When your daughter is a tween feminist


The older my daughter gets, the more she reminds me of myself.

Every time I think on it, it catches me by surprise. You see, she doesn’t really look like me, with those impossibly thin, long limbs and the straight brown hair. With her full lips and slight overbite, she favors my mother and my little sister.

When she was a baby, she was so quiet and sweet. So feminine. But, I guess that was to be expected after giving birth to four boys in five years — the contrast was unbelievable. Her entire essence was delicate and beautiful and since I am none of those things, I never thought my daughter took after her mother.

But, today she is a ripe old 12 years of age (hello, tween years: please be kind), and I’m beginning to see her for who she really is. A born maker, one that loves to create things with her hands. Every day she is in her bedroom, feverishly painting, drawing, sculpting, measuring, sewing, gluing and decorating. She sees something she likes and she thinks, I can make that. Whether it is trying to make her own fizzy bath bombs just like the ones she covets from Lush (nevermind that she coerced me into buying a giant bottle of cream of tartar and her grandmother spent a pretty penny on a sack of citric acid), or melting coconut oil with crayon shavings to make her own lip gloss, my girl is always making.

When your daughter is a tween feminist.

And dude, she’s feisty. I mean, really, how can she not be? Dealing with four big brothers who don’t give her any slack and a little sister who likes to hog all the attention. Maya is always observant, quick to clock the room and she does not let anything slide. She be knowin’. Her tongue is quick like fire and Miss Maya is not having any of your foolishness She has no qualms telling you so.

Savage, her brothers like to call her after she ethers them where they stand. I love that about her. I’m always chuckling to myself when I hear the constant shenanigans. You go, girl.

But that’s where our similarities end.

My daughter is intensely sensitive but also tough and brave. She is very self-possessed and about a million times more confident than I was at her age. This never fails to make me gaze upon my first born daughter in awe. How did she manage to miss that awkward, unsure stage?

She dominates on the soccer field and has a reputation with her coaches as one of the most aggressive players out there. I laugh when the opposing team underestimates her. I’ve watched her get body-checked, I’ve watched her body-check other players and I’ve covered my eyes when she falls hard and eats grass. Then, she dusts herself off and keeps playing.

Her personal style is evolving, too. She asked me if she could shave the side of her long hair and she did it without batting an eyelash.

It’s just hair, she shrugged. I had to hold off on her request to dye it blue.

When your daughter is a tween feminist.

She is also a miniature feminist. My inner 90’s riot grrrl, the I-am-woman-hear-me-roar mama who doesn’t shave her armpits — the side that constantly wars with the submissive Christian model that I’ve been taught in church all these years — is fist-pumping inside. It’s a paradox I’ve struggled with for years.

One day, while I was getting ready for a night out to see Erykah Badu in concert with her daddy, Maya sat close by, intently watching me apply my makeup. My girls love to do this, and they often narrate as if they’re doing a YouTube tutorial. While I was trying to perfect my eyeliner, I mumbled something about keeping my eyeshadow on the subtle side because “you know how your daddy doesn’t like it when I wear too much makeup”.

Without skipping a beat, Maya put her hand on her hip and said, “Mama, this is your makeup and your face.”

I dabbed my tears and gave her a high five.

When your daughter is a tween feminist.

Happy 12th birthday to my first daughter, the love of my life, my teacher…my mirror.


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There are 10 comments

  1. Dariela

    I can’t get over the pictures!!! Love them, where is that?! And I love the way you describe her, it’s like a poem! Very inspirational. Happy birthday to Maya!!!

  2. Sarah Harris

    So sweet! She sounds like an amazing gal! Also, side trick – blue Kool-Aid is a great temporary hair color fix. We’re doing Fruit Punch Red in our house tomorrow and I may even do a few streaks for me as well! 😀

  3. Amy Verlennich

    Love letters to our children… not only does it remind me what a great life I have, but reminds my kids too…
    Love this!

  4. mamalegato

    So beautiful! I am also mama to 4 boys and 2 girls- my eldest girl 13 almost 14 yrs old- I too watch her with awe and amazement (and I must admit just a little anxiety) Who is strong young woman? Why couldn’t I have been as strong and confident at 13? I didn’t even think about “being a feminist” until my late teens/early 20’s and my daughter already proudly proclaims she is a feminist- we must be doing something right???

    1. Denise Cortes

      Yes, ma’am! These girls have been ingesting empowerment messages since they were in the womb! Thanks for stopping by.

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