Dear Daughter. Dear Child (The F Word: Let's Talk Feminism and Gender)

(This piece first appeared as part of a weekly column for The Sunday Morning)


As we try to heal and recover from this painful time, a recent conversation with some fellow feminists comes to mind. We talked about the women that came before us and what we learnt from them. We reflected on the strength of movements and how we all found mentors and mothers in these incredible people who taught us, trained us, and loved us so that we could carry on.

Inevitably, we had to ask ourselves the same question. Just as we had learnt from our mothers (biological, adopted, or otherwise), what do we in turn want to teach our daughters? What will the next generation learn from us, and what do we want to impart from the lessons we were taught and have learnt?

For me – more than practicalities, it is the sense of power and love that I want to ensure my own daughter (whoever she may be) learns. The sense of freedom, independence, and sheer will that is denied to so many of our fellow sisters. I want her to learn that, cherish that, and know that she stands on the shoulders of those who have come before her. So this one – this is for her.

Dear daughter. Dear child.

This one is for you – although you are not here yet and I may not know when you will arrive. But this one is for you.

My mother taught me things I want to teach you, I learnt things I want to teach you, and the world has things it will teach you – but I also know it will never be enough. I want to take you in my arms, hold you tight, and never let go because even as I fight and rail and cry, I know it’s not a safe place I hand you. I know that dark shadows lurk in street corners, clawing at your heart and soul, I know that fear and heartbreak and lust that masquerades as love is waiting to trap you in sweet senseless pain. I know that dreams are as fragile as glass and when smashed, picking up the pieces can leave you with bleeding fingertips. I know that there will be nights where you lay in bed, your body convulsing with the pain of rejection, wondering if you could fix it all if you go back in time. And I know that what I know is just a drop in the vast ocean and it is the thought of you and your wide trusting eyes facing that unknown world of hurt that scares me beyond words.

But then, I take a deep breath and remember that like the women that have come before you, you are a warrior and you will triumph. I know that you will face the darkness with light, teach lust what love is, and create new pictures from shattered dreams. I know that you will gaze at the vast unknowns of the universe not as something to tame but to revel in and I know you will love with everything you have.

Little one, when you find that kind of love for the first time that fills your world with light and your soul with song, do not despair when it also leaves, remember that everything has a time and place and even as you roll your eyes and wonder what I know, know that I do know. I know of pain and heartbreak and I will be there to rail against until the storm passes.

Little one, know that the whole universe awaits you and you are free to wander as you choose. Live your life free from the shackles of expectations (even mine) and fight against those who tie you down. But show them love and show them compassion for they are only trying to find their own wings. Show them you fly higher together than alone.

Little one, dream big but allow them to shatter. Dream small and regret. Get hurt, get angry, and hate. For it is only when you see dark that you understand light.

Little one, know that it is you who shape your own destiny. As a potter who moulds his clay as the wheel of life spins, sometimes out of control. That it is your hands that will carve the paths and the patterns you wish to see and although I may guide your hands for a little while, you have the power. Know that it is you and no one else who can drive you to your destination.

Little one, know that no matter what happens, I will always say I love you, like my own mother did. I will whisper it in your ear as we hum lullabies. I will giggle it to your tummy. I will call out, embarrassing you, when you are with your friends. I will cry it when you veer off your course and I will say it over and over again.

You always have a home in my heart and while I may not be the warrior I once was, know that I will always be a part of your army. I will always have a place for you to hide from the world when you need, and throw you out when you are ready even if you don’t believe it yet.

Little one, there is not enough time in the universe for me to teach you all that I want to and for me to learn all I wish to teach you. Just remember that the world is a better place than we give it credit for. Remember that you make it better by being alive. Remember that this one is always for you.

Comments