Wednesday, April 4, 2012

PYHO: No matter who she is.

When I was pregnant, I got a lot of parenting advice. When Hannah was days and just a few weeks old, I got parenting advice. This I was prepared for, though the real onslaught was a surprise. What I wasn't really prepared for was the critique of my parenting in rather....unusual (?) forms. Specifically, the level of "girl" I allow in my home.

When I was growing up, I was pretty "girly". I liked to wear dresses. I played with dolls and Barbies and dammit, I liked it! I played with My Little Pony and brushed her hair. I had a PJ Sparkles doll I slept with for over a year. I played beauty parlor with an overstuffed bear (read: I took a pair of scissors to it and called myself Nancy while pretended to smoke a cigarette). I'd play teacher and house and mommy, all in our play kitchen. I read princess stories and pretended I was Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel trapped in her tower. But never Snow White. She was pretty, but she was also really annoying.

But all that said, I wouldn't have considered myself "girly", and to this day, I probably wouldn't. I liked "girl" stuff, but I didn't compartmentalize in that way. I just wanted to play with things that looked cool and looked like fun.

As much as I enjoyed the girly stuff, I liked "boy" things too. I made an effort to self-teach myself every sport because I wanted to be an athlete. I pretended to be Marc Summers during backyard Double Dare. And in my yearly letters to Santa, I always asked for "boy" toys: Matchbox cars, legos, Ninja Turtles. Sure, I wanted the tea set and the Barbie RV, but damn if those Ninja Turtles didn't look like fun. I never really segregated toys into "boy" and "girl" categories. I was just concerned with what looked like the most fun.

My sister? She was a "tomboy." Growing up, she was a three-sport athlete. She got along better with boys than girls. She cut her hair short and my mom was loathe to do it. (Chill, Mom. It was way easier to comb out at the end of softball practice, wasn't it?) And for Christmas and birthdays, she got "boy toys". She had a Ninja Turtle action figure that to this day I am jealous of. She had a green, gender neutral bike, and I had a pink scooter. Her bedroom was orange and bright and fun, and mine was pink. One year at Christmas, she got to wear her Bulls jersey (likely after throwing a fit about not wanting to wear a dress), and I got to I hated pink. I swore that I'd never make my daughter wear pink and wear itchy dresses and not be allowed to play in the dirt or play with cars or action figures just because someone in an office decided they were for boys and not girls. And that was before my feminist high school met me.

When Hannah was first born, we dressed her in whatever was clean. Half the time, that was pink. Despite my distaste for the color, I certainly wasn't going to avoid dressing my newborn in anything that was pink. Clothes are clothes. When we took pictures of her and posted them to Facebook, inevitably, we got a call from someone, anyone, who said, "THAT'S what your putting your daughter/my grandchild/niece/nephew/friend/neighbor/fill-in-the-blank in? THAT?" (Note: not all those people necessarily said something.) So in addition to my new parenting skillz, my fashion sense was now being questioned? Ridiculous. My baby was warm and happy, and yet I had gnats in my ears shouting nonsense about what she was wearing. Have you ever met a newborn? They don't care about anything. As long as their basic needs are met, they could be dressed up like Big Bird, and they wouldn't care. If Hannah was a boy and I dressed him in pink, he still wouldn't have cared. It's always the adults who care about silly things like clothing colors.

And on the opposite end, a few months ago I had a friend congratulate me because I didn't dress Hannah "like the way little girls are supposed to be dressed." are little girls supposed to dress? Pink or no pink? Dresses or no dresses? Hell, why buy clothes at all? Everyone knows babies are happiest when they're naked. I mean really. Have you ever seen a kid at bath time? And to be honest, I thought I was dressing her like a little girl. Her clothes are cute. I'm a sucker for anything with a butterfly on it. I think jeans and a long shirt is adorable. I'd put her in sundresses all day, everyday, if I could. Personally, I can't stand the color pink. I was over-pinked as a kid and even now, I shy away from that color when I see it in stores. It's too much for me, and it makes me just a touch nauseous.

So why, then, are there dozens of pictures of Hannah wearing pink?

Days old. We were both pretty tired.

Three sleep-deprived humans.

Snow day!

Why do I frilly her up and make sure that her clothes scream GIRL?

She loved her ballerina onesie.

Ready for Kristie's wedding.

Memorial Day 2011

The truth is, I don't think I'm making a conscious effort to do it. The truth is, some of that frilly, pink, girly garbage? It's pretty damn cute. And I don't pick out anything for her that I don't 100% believe is awesome. And, to be fair, last year in preparation for St. Patrick's Day, she wore girl and boy t-shirts I picked out for her.

Boy shirt

Girl shirt
Shamrock dress with tights and Mary Jane socks.
 On our camping trip, she wore some "boy" onesies that her aunt picked out.

From the boy side of BRU.
For Christmas, Santa brought Hannah cars, a picnic basket, and t-ball (among many many many many many many many other things). And for the South Side Irish Parade this year? Ooooh, I'm going to hell for that outfit:

Cars from Santa.
Parade Day!
Because the skirt wasn't enough, she needed a shamrock hoodie. And a hat.

 And when it came time to pick out her winter coat, Hannah picked the pink one.

(I thought I had a photo of her in her coat. I do not.)

The fact of the matter is that it doesn't much matter to me if Hannah's wearing pink or black or blue or plaid. If she likes it and it makes her happy, why does it matter if it's for "girls" or for "boys"? When we were shopping for a winter coat and her eyes lit up when she saw that pink plaid coat, what was I going to tell her? "No! Pink is NOT for you! No pink for you!" No. That's just silly. Who cares if I hate it? It makes her happy. She's ONE. One year old. She wants to surround herself with things that make her happy and make her smile. Right now, her only concern is having fun and being happy.

I want her to be whoever she is supposed to be. Girly or not girly. Tomboy. Badass. Sweet and gentle. A scientist. A soccer player. A dancer. A model. An Olympic athlete. A mechanic. A great aunt. A princess. Whoever. Whatever.

I think part of the "problem", if you will, is that from the moment she came into being, she meant so many things to so many people. She was a new adventure, a new start, a second chance, a promise.....but to us, she's everything. But when someone's "idea" of who this little person should be or can be is challenged? Oy vey.

I think every parent wants their child to be just like them. They want their children to take on their best qualities, perfect them, and grow up into a kickass, take-charge adult. I would love for Hannah to be a loud, opinionated, polite, intelligent, and wise-beyond-her-years adult. I want her to eschew the princess garbage and be the kid who stands up to bullies and climbs trees and skins her knees and somehow still has a fair amount of grace. But the fact of the matter is, there's no way to force that or change who she is. So she might be a princess who stands up to bullies, or she might be a softball player who loves dressing up in heels. I really don't care, because I want her to be exactly who she's supposed to be, even if that means pink and rainbows and princesses and all this other stuff that I hate. And if I love her, I certainly can't hate everything she loves.

We will inevitably disagree on clothes and music and dating and television and movies and life in general, but I know that respecting what she loves and is passionate about, even if I don't like it or can't stand it, will mean so much more to our relationship long-term. I don't ever want her to think that just because she likes pink that she's "less than". I don't want her believing that because she's a tomboy that she isn't worth anyone's time and effort and love. She is who she is, and I LOVE who she is. She's curious and smart and goofy and loving and a little bit of a rough-houser. And no matter how that changes, or if it changes, she'll always be my best girl.


  1. She is a cutie!

    Have those people who complained ever really taken a look at the baby clothes out there? To me, it seems like there are very clear "girl" and "boy" clothes and very little that's gender neutral. I just have boys and it was all blues and cars and that sort of thing. Now that they are older, there are skulls on everything(ugh). We use what's available though- and then let our kids make their own decisions. :)

  2. I love this post (and you!) And for the record, I've never seen Hannah in an outfit that I thought was "bad." My son probably is dressed quote unquote worse as I don't do well matching or color coordinating his pants/onesies/socks.


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