Introduction, Rules for My Newborn Daughter
But what if it’s a girl?
That’s the question I was asked most frequently after I published my first book Rules For My Unborn Son, which I described so self-assuredly as “one man's instructions for raising a thoughtful, adventurous, honest, hardworking, self-reliant, well-dressed, well-read, well-mannered young gentleman.” Many readers, my wife included, wanted to know whether my unsolicited advice could be applied to girls as well as boys.
My answer, of course, was...of course! While the book, and the blog from which it sprung, was imagined as a decidedly one-sided conversation between father and son, I was confident that just about every rule could be applied to a future daughter as well as my then unborn son. After all, writing thank you notes, keeping a tidy lawn, and learning how to shake a martini are universal lessons and hardly the exclusive realm of men. But then again, there were all those rules about baseball. And tying a necktie. And a few dozen other rules that were admittedly pretty male-centric, if not explicitly, then at least in tone. My wife thought that our future daughter deserved her own rules. Maybe even a whole book of them. I agreed.
Boys and girls are equally capable and equally thirsty for all the institutional knowledge that a parent can muster. But they are also different. Wonderfully, obviously, and sometimes hilariously different. And never was this more obvious than when shortly after I finished Rules for My Unborn Son my wife and I had our second child---a girl.
So I decided to write a book for her too. But I did have a nagging concern. In this day and age, was it appropriate for a man to be doling out advice to a young woman? What did I know about the unique challenges of being a girl? And if I wanted my daughter to grow into a strong, independent, brave young woman that was unafraid to challenge traditional power structures and antiquated gender stereotypes, was handing her a book full of rules written by a man the best way to start her journey?
The answer is...I don’t know. I am no parenting expert. I’m just a dad. And I think a dad has a right and a duty to tell his daughter what he expects of her. To share with her what he knows about life and how to make the best of it. And while I might not know even a fraction of what it takes to become an independent, intelligent, courteous, courageous, honest, adventurous, self-reliant, well-read, well-dressed, well-mannered young woman, I do know someone who does. Thankfully, I married her.