The things I want my daughters to know

by Shae on May 8, 2012


“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone out to be.”- Clementine Paddleford


I had to go and buy some new clothes for the kiddos the other day. Just filling in some gaps, new leggings, layering long sleeves and stuff. Tannah now fits into a size 7, which is in the pre teen department of the major chain stores. The clothes made me a bit sad, not only because most of them are impractical and ugly and way too old for a 7 year old.

It hit home that their childhood, the innocent part, is so fleeting and soon they will be navigating things that are not always pleasant. That growth and maturity can come with some pretty tough lessons and that our society doesn’t always make it easy with false ideas of perfection and porn culture.


I was a teen girl once and here, my amazing daughters, are some things I want you to know.


-there is more than one way to be beautiful and the spectrum of all different faces and bodies is what makes the human race awesome.

-your body is an amazing thing and much fun and pleasure awaits! Sharing it with another person can be amazing. Don’t give it away too easily or let anyone shame you for enjoying it.

-I am always here for you. ALWAYS. Nothing you could tell me would make me love you any less. I will answer the phone at any time for you, for the rest of my life.

-clothes and hair and make up and piercings etc  are all creative ways to express yourself. YOURself, don’t follow the trends unless you love them, don’t dress in anything that makes you feel uncomfortable and don’t make fun of what anyone else is wearing.

-menstruation is not a curse. Sure, it can be a little inconvenient at times but it can also be a good reminder to take a couple of days for yourself.  Know how your cycle works and don’t be afraid of it.

-Experimenting with drugs and alcohol is not without risk. Be as safe as you can.

-treasure your good friendships, they are so important.



-Wear pink. Or blue. Or whatever fucking colour you like. Wear dresses and make up and dye your hair. Or don’t. Your worth is not defined by how you look or what you wear or how much of a “lady” you are. Shaving anywhere is optional. Being some pre determined ideal of what beauty is is not a required payment for being female.

-take care of your body. Feed it well and exercise it. You are worth the effort. Notice how great you feel when you are looking after yourself.

But I think SarahMcMane has said it best. This poem moved me to tears. I plan to have it printed out and framed and put somewhere that you can read it often.


Never play the princess when you can
be the queen:
rule the kingdom, swing a scepter,
wear a crown of gold.
Don’t dance in glass slippers,
crystal carving up your toes—
be a barefoot Amazon instead,
for those shoes will surely shatter on your feet.

Never wear only pink
when you can strut in crimson red,
sweat in heather grey, and
shimmer in sky blue,
claim the golden sun upon your hair.
Colors are for everyone,
boys and girls, men and women—
be a verdant garden, the landscape of Versailles,
not a pale primrose blindly pushed aside.

Chase green dragons and one-eyed zombies,
fierce and fiery toothy monsters,
not merely lazy butterflies,
sweet and slow on summer days.
For you can tame the most brutish beasts
with your wily wits and charm,
and lizard scales feel just as smooth
as gossamer insect wings.

Tramp muddy through the house in
a purple tutu and cowboy boots.
Have a tea party in your overalls.
Build a fort of birch branches,
a zoo of Legos, a rocketship of
Queen Anne chairs and coverlets,
first stop on the moon.

Dream of dinosaurs and baby dolls,
bold brontosaurus and bookish Belle,
not Barbie on the runway or
Disney damsels in distress—
you are much too strong to play
the simpering waif.

Don a baseball cap, dance with Daddy,
paint your toenails, climb a cottonwood.
Learn to speak with both your mind and heart.
For the ground beneath will hold you, dear—
know that you are free.
And never grow a wishbone, daughter,
where your backbone ought to be.

What do you want your kids to know as they grow up?


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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Naomi May 8, 2012 at 11:00 am

I love this Shae. Love it.


edenland May 8, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I LOVE THAT POEM. Why DO girls want to be Princesses, when they can be the Queen? Bloody hell.

And fuck glass slippers. Hand me my cowboy boots.

Love this, Shae. xxx


rebekah May 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I adore the poem and the video. so powerful. I love having new strong words to pass on to my daughter.

I want the same for my kids also. For them to stand tall, explore, learn, risk and share their learning and stories with all. We learn from each other.

wonderful post Shae.


kelley @ magnetoboldtoo May 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm


And yes. So very yes.


Stacey May 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm



Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky May 8, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Wow! Powerful, beautiful, amazing words. Your daughters will thank you.


Megs May 8, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Oh that jump to size 7 is urgh. I have boys so I was stunned to make my first foray into the realm of size 7 girls wear for a friend’s daughter recently.The stuff in the size 6 range was age appropriate, pink overload sure but it didn’t make me nauseous to think of a young child wearing it. The size 7 range was mostly ghastly. And the stuff the was of age appropriate style was so bland that I knew it would be boring for a 5yo to recieve as a gift.

Never been more relieved to have boys (and sewing skills) in my life.


Nicholette May 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I adore this post !


Glowless May 10, 2012 at 10:45 am

Love this, Shae. My mum answers the phone to us at all hours and has been known to drive in to town at 3am to pick us or our friends up when we’re too drunk to figure out where the taxi stand is. I’m 30 :)


Cate Bolt May 11, 2012 at 9:20 am

My jolly goodness this is awesome. And that video made me cry. My daughter never asks about “pretty” her thing is “cool” and when will she be it. I wrote about that yesterday. Sometimes you can teach them all you like but they have to learn it for themselves.

(Also, for you basics – leggings, t-shirts etc – Rivers online. I don’t pay more than $5 for most items of clothes.)


Anna May 11, 2012 at 9:35 am

Amazing post and so true! I hope to tell my daughters that. And… convince the stores that little girls don’t have to wear hoochy clothes.


Charni May 19, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I LOVE this advice to your daughters. I am going to pass it on to mine. I wrote about this myself from a different perspective on my blog called “Every Little Girl Should Know a Bellydancer”
Your daughters are lucky to have a Mum who gives such helpful and down-to-earth advice.


Alicia May 26, 2012 at 9:00 am

Awesome! I can’t stand going into cheap chain stores, the clothes are literally cheap and nasty. I’m so glad I can sew my own, and what I can’t I pick up in op shops and on Ebay. I find Country Road to be far more classic and age appropriate, if you can find it second hand.


Stephanie October 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Total crush on you! Thanks for this!


Carolyn April 30, 2013 at 3:39 am

Great post! But, I wanted to let you know that the poem is by Sarah McMane, an English teacher in New York — just the last two lines are by Clementine Paddleford. To learn more about it, visit


Shae April 30, 2013 at 11:44 am

oh thanks for this. I’ll fix the post


Sarah McMane August 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for posting the poem!


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