Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And so it begins

Little Miss received this purse as a party favor last week and she has been parading around the house with it ever since. I shudder at the hot pink, but more so the Disney princesses that adorn the flap. Surely she's not into princesses yet? The glass slippers and tiara - are they next? Where does one even go for those? I am obviously ill prepared.

I don't remember my own princess days - or if I ever had those - but my apprehension at this nascent partiality to hot pink purses is a little unsettling. After all, she is a girl - why does it bother me that she acts like one? But my Women's Studies background immediately retaliates with and how does one act like a girl? I have worked hard to fight the gender stereotypes. I am woman, hear me roar, that sort of thing. I lift my own 35lb-container of kitty litter, thankyouverymuch. And I also loved Transforners and Voltron while growing up. But why did I have to look for a Transformers t-shirt for myself in the men's section?

Don't even get me started on the pink and blue. Many of Little Miss' pink items are either gifts or because our choices were paltry - pink, sickly sweet lavender (which I loathe even more than pink) or boring-interview-suit navy blue. Really? With a gazillion colors in the world, that's the best they could came up with? When Little Miss was born, we chose the surprise route so everything was in a neutral shade - her bedroom is in shades of orange, light blue, rust and chocolate brown. Now that she is girl, hear her whine, we have given in to some pink, but we made sure it's counterbalanced by a myriad of gender neutral or, pardon the flagrant irony here, "boy outfits" that we had to look for in the boys' section - her Star Wars t-shirt being one of them. When I was perusing the girl's section the other day, I only found Dora and Hello Kitty gear. Needless to say, I was not pleased.

But as I was about to turn away in a huff, making a mental note to myself to fire off a letter of complaint when I get home (but to whom?!) I caught my own reflection in the mirror and saw my purse slung across my shoulder the same way Little Miss had hers. Suddenly, comprehension dawned, accompanied by a colossal sense of relief. Ohhhhh....False alarm! Little Miss Prancing with Purse isn't toting her hot pink accessory because of a Sleeping Beauty enchantment. She is doing it because she wants to be just like her mama!

I guess I can save my tirade on gender stereotyping for some other time - as I'm sure that day will come as well. For now, the initial relief has been replaced by an even bigger concern, such as the immense burden of being someone my daughter looks up to. I spend so much time trying to be something else, someone else that it's perplexing why anyone would want to be like me. But there she is, adoring me with those doe eyes, and seeing only me. Not the imperfections, the bed head, the tired eyes. Not even the person I was, the person I want to be, and the person I should be. Just me.

Now why can't I do that?

Maybe I should. Instead of the relentless pursuit of some nebulous ideal - perfect partner, mother, daughter, friend - maybe I should explore this person I already am. Perhaps it's because she doesn't know any better that I am idolized, but when she does, I hope she continues to see me, and if I dare hope, even look up to me. For that, I first have to make peace with myself. Raised (and I use this term loosely) by a father who drummed in me that we should only strive to be the best, I am constantly mired in self-doubt, afraid that I will never be good enough.

It is time I stepped out of that, away from the shadows and into the light that my daughter - in her childlike wonder - has cast upon me. Now I have to live up to this task of being not just her mother (as if that isn't hard enough), but her guide, her inspiration. It won't come easy, as I have to earn all of that. Every day. But I can do this. More importantly, for her, I will.


  1. What a lovely reflection. I laughed, because we have gone down the "gender neutral" path, but as I look at my toddler parading around in high-heels I scratch my head and wonder, "How did THAT happen?"

  2. Yes! My little one was walking around in her daddy's shoes. Won't be long before she tries to navigate haphazardly in my heels either I'm sure. The mimicry is mostly fun but sometimes scary when you realize that they are watching your every move and absorbing every bit of it. Yikes.

  3. I don't even wear high heels, make up or purses, and yet my daughter covets all these things.

    With an attitude like yours, I don't think you can go wrong. Enjoy your feminista!


  4. I know exactly what you mean. It's almost painful to watch my daughter (19 months) watch me. I made the mistake of waxing my eyebrows in front of her once... oy... that was a mistake. I cringe at the thought of princesses and Barbie dolls - but part of me thinks it's inevitable (then again, she has an older brother, and at this point loves his dinosaurs and trains almost as much as her beloved baby doll...)
    And seriously, the Hello Kitty and Dora stuff needs to go away. I look at my daughters clothes after I fold it, and luckily we've found lots of orange and yellows and greens that we all adore. The pink is just too much!
    (stepping off my soap box... ;) )

  5. Yes, being a mother (and a role model) is much tougher than being a princess. And I'm with you on the gender stereotyping. My daughter (who, granted sleeps in her Cinderella dress) wanted nothing more than Cars underwear for her birthday. But, no, society has deemed that "not for girls." I ended up having to boy boy briefs for her. Arrrgh.

  6. Corinne - the pink is overkill, I agree. No eyebrow waxing in front of kid. Noted. But there will be other activities she will undoubtedly observe and emulate, to my horror, so I should brace myself for them now.

    Stacia, I loved your Cinderella post and that's what got me thinking about this. It is frustrating that society's plans for our kids can undermine what we're doing in our own homes. We can only hope that we raise smart, conscientious kids who will know how to make their own decisions, regardless of what society (and sometimes even parents) tell them.

  7. JT, this is such a lovely post. As the mom of two boys, I think about the gender stereotyping issue from the other angle. All of the clothes I seem to be able to find want to cast my sons as miniature men, rather than as the tiny boys they are. Reading your post - and thinking back to Stacia's Cinderella post - I am even more grateful for the children's clothing and toy companies that show respect for kids where they are now, not where marketing executives want them to be.

  8. Kristen, your comment is timely as it struck me yesterday when I was watching my toddler play that I wanted her outfit for myself. Only then I realized that she's dressed as I would, and I'm in my thirties!

    When I see her in rompers and footie pajamas, it warms my heart. My baby is a baby. As she should be.

  9. I think that I may struggle more with my girl being girly than my boy being girly ;) "Let them be" is going to be my mantra. And watching the role model that I am. I think that living examples are more powerful than talking examples.