Today is the International Day of the Girl. Yay, girls!
There are over a billion girls in the world under age 15. Too often, opportunities to choose their own future paths are restricted. Some 10 million girls are at risk of becoming child brides. Two-thirds of the adults in the world who cannot read are women. “Period poverty” impacts 500 million girls and women globally. UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres said that,
“Achieving gender equality is the unfinished business of our time and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.” There is so much work to do.UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres
I’ve written in more detail about some of the challenges facing girls and women, but today, I’d like to focus on the girls I know best: my daughters.
I have 15 daughters and 2 daughters-in-law that I love fiercely. Six of my girls have passed away due to disabilities. I miss them dearly. I never thought I’d be a mom to children with disabilities – or to a mega-family – but I learned a long time ago that my life was really not going to be anything like I planned when I married at age 21.
Anyway, my girls are amazing! I gave birth to one daughter, Elizabeth, and the rest joined our family through adoption. They come from around the world, with a variety of backgrounds and experiences before they joined our family. A couple were newborns, a handful were toddlers/preschoolers and a couple were school-age before they joined our family.
Like any family, we have our struggles and hard moments. Mental health can be a real challenge, often harder for me to know how to help than with my kids with physical disabilities. And, it’s an ongoing learning process. One of my older daughters sometimes laments that I don’t parent the youngest like I did the oldest – and she’s right. Thank goodness I have learned something in 35 years of parenting! I imagine I’ll continue learning until the day I die.
Here’s what I am lucky enough to see: daughters who are finding their own way in life, making their own decisions about who they want to be and become. I see daughters who know how to work (their employers see that too!), who stand up for themselves, who speak up when something is not ok and who are generous and giving. I see girls – now women, except for one – who are resilient, determined and strong. I see women who ask for what they want, in many scenarios.
One of my younger daughters recently went to her boss and asked why she wasn’t in management yet, pointing out that she had more experience and abilities than the young man they had just promoted. When she shared that story with me, it was mostly a non-issue for her. For me, though, it was earth-shattering in two ways: one, I never, ever, ever would have done that as a young adult. I don’t know if I’d do it even today. Second, I realized that she had not internalized my own ingrained tendencies to not be direct and to “assume” that everyone knows what I want and think. I have been working on overcoming the tendency to play small for decades. I have no problem advocating for others, but you might be surprised how many times I have to talk myself into advocating for myself – and how many times I don’t.
My heart is filled to overflowing with love and pride. I am so glad to be a girl mom.