over your body, thank these women: Susan. Rosa. Harriet. Margaret. Marie. Joan. Maya. Frida. Sandra.
Oh, and Mary. She’s the whole reason we got another important person in this world.
Yeah. Women have long been rocking the joint. I’m so glad you’re part of the tribe.
But there are some tough things to know about being a woman.
Lots of times, the world will tell you to be quiet. Sometimes the world will tell you lots of false things, like you’re nothing more than a body, or an object. That you’re too loud, or too opinionated. That you have to work twice as hard to make half of what a man makes. And it will also tell you that if you dare complain about any of the above, you’re an ungrateful brat.
Pardon my French here (and above), but all of this just sucks. It must change. You must help to change it.
How? Be accountable. Be intelligent. Work hard. Forge new ground. Make and Share your perspective. Don’t let silence win. Because unless we hear your voices, the world will never know how to treat us.
And if there’s something to be proud about in relation to women and the year 2018, it’s this: While we still have work to do, something big did happen. We woke up to our collective power and realized that speaking up pays off. Speaking up keeps us from being held down. Please remember that staying silent serves no one except the bad guys. Use your beautiful voices.
And here’s the thing about your voices. People will tell you they don’t matter. Don’t listen to those people. You will know when it’s worth speaking because your heart will swell something fierce. That’s your passion. And that’s your cue to let it rip, baby.
Here’s something I’ve long pondered. Maybe the world is so scared of the sheer galactic force of women united that they tell us lots of lies to keep us fractured, to keep us fighting, to keep us distracted. Because if we all came together? If we all ditched the cattiness for openness; the gossip for searching for the good? By God, we’d be unstoppable. Maybe your generation will come to realize the collective power of women in a real way. I sure hope so.
For all the awesomeness that good women bring to the world, please don’t forget about the good men. It’s not a match of Us vs. Them. It is us with them—sometimes shoulder to shoulder, other times sitting on each others’ shoulders.
You’ve realized this by now, certainly, but men and women are different (oh man are we ever different), but we need each other so much. And we need each other to be good at what we were born to be good at. And what we are good at isn’t defined by our gender, but instead by our abilities, and our hearts.
You will look for love, or maybe love will find you, but either way, remember this on your search: It’s not about finding your match; it’s about finding your partner. Who wants more us-es running around? You need a counterpart. A key to your lock. A yang to your yin. Because flowers don’t bloom in stagnant soil, and souls don’t grow from remaining unchallenged. In this regard, my hope is that you find a partner whose qualities encourage your growth.
And my daughters, my sweet girls, I want so much for you.
I want you to speak proudly. To learn lots and share it loudly with the world.
I want you my daughters to feel safe. To be safe. And I want you to defend yourself by any means necessary. (I am totally okay with you hurting someone if they hurt you first.)
I want you to dole out grace gratuitously. What does this mean, you ask? It means forgive. It means be curious—genuinely curious—about other people in this world. It means to look people in the eye when you talk, and to put away the damn phone and take in the scenery. It means to ask that girl who’s sitting alone at lunch to come to your table. It means my daughters, realize you are better than not a single other person on this earth, but rather equal. The only difference between you and that person you think is different is either Bad Choices or Bad Luck. Keeping grace top of mind will help you remember all of this.
I want endless choices for you, but the wisdom to know when you’ve landed on the right one.
I want you to be okay being alone sometimes—to relish the quiet. I want you to embrace the inevitable crap that will also inevitably be your biggest teacher. And please, please, take a moment sometimes to just be still.
I want you to believe in your potential but be aware of your limits. (This means no speeding!)
My daughters, I want you to laugh loudly and not be embarrassed to be silly.
My daughters, I want you to smile at strangers. (This will also make you happy.)
I want you to know when to fight back and when to walk away. (See above for more on this.)
I want you to be relentless but know when to stop.
I want you to take care of yourself and others. (The order in which you do those things will switch by the day.)
Don’t overuse “I’m sorry.”
Do overuse “I love you.”
Don’t get in cars with strangers.
Do learn how to drive manual.
Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t cheat.
Do the right thing. (I’m here to help you out with that.)
And by God, every time you fall, you dust off that beautiful face, grit those teeth I’m gonna pay thousands of dollars to straighten out, take a deep breath, and march on, baby.
The world may never be perfect, but to me, you are.
A version of this post originally appeared at sonniabatta.com, published with permission.