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8 life lessons I’ve learned from my daughter

When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I prayed that at least one of them would be a boy. This was not only because both my husband and I each have two sisters and I wanted to throw a boy into the mix, but because I was nervous about having a daughter. Mother-daughter relationships are famously complicated, and my relationship with my mother growing up was no different. There’s something about raising a child from a defensive perspective — one in which they need to be taught a certain degree of toughness — and raising a child who doesn’t necessarily need to “prove it” every day.

Luckily, the daughter I got was my daughter — an amazing little girl who has taught me a lot in her eight years.

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1. The power of unconditional love

I have never had someone love me as deeply and unconditionally as my daughter. She loves me with a passion I have trouble understanding sometimes. My daughter tells me constantly that I am the best person she has ever known and that she wishes she could be with me every minute of every day. To hear that from your child, especially on days when you feel like a barely adequate mother, is a gift.

2. The responsibility of unconditional love

There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being the brightest star in someone’s sky; I know that my words and actions hold a lot of influence over my daughter. This fills me with pride when she stops to pick up litter, does something thoughtful for her brother or is kind to the kid who doesn’t have a lot of friends. On the other hand, I also know that when I hear my unkind words come out of her mouth when she’s angry that it’s because of the example that I set.

3. Sometimes, mothers of daughters worry about the wrong things

Before my daughter was born, I worried about how I was going to teach my little girl to be strong, to stand up for herself and to believe in herself and her abilities. Then my daughter came along, and I realized that those things weren’t going to be problems. My daughter is strong; she is strong in ways I never was when I was her age. I’m no longer worried about someone stepping all over her — I’m more worried for the sad sack who tries it.

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4. Some people can’t be classified

When people ask me what my son is like, I can rattle off his interests without missing a beat. When it comes to my daughter, however, it’s hard to pin her down. Sometimes she’s interested in one thing, and other times it’s something completely different. She floats around, trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that, with her only long-term commitment being to experience as much joy as she can. In a world where we tend to want our kids to be on some kind of “track,” her commitment to happiness is refreshing.

5. Feelings are to be felt

Whether it’s anger or laughter, she’s going to feel it as fully as she can. I wouldn’t mind it if she took the anger part down a few notches from time to time, but I do admire her passion.

6. Some clichés are clichés because they’re true

“It’s the quality of the time you spend together, not the quantity.” I can spend the entire weekend with my daughter, but if we aren’t actively engaged with each other (by cuddling and/or playing tag, for example), then she feels cheated. She wants me, not just my time.

7. The mysteries of curly hair

I have stick-straight hair. My daughter, however, has curly hair, which she inherited from her father’s side of the family. It is through my daughter that I learned never to brush curly hair when it’s dry, and that this thing called “product” is a must-have.

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8. The beauty of little girls who still love their bodies

My daughter still loves her body and all of the things she can do with it. She boasts about how strong she is. She isn’t afraid to try anything physical and doesn’t worry about how her clothes make her look. It is heart-warming, thrilling and sad all at once. Living with a girl who isn’t insecure about her body, who doesn’t even know what that means, is a beautiful thing. However, I am not naive enough to think that this is going to last. At 8 years old, I know we are on a countdown toward those feelings of insecurity and shame. In the meantime, I am going to encourage her to love herself as much as she can and hope some of that trickles through into the hellscape that is puberty.

I love having a daughter, but more than anything I love having my daughter. There are more complicated times to come, but I am excited to see where this little fireball of love is going to go and what else she’s going to teach me along the way.

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