What I Wish I'd Known About Raising A Girl

By Fiona GIbson

With toddler twin boys, I reckoned I had a reasonable understanding of what it took to be a mum.

It wasn't easy of course, but I'd learnt that two rowdy little lads needed to be kept busy pretty much all of the time, and that we couldn't spend all day in the house. We lurched from Duplo sessions on the living room rug to charging around in the park.

"This is okay," I thought. "I'm almost getting to grips with this."

And then along came my little girl...

A totally different experience. Everything I thought I knew about parenting was turned on its head.

To be truthful, I was delighted to have a daughter: in a house of three males, I had started to feel rather outnumbered. She is 14 now and it has been a wonderful experience so far.

However there are certain aspects about mothering a daughter that I wish I'd known the very first time I held her in my arms...

1. You tumble into the stereotypical girlie stuff.

Gosh, was I delighted to have a little buddy - especially when it became apparent that she loved nothing better than sitting at the kitchen table doing crafts with me. Crafts which, when my boys were toddlers, resulted in spilt poster paint, glitter storms and everyone running off after about four minutes.

So for the early years, I totally indulged that whole girlie thing, and relished every moment. Until I thought... what am I doing? I'm treating her like a little pink thing! And I was so ashamed.

If I could re-live those early years I'd still enjoy our artsy crafty times. But I'd also make sure we kicked a football around and did plenty of splashing in the river.

2. You worry more over a daughter.

It sounds crazy and irrational but you can't help yourself. My sons were so physically adventurous I had to train myself to stop fretting in order to avoid having a daily heart attack. In fact, I became almost used to their terrifying antics.

Then daughter arrived, and she didn't seem quite as physically assured. Later still, I couldn't shake off the feeling that, as puberty kicked in, the world was a more treacherous place for a girl.

3. You know she'll fall in love one day.

That's why you are preparing your 200-page questionnaire for any potential suitors. Naturally, I'd love my sons to meet smart, kind partners too. But where my daughter's concerned, I remember all the romantic mistakes I made: falling for Mr Aloof and Unavailable, or tumbling into relationships simply because I was grateful that someone (anyone!) was interested.

I remember my own lack of self esteem, and how relationships just 'happened' to me because I didn't have the first clue of what I wanted myself. More than anything, I want my daughter to have enough confidence and self belief to avoid making the mistakes her silly mother made.

4. You see you in your daughter, every day.

Your body shape, right down to the shape of your fingernails. You even see her taking on your mannerisms (although it would horrify her to know this).

The flip side is that you can be so terribly similar, your flare-ups are off the scale in their intensity. My relationship with my sons is far more laid-back, which helps to balance things out. I'm not sure how I'd cope with three daughters.

5. You're thrilled when she asks to borrow something of yours to wear.

Hurrah! you think. It means I'm not a total embarrassment! My heart soared when my daughter asked me to borrow my new, beloved suede Mary Jane shoes for the school dance. I didn't even mind (too much) when they were returned plastered in mud.

6. All of a sudden, she goes off you.

When this happens... well, heartbreak is the only way I can put it. For months I sloped around, hovering in the background, grateful for any crumb of attention.

'She doesn't love me any more,' I wailed to Jimmy, my husband, when my lame attempts at conversation were met with concrete wall coldness. I guzzled wine and smoked the odd illicit Silk Cut. Her 13th year was the hardest; at times it felt as if the heart was ripped out of me.

7. Then - miraculously - she comes back to you again.

Eventually, the chilly phase passed. She emerged from the ice age and, happily, we are pretty close again. I don't claim to be my daughter's best friend, and nor would I want to be. I'm her mother, and it's a joy, most of the time. But it's about time she got around to scrubbing the mud off my shoes.

Fiona Gibson's As Good As It Gets is published by Avon and out now in paperback and available online.

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