My daughter is the total opposite of me, and I have no idea what I’m doing here.
From the day she came into this world—redheaded and colicky—we have been so very different from one another.
My daughter will stare at me and slowly slide cheerio after cheerio onto the floor. After several warnings (and eventual admonitions of “If you do that one more time, you’re going to get spanked!”), she continues. Threats of punishment mean nothing, and, even when I follow through, do not deter her from her next act of rebellion.
I cowered—cowered! —at the thought of getting punished. Not just as a small child either. Once, my high school Spanish teacher thought I had rolled my eyes at him (I didn’t, Mr. Overbay! Just in case you’re reading this!), and he accused me of such in front of the class. I almost walked out crying. I truly and honestly had to hold back tears at the thought that a grown up was disappointed in me. I was spanked so few times that, after each occurance, my mom bought me a gift. She felt so guilty since it almost NEVER HAPPENED.
Dresses and princesses and the color pink? Never. I was the biggest tomboy you have ever seen. In second grade, I chose to get a bowl cut.
I chose to get a bowl cut.
Everyone thought I was a boy because—as previously mentioned—I refused to wear anything that might have identified me as a girl. Once, when my family was having car trouble, we pulled over on the side of a fairly rural highway. A police officer eventually came upon us and pulled over to see if we needed any help. He glanced into the backseat where my sister and I were sitting and said, “Glad to see your son and daughter are OK.” I didn’t even care that he had just called me a boy. I was wearing a blue dinosaur t-shirt and had that bowl cut, for crying out loud. Even eight-year-old me knew that I looked like a stereotypical boy. But my girl? Frozen and Elsa and Ariel, Oh My! She wants frills. She wants glitter. She wants princesses, if you please. And above all? She wants pink.
In relation to the aforementioned dinosaur t-shirt, I told people I was going to be an archeologist for years. One of my favorite gifts of all time was a giant piece of clay with small “fossils” embedded it. The kit included small “excavation tools” that you could use to find the fossils. That’s it. That was the whole point. I sat outside for hours digging out pieces of plastic artifacts. I saw Jurassic Park in theaters, and it is still my favorite movie. (While we’re on this topic, why do the dinosaurs look so real in the first one but like such animated garbage in the sequels? What changed?!)
My kid? She won’t even go down the “boy” aisle at Target because, and I quote: “It’s too scary.” This is not for lack of trying on the part of my husband and myself. Last year for Christmas, she received a train table, a small drum set, and several other undeniably gender neutral items.
I was the best mom—before I had kids. I really thought that all you had to do was gently guide your (3 year old) child toward a certain path, and they would take it—automatically becoming interested in whatever you deemed reasonable. False. Children are truly created to be their own people. They form their own opinions! They choose their favorite colors! Who knew?! Even if their mom has never owned a pink item of clothing in their life, they may still choose to wear a pink ballet costume—in public.
And you know what? As long as they’re picking their own clothes, that’s one less thing for mom to do, am I right?
I may not have any idea how to relate to my daughter, but I can figure out how to support the things she chooses. I have seen more princess movies in the last year than I ever thought humanly possible. If she wants to learn every word to Frozen and asks me to have dance parties to Taylor Swift songs, then I’m in. You be your beautiful self, baby girl. I’ll never stop dancing with you.
(In fact, I’m with you on the Taylor Swift thing.)