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“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”

Posted on May 10, 2012 by Carolyn

We posted this fabulous poem on Facebook last week and it generated such a tremendous response that the author has given us permission to reprint it here.

"For My Daugher" is written by Sarah McMane, a poet and English teacher in upstate New York with a two-year old daughter. Clementine Paddleford, who is quoted in the poem, was an American food writer and journalist active in the early 20th century.


For My Daughter

By Sarah McMane

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

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.


Related Reading

Our favorite picture book that similarly conveys a parent's wishes and dreams for his or her Mighty Girl in such an inspirational manner is Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl, a beautifully illustrated poetic tribute to courageous and adventurous girls. Gaiman wrote it for friend, singer Tori Amos, who was about to become the mother of a little girl, and it's a lovely book for inspiring girls undertaking any life transitions or to welcome new babies. For more inspiration picture books perfect for celebrating special moments in the life of your Mighty Girl, visit our collection of Mighty Girl Books for Graduates.

For stories of girls who defy convention, visit our Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess which features dozens of stories of princesses who are smart, daring, and aren't waiting around to be rescued!

The photos above are used according to the Creative Commons license and are the works, in order, of Wonderlane, Mike Baird, and Fairyheart.

This post was posted in Misc, Front Page