I was one of two girls, as was my mother, so I assumed my first child would be a daughter. It’s what I knew. One day in the middle of my first pregnancy I actually exclaimed, “Wait! What if it’s a boy?” It took weeks for the idea to occur to me.
My mother-in-law, who gave birth to three boys with a husband who was one of three boys, said, “You’ll have a boy. The Camps have boys.” And I, with the confidence and inexperience of youth, declared I had a 50/50 chance either way (but secretly I knew I’d have a girl, because my family had girls).
It was the first of many times my instincts would prove wrong along the journey of motherhood. I gave birth to not one, not two, but three boys before the mild December day when a girl joined our clan. Ultimately my husband and I would produce an even mix of boys and girls—four of each—but we were parents for ten years before we brought home a baby swaddled in pink.
Although initially I couldn’t imagine having sons, I had started to wonder if we would ever have daughters. I grew up playing softball and was a bit of a tomboy; I loved sitting in the bleachers, watching and keeping score at my sons’ baseball games. Surely God wouldn’t think I didn’t need a girl since I was a good boy mom? I can French braid hair, for goodness’ sake!
Such were the crazy thoughts that filled my head in the years before our first daughter was born. When the ultrasound technician declared our fourth child a girl, I asked, “Would you stake your professional reputation on it?” The answer was yes. I later told my husband I was 95 percent certain we were having another boy. He replied, “I was 99 percent.”
My first daughter and I share the same middle name, a gift from my daddy in honor of the Dallas Cowboys’ star quarterback at the time of my birth, Don Meredith. I never imagined we’d have three more girls or I might have saved it for another daughter’s first name. A fellow boy-mom-who-eventually-had-a-girl told me having a daughter didn’t feel different until around the first birthday, but for me everything was different from day one. I was different, too.
My four girls are each unique. It’s a marvel how the same house and the same parents can produce such different results! And just as we change over the course of our lives, our daughters do, too. The independent child who pushes you away may someday become a hugger who whispers, “I love you.” A mother’s relationship with her daughter may ebb and flow throughout the years, but a mother’s love is constant.
Parenting girls is different for a mother than a father. My mother once told me in her eyes my boys could do no wrong, but she could see right through my girls. She then said that my dad didn’t see how my husband could get upset with our daughters over anything. That mother-son and father-daughter thing is real and also multigenerational.
A mother understands a daughter in ways her husband never can. We remember somersaulting across the lawn, teenage hormones, learning to apply makeup, our first broken heart. The force of our will cannot keep our daughters from repeating our mistakes, and in the moments when they do, it’s hard to recognize that these lessons shape them into the women they’ll become, the same way they shaped us.
Motherhood can deepen our well of empathy; it’s a wise mother whose lips speak comfort rather than, “I told you so.”
With Love, Mom is treasury of stories from mothers to their daughters and from daughters to their mothers (and grandmothers), including pictures of the women and girls that each story represents. You’ll find tales of daughters from newborn to adult; from toddlers to twins to teens; from birth stories to the blessing of adoption; and the courage of the single mother: all accounts of our hopes and our fears for our daughters, and what it means both to bestow and to receive a legacy.
Hear from Rachel Macy Stafford, Holley Gerth, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Wynter Pitts, Rachel Anne Ridge, and more than 30 other beloved voices as they share their personal challenges and parenting memories.
I’m tickled pink that With Love, Mom releases the same week as my oldest daughter’s due date—with my first granddaughter! I wrote stories for each of my four daughters and my mother in this book, and now I’d love to hear from you:
Please share a special memory of your mother or a daughter with us!
Dawn Camp is an Atlanta-based writer, wife, mother of eight, and editor and photographer of four compilations including With Love, Mom and The Gift of Friendship. She enjoys movie date nights with her husband; walks with her kids and her camera; and getting so lost in a good book she forgets to eat, go to the bathroom, or go to bed. She lives with a camera in one hand and a glass of sweet tea in the other and blogs family, faith, and Photoshop at dawncamp.com and also contributes to (in)courage.