The (little) girl next door

‘Girls can wear jeans
And cut their hair short
Wear shirts and boots
‘Cause it’s OK to be a boy
But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading
But secretly you’d love to know what it’s like
Wouldn’t you
What it feels like for a girl’
Madonna

Since I started redlipstickmama, there is something I managed to do rather well: not censuring myself. And this for many reasons:
– freedom of thought helps my writing. I spent the last 10 years of my career getting my words edited with a red pencil, or with CAPS or worst with shrewd cutting out of entire paragraphs. And although it was very often deserved (tendency to ramble is second nature to me), it always crippled me a little.
– commitment to authenticity is key to my own sanity and to the enjoyment (I hope) of my 300 or so readers (note: I look like I am bragging but considering 2/3 are friends and family…)

Anyway, there is one subject that I have started to write about and kept deleting over and over again: my own daughter. It all started innocently enough. I was looking at my Facebook page insights and noticed how my blog posts about my boy G. are usually quite popular. I then realized with sheer horror that I to date have written at least 2 blog posts about him and 0 about my daughter, P.

DH and I are obsessed about fairness when it comes to raising our kids. DH, because it is one of the things his folks did very well -always giving equivalent time, money, gifts etc. to him and his sisters – and Me, because it is one of the things my folks fucked up big time. It is popular knowledge in my family that one out of us 5 got more financial support, or more praise, or more demands, more criticisms from my mom and my dad. Thank god, it was not always the same kid who got it all. It’s a miracle the 5 of us actually love each other 🙂

Indeed, when I started my blog, one of my goals was to document our family life. I hoped that my kids one day will read all my entries when the time for them comes to forgive me for the obnoxious way I proclaim that ‘I know them better than they know themselves’ or when they start criticizing my style and maybe understand that back then I had no time nor the inclination to comb my hair or  wear anything but sweat pants.  And we all know that old habits die hard, right? I especially hope that they will read the blog when it is time to decide which retirement home they will put us in when we loose our brain and can no longer make any decisions and read this: RESORT, GOLF, DANCE CLUB, FLO-RI-DA.

I felt horribly bad about not having written about P so I was adamant to amend this immediately. But then, I started to do the unthinkable: censoring myself. I kept deleting words wondering: ‘what is she going to feel when she reads this? Will she think I prefer her brothers?’

The truth is that I have very complex emotions when it comes to P. It started way before she was even born. It started way before I was told I was pregnant with twin boy and girl. As far as I can remember I have always been nervous about raising a daughter perhaps because:

  • I have my own up and down and ‘come to a full circle’ relationship with my mom.
  • I often had intense passive aggressive friendships with girls; so much that for a very long time half my family thought I had lesbian affairs
  • I was raised to be competitive with my almost twin sister. I mean, our very own grandparents used to bet on whom would win a Mano a Mano wrestling fight. I was 4. Who does this? I swear Lao people are mental.
  • I felt I already had a daughter in the shape of my 14 year younger sister to whom I already taught what I think every girl should know: not to cry over boys, love other girls, how to pluck their eyebrows and how one should always avoid, unless your name is Rihanna, combining micro skirts and high heels.

Thus since P was born, I cannot for the life of myself understand why I am tougher on her than on her brothers. I cringe when she flirts her way through things, when she bawls her eyes out when G & L barely push her, when she is obsessing about lip balms or constantly demands to wear dresses. She is so precocious that she thinks my girlfriends are her girlfriends. She protests about anything and everything. Maybe I cannot handle how ‘girly’ she is. Or maybe I cannot handle how she basically trashed a whole life conviction that gender neutral upbringing would help girls not to fall into the ‘traps’ societies build for them such as the expectations to be cute, sweet and pretty or to love nursing their baby doll. But here I am with my twin boy and girl doing exactly the same thing to no avail; she is all about sparkles and making adults fall in love with her.

I grew up thinking that I had to be one of the boys to make it. And for now, she makes it clear that the last thing she wants to do is ‘act like a boy’.  The world she is growing into is different, I guess, and hopefully offers more narratives about what a strong woman truly is. I don’t know. While Beyoncé sings ‘girls rule the world’  and Sheryl Sandberg has been officially decreed a billionaire, institutional, social and political deficiencies continue to stymie the potential of girls and women. I am talking about glass ceiling, oversexualization of girls and women bodies, governments’ inability to articulate the value of childcare into sound long-term economic policies, reproductive rights that continuously need to be defended (Spain, I am talking to you and Shame on you!), or how parental leave actually still means ‘maternal leave’.

So yeah, maybe I am tougher because I worry more (that, plus the fact that she will eventually steal all my designer shoes collection). But does me being harder on her is actually telling her that I expect her to fail by being herself? Am I tough because I am sometimes disappointed by the woman I am? It is not fair and P,  I make you this promise: I will try harder to be the woman I wish you would grow into. Also you are already very awesome because you just cracked me up two days ago when you strutted towards me in my UGG boots applying some balm on your lips and firmly demanded: ‘Mom, I want a wrench and a fast car. Can you buy me that?’

You made me remember this kick ass quote from Sarah Silverman: ‘Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it’s a mistake. Not because they can’t, but because it would never have occurred to them that they couldn’t.’

Point taken.

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9 comments

  1. The Vanilla Housewife

    Maybe it’s because we know it’s a harsh world out there. Or we don’t want them to go through the pain the we went through. Or could it be that our minds are tainted and we think women are softer on the inside thus need to toughen up in order to make it. Let me know when you figure it out because I don’t know if I’m raising my little girl right.
    ps. love her smile!

    • redlipstickmama

      I don’t think I will figure it out anytime soon and I wonder if overcompensation might be a wrong way to handle this…This odd combination of optimism and cynicism in me when it comes the place of women in our societies is really messing up my holy principle when it comes to education: CONSISTENCY. Sometimes, I am like ‘of course act how you ever want to’ and other times I am like ‘you have to toughen up because the world can be a bitch for us women’…

  2. Bronwyn Joy @ Journeys Of The Fabulist

    I have another theory. You are tougher on your girl just because she’s a girl and so are you. Who’s your husband tougher on?

    I’m tougher on my girl. My husband’s tougher on my son. We maybe see same-gender children more as reflections on ourselves, and their faults therefore need more correction because of what they might imply about us. Whereas when my boy’s naughty, it’s because he’s just naughty little him.

    I wonder if this changes as their personalities begin to shine through more and more?

    That said, I do have a bit of a complex relationship with my son (and I write more posts about him and I’m fine with not being “equal” about it. Equal everything is a pipe dream anyway, plus I think it’s more “fair” if everyone gets what they need and/or really want, rather than what their siblings needed/wanted so they had to have some too – and P definitely needs more thought to figure him out at this stage. I’m confident it’ll come out in the wash.)

    • redlipstickmama

      Yes I totally agree that the self-identification processes influence big time when it comes to my relationship with P. The fact is that when I observe her, I have so many lenses on: my views of the world as women’s advocate, me as a woman etc. And I need to start go easy on those lenses I feel if I want her personality to really shine through as you say. Strangely enough my husband is tougher on her too…I think because he thinks she is uber smart and is mistress of manipulation and he struggles with this. And I am a firm believer of fairness too and I do hope that all will come out in the wash. So weird how our sense of fairness can be interpreted by children though; I guess it is a matter of always checking the pulse/the understanding children have of their parents’ decision making process.

  3. Laurence

    I think we’re anticipating, well trying to at least, the painful / heartbreaking / sad situations our kids could face, because it’s just unthinkable for us to see them cry. When they learn to walk, you clean the way so that they can’t get hurt ; when they grow up, you wish you could wrapp them in a cuddling cloud to protect them from suffering. And I guess it’s twice true when you raise a girl.

    • redlipstickmama

      There’s definitely something about this too, although I tend to be more protective of my boys because they worship their sister so they let her do whatever. I am sure she ll end up giving me a run for my money 🙂 xo

  4. dressingd

    Your honesty is liberating, a much needed breath of fresh air. I am definitely harder on my girls. I thought that was purely about them being older than my son but I know deep down it’s about my past experience and aiming for emotional toughies… Right or wrong? I have no idea…but needless to say, I am always refining my approach to motherhood and trying to keep the guilt at bay. Glad I found your blog today x d

    • redlipstickmama

      Thanks so much for this feedback and for the follow. I am so with you on the refining approach. I think that as a mom I have to make sure I am still learning about my kids rather than have a view set in stone of who they are and why they do things etc. also as another blogger mentioned it will probably all come out of a wash in the end…looking forward to continue our conversations through our blogs xo

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