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Adult “oldest daughter,” whose child?

November 15, 2012 Leave a comment

 

As the oldest daughter and first-born child in my family, I’m sure my father was stunned when I began — or rather, resumed — calling him “Daddy” during my freshman year in high school.  I hadn’t used that little-girl term since I had been 8 or 9 years old.  But that’s what my good friend, the one with cornflower-blue eyes and a football-playing big brother, called her father.  Whenever I was at her house,  I observed that whatever she asked her father for, she got. She was “Daddy’s little girl.”

Meanwhile back at my house,  my father pretty much treated me as someone he could explain things to logically and then count on to do as he asked — not the other way around.  And so I decided that maybe I’d get more of what I wanted  if I changed my approach, beginning with what I called him.

I don’t remember how long it took me to recognize reality:  that in my life, my father was “Dad.”  I do know that the events and ideas that he brought up at our dinner table each night have had longer lasting effects on my life as an adult than I would have thought possible. (Or that my younger sisters and brother say they’ve experienced.)

So even though for years my siblings have told me “You’re just like Mom” in the way I parent, it has been my father’s ideas and opinions on non-family issues that have been determinants  in my adult life.  He was intensely interested in national and local news, in political and social-justice issues.  So am I. He believed in the importance of speaking out on issues he cared about.            So do I.

In researching and writing a book about oldest daughters, I sometimes asked the first-born females I interviewed ,  “When you were growing up, did you think of yourself as “mommy’s little helper” or as “daddy’s girl”? And now that you’re an adult — do you find yourself identifying more with your father or your mother?”

What’s your experience?

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Pakistan’s Malala, Inspiring Oldest Daughter

November 9, 2012 1 comment

For the past few weeks, the eyes of the world have been riveted on Malala Yousufzai,  a 14-year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head in an ultimate act of bullying by the Taliban.   They wanted to shut her up and so shut her  down — to bring an end to her insistent leadership that girls have a right to be educated.

But Malala’s body and her spirit have refused to go along with their scheme.    Her courage is defeating their cowardice, generating universal condemnation and inspiring tens of thousands of girls, women, and men to rally in Karachi on her behalf.

Last week from her hospital room at Birmingham England’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she was flown following her attempted murder, Malala let it be known that the incident has only strengthened her resolve.   Lying in bed, surrounded by her family,  she indicated she intends to return to school.

It was when I saw the video of her with her family, including her two younger brothers close by her side, that I realized Malala is her family’s  oldest child and only daughter.

Oldest daughters are universally expected to set the example for their younger siblings and, when necessary, to protect them.

Malala has expanded both roles beyond her family to the larger community.  In doing so she has set an example for the rest of us.

You can find more about the suppression of girls and what you can do to change those lives and perhaps encourage other young, struggling  oldest daughters on www.halfthesky.org