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Friday, January 30, 2015

On parenting girls

I've always wanted a little girl. Probably because I am a girl and was once a little one at that. But after nearly five years of raising messy, noisy, yet sincere little boys, I'm starting to panic a little. Part of it is the sheer terror that comes when I realize that someday she will be fifteen and I will probably hide from her when her ex-best friend decides to steal her boyfriend or her favorite pair of jeans didn't get washed and the world is over. But I have a lot of time before those days, right? I think right now I'm more terrified of the things that will be projected onto this precious little creature, whom everyone assumes will be sugar, spice, and everything nice. Will people coo at her in high-pitched voices or treat her more gently than they did my boys when they were babies? Will her closet look like someone took a bottle of pepto bismol to the dresses and skirts and bows that line the shelves? Will she become obsessed with princesses? Barbie dolls? Beauty pageants?

Maybe it's because I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, or because I'm now a bit of feminist, but these prospects terrify me. And yes, I know I sound like the cliche modern hipster screaming "gender neutral!" and "girl power!" over the pleasant hum of my own satisfaction, but I'll be damned if my kid ever says that Legos are for boys. So how do I avoid what seems to be an inevitable fate? How do I nicely tell people not to buy her little toy vacuums and Disney princess-themed attire?

No, seriously. How?

This isn't some lead-in to my solution for little girls everywhere (and their parents) to avoid the stereotypes that keep them thinking they have to be soft and sweet and gentle. I'd rather prefer my daughter to be hell on wheels. I know. Famous last words. But I don't have the answers except to say that we'd like to instill in our daughter the sense that she is just as strong and fierce as her brothers without erasing the femininity that naturally exists in most girls. I'd like her to grow up believing that there are no "girl toys" and "boy toys." That the damsel-in-distress act in far too many princess stories is both silly and dangerous. That she doesn't have to like the color pink. That her interests, her skills, her future should in no way be determined by her sex.

And when she becomes a teenager, I hope she doesn't fall victim to the cliquish nature of many young women. I hope everyone is her friend. I hope she doesn't gossip, or take duck-face selfies, or worry too much about what other people think. I hope she enjoys reading and sharing ideas with her peers and playing an instrument and being goofy without being vapid.

I can't help but feel like parenting a girl will be much more challenging than parenting a boy, not because girls are so much different than boys, but because the attitudes we have about girls are so different than the ones we have about boys. And while we've come a long way since the 1950's, we still have a long way to go. Maybe my kids will be part of the first generation to embrace true gender-neutrality. And maybe, as a way to get the ball rolling, I'll dress my boys in something pink tomorrow. You know, for good measure.


  1. It is a tricky balance- one I'm conscious of, but am not sure I've got figured out. My daughter is 2.5- she is an only so won't be inheriting 'boy' toys. :) she does own quite a bit of pink, but also a lot of blue- in a lot of ways dressing girls in a non-conformist way is easier than boys- there are WAY more options, both styles and colours. Toys are tricky though. I made an early rule that she was not to be given any Lego Friends stuff for gifts- that's the only real 'telling what to do' I've done for family- Lego Friends irritates me a lot. Other than that, I just make an effort not to tell her what to play with; and when family ask what she likes for Christmas etc I make sure it's a fairly balanced list. Last Christmas she got a scooter- it was pink, but otherwise the same as other scooters. :) she got books, some train stuff, a couple of pretty dresses, some Peppa pig toys, etc.
    I have always encouraged her to be tough and active; she and her best friend are the best climbers in her mums group now! But then- is it bad that she likes Frozen and Beauty and The Beast; that she likes Barbie dolls? It's something you have to be thinking about regularly I think. You also might want to listen to what your boys bring home- it's astonishing how early they pick up ideas from peers about what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl (that bit is coming from school teaching experience!) in any case, you're thinking about it- I'm sure you'll do a great job! Treat your daughter as much the same as your sons as you can and you will be ahead of the game! :)

  2. B plays with legos and kicks soccer balls in a dress :) it'll be okay, shape your child with good manners like you did with your boys and she'll choose who she wants to be as she's growing. I love that right now she's in both worlds. I'm going to start her in a tumbling class and soccer this fall bc she loves both of these things :) she is shaping herself and it's amazing to watch. She plays with baby dolls and barbies but loves to swing a bat and run. It's more fun with girls bc they can do and be both.

  3. I have 3-year-old twins, boy and girl. I'd hold them up at 3 months old to pick out their clothes, and where he rarely cared, she always had an opinion! LoL! They choose as much for themselves in as many areas as I can allow (i.e. they don't get to choose between cheetos or broccoli for dinner!). He has no pink shirts, but does love black and blue, and melon and mint colors. She loves pink and aqua, and black with silvered grunge. They tend to coordinate themselves fairly often, too! :-) My tough spot was nail polish. Fortunately, he only wants blue or black and skulls so he can be all pirate-tough, but the fact I'm painting our son's nails alarmed Daddy. He brushes her dolls hair, she wrecks his's good to be free to be ourselves! ;-) (Although she does try to bully me into pink -- I hate pink!) Despite enjoying their gender-free options, her style is still girly and his is still tough guy. They're both joining ballet, tumbling, soccer & t-ball this year! We're all excited!

    Well, right now they're mad at me for all that story. We're here from your Instagram, from Get Recipes, from Funny & Interesting Things on Facebook! Your letter to @JusesCrustHD caught my eye. The article showed photos of your son Quinn, and my kids *MELTED* at the sight of him! "Ohhh, Momma! Look at the precious baby! I wanna play wiff him!!!" was Merry's squeal, and "Oooooh! Him looks fun! Him like Chu Chu (and) Leo, Momma!" screeched Aiden, after a photo where there's a white doggie in the yard. ANYWAY, this extremely long comment is to tell you that you are my Mommy Hero! You showed so much class, I admire your character! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  4. I don't know if this can help or not, but I'll tell you my own experience: I've grown up with an older brother (3 years older than me) and we did lot of things together: he played dolls with me, and we had Legos, and other kind of construction games! We used to watch Disney movies together...and more! And I'm so thankful for that. And he's still an entire boy and I'm a girl :P
    What I'm trying to say, apart from the fact that your girl will grown up in a little-bit-different society than I used, is that a very important part of your daughter's growth is her brothers' "interference". If you teach, also, to Atticus and Quinn that they can play to everything they want with their little sister, they can contribute to this "equal" growth. At the end of the day, siblings can be a very big influence in everybody's life.