That was a total buzzy title, wasn’t it? No, I’m not advocating badly behaved children, here. Sorry if you were hoping to get justification of your kid’s temper tantrums in the grocery store. You’re not going to get it here!
No, what you’re going to get here is a note about letting your kid be who they want to be. This is one area I like to think I excel at, with some slight limitations, of course. Let me introduce you to my girls…
My oldest, Peanut, is 9 this year. When she was younger, she wanted to be just like my sister. So much so that my sister nicknamed her, “Prissy.” Naturally, my sister became “Aunt Prissy” because if Peanut was being Prissy and acting just like her, then… um… yeah. She loved pink stuff, loved wearing clothes that were frilly and ruffly, enjoyed glamming up everything! She hit about 4 and that started changing. Her teacher spent a month talking about dinosaurs and my little prissy girl was gone, forever! In her place was this confident, excited, little girl who loved everything about dinosaurs! Then she started watching Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV and that was awesome, too! She’s loved dragons her whole life, but suddenly, they weren’t just beautiful things in stories! How to Train Your Dragon made them so much more! Since then, she’s been into Transformers, Legos, and, most recently, Minecraft! She loves building things and got her first set of building blocks at the ripe old age of 18 months! There’s been no turning back, my friends! When she turned 7 and could get “big girl Legos,” HOLY COW! Now she’s 9 and there’s not a single block she’s too young to own! She wants all of the Minecraft kits! I was picked on this weekend for not having Legos of my own and HAZED by my own 9 year old for cackling like a kid because the dragon’s tail was articulated and could move! I’m not even joking! She rolled her eyes at me and told me I was being silly! (Then I didn’t let her play with my dragon because she was picking on me! HA! Take that!) For Halloween, this year, she wanted to be Bumblebee from the Transformers!
Now, let me stop right there for a second. You see, my poor baby girl tells people she should’ve been born a boy because she likes all of that stuff. Her self-esteem is in the toilet, because, as a girl, kids don’t “get” her. She likes all the stuff that the boys like, so conversations with girls who are excited about things like lip gloss and American Girl dolls is just difficult, to say the least. Talking to boys isn’t easy, either, because they can’t understand why a girl would be interested in these things. It breaks my heart and I have fought this with the kids in her class for years, talking about how awesome Star Wars is and arguing about which superhero movie came out first. I want them to see that a grown woman can have this conversation, so why is it strange that a girl their own age can, too. Why does my 9 year old have to feel out of place because she doesn’t fit society’s mold of what’s acceptable for a girl? Why does she have to feel like an outcast because not only is she interested in really complex things, but she’s also gifted in the engineering department and can explain how those things work! She can argue about the structure of things like no one I’ve ever met, my husband included! Sometimes even he, a contracted air craft engineer, has to acknowledge that she’s right and he’s wrong! SHE’S 9! Why is this BAD?! Who the hell decided that it was BAD?! Why can’t I punch them? I have made it my life’s work making sure that beautiful girl understands that she can be smart, interested in building and physics, dragons and dinosaurs, and IT’S NOT WEIRD for her to do so! And when I find the person who’s made her life this difficult so young, I will make you pay for every tear she’s shed about this!
Why? BECAUSE I BOUGHT THAT GIRL A BUMBLEBEE COSTUME and she FREAKIN’ ROCKED IT for Halloween! And she was happy about it, too!
Then, let me introduce you to my youngest, Tadpole, who is 5 this year. This is my princess. Every convention you hear associated with girls, this one lives and breathes! She loves mani-pedi day, refuses to wear a skirt that isn’t “foofy,” would wear a tiara and high heels every day if I let her, plays with dolls, and collects what she calls “mama stuff” for her baby. If it sparkles, she loves it! She is drawn to makeup and “smelly stuff,” and wants me to share mine every morning before school. Her favorite color is pink! She loves Monster High, Ever After High, and My Little Pony. She’s only interested in Legos because they’ve started making Monster High kits! She sings, plays her bright pink guitar like a rock star, and even named her guinea pig, “Princess.” What did she want to be for Halloween? The Queen of Hearts! That skirt was so thick in tulle she took up about 3 feet of space when she stood up!
Now, time to stop here. After that last diatribe about my oldest daughter, you’re expecting me to rant about her “girlishness.” You’re not going to find that, I’m afraid. You see, that’s who she is. She is all about everything that is “fantastic” and I refuse to make her feel bad for that, any more than I make her sister feel bad for her dinosaur addiction! No one will ever pick on her for not being girly enough. No one will ever shake their head at her for not being what they expect and she’ll never have that “I don’t fit in” moment like her sister. My little general will tell you exactly what’s wrong with that idea, anyway. Everyone accepts Tadpole, everyone adores Tadpole. I’m glad for that, in a big way, though a small part of me knows that, some day, she’s going to find the people that don’t accept her or don’t like her and it’s going to hurt her very deeply. Like her mother, she feels every negative thing soul-deep. You fuss at her for ANYTHING, even something small like not putting her plate in the sink, and she’ll squish up her face and cry. She’s not trying to manipulate you, either. She’s genuinely upset that you’re angry with her! I fear for her heart in the years to come, I do.
AND IT’S FINE!
Do you know why it’s fine? Because I firmly believe in letting my girls be whatever monster they want to be! I make sure the oldest one is wearing underwear and that the youngest has something on her legs when it’s cold, but otherwise, they are their own people. Just as they should be! It’s my job as their mother to help make them comfortable in their own skin, to accept themselves for the person they chose to become, to not be influenced by what people think they “should” be doing, but by what they’re comfortable with doing. I’m not here to be their friend and I make sure they are adhering to common decency expectations (“please,” “thank you,” “yes, ma’am,” “no, sir,”… that’s the least of it!). I’m teaching them to be hard working, to not expect things to be given to them, and to be sympathetic to the needs of others. I’m (trying) to teach them organization and clean spaces (hahaha… trying to teach myself, too!). What I refuse to teach them, however, is that society’s version of what is acceptable is correct. Why? Because it’s not. Not even close. What is acceptable? Acceptance, itself.
For those of you who know my girls, please take this to heart. They do not conform to society’s ideals. I’m making sure they don’t even know what those are. But, if their manners are lacking, please point it out! I need them to hear that it’s not acceptable from someone else, too, so they know I’m not just making it up. If their behavior is not in keeping with the fundamental idea of treating people with kindness, I want to know!
I am a very nice person. I avoid confrontation ALL THE TIME! However, if you try to tell Peanut she’s not normal, I will be all over you. If you try to tell Tadpole that she’s too girly, I will make you wish you’d kept your opinions to yourself. I am ruthless when it comes to my girls. Let there be no mistake. They, and you, are completely free to…
Until next time,