I welcomed a new child into my home this summer, a baby girl. My heart exploded with the triumph of bearing a female child. I allowed pictures in my delivery room and rushed to announce that I had done it. I made a girl! My father says girls keep the family together. When too many boys made their way into our family, there were worried whispers of how much we “needed” a girl. “Someone” needed to try and give our family a girl. My grandmother says girls are more resilient, less shaken by criticism. “You can be harder on a girl, because she can take it.” My mother says girls can be depended upon. “You have a girl now, Desiree. You will be okay when you get old.” My uncles say girls are smarter, better with managing things. They say girls are hardworking. Friends of the family point out that she will carry on the work of her great grandmother…and her grandmother…and her mother. “You have been blessed,” they tell me. My grandfather used to say they would make sure traditions are kept and money is saved. “The truth is girls are better with finances.” My aunts say our girls will become the women who will fix family cracks; they will keep the men in line, remind them to be honest. My cousins say they are simply…more fun.
When I brought her home, relatives and friends stopped by, one by one, filling her closet with clothes and leaving baby supplies in our garage. They tell me she will rule over my boy. “The sisters usually do,” my dad says. They click their tongues and say they can “tell” she will be the boss. My friends tell me to make sure I pass my property to her for distribution when I die. They remind me what happens to families that have left division of land to men. Some of them encourage me to try again. “It’s good to have more than one girl.” Already jealous, friends raise their hands in competition. “Who will be her nina?”
My son runs to her crib at each whimper, eager to comfort her. The slightest insult against her enrages him to tears. I watch as he puts toys back on the shelf at stores to make sure she will get something. He is offended when you do not confirm that she is strong…and beautiful. She is loved and celebrated with an intensity I cannot explain to friends that hail from afar. For them, girls are difficult. Girls are expensive. They tell me girls are delicate and emotional. They say a girl will bring stress. Girls need taking care of where they are from.
Some say we have lost our traditions, that our matrilineal ways have been buried by Spain…by Japan…by America. But when I look at her, my mini maga’håga, I don’t know…
We are still here.