This morning was the first time I have ever felt any anxiety at all when leaving my daughter off at school. Aside from maybe the first time I left her at the church school when she was one, this morning was new for me.
My daughter isn’t like all the other girls her age. Her preferences are cars, planes, (used to be trains), construction, and anything at all that she can build with. Dolls and dressing up? Not so much. She has a doll, but it doesn’t get any love whatsoever, poor thing. I was thrilled when at the beginning of the summer she said that she wanted to try ballet and tap. She’s struggling over wearing tights, but other than that, she absolutely loves it. And she’s pretty good, too.
I have finally been successful at getting her to watch some Disney princess-type movies with her. The order she’s seen them so far (her choice as I own a bunch of them); Mulan, Brave, Pocahontas, Frozen, The Little Mermaid, and recently, Aladdin. She has some awareness about the other princesses and their names; between me, her school friends, and ballet class, she doesn’t have much choice. I have been used to the Cars and Planes movies playing all the time, and she loves action ones like Bolt, Big Hero 6, and the Lego Movie. She is a spirited kid with an engineer mind and I have never felt any concern for her and her amazing personality. Until this morning.
On the way to school, she was going on about her costume and how she can’t wait to see what all her friends are dressed up as. I asked if she had talked with any of them about what they were dressing up as and she started to fill me in. Her boyfriends in the class whom she plays with the most will be anything from Darth Vader to a Transformer. Then I asked about what the girls will be dressing up as: Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Jasmine (although I think she made that last one up). All a common occurrence just like last year when I had two dozen Annas and Elsas come to my door.
Out of nowhere, I started to get nervous…for her. She’s one of the youngest in her class at barely over 4 years old. She has already been to a few 5th birthday parties and nearly everyone in the class will be 5 before May when school breaks for the summer. I have personally witnessed some of the older girls in the class being cliquey at school and parties. At 5??!!! Good Lord, it’s going to be a loooong road for this generation. The good thing is that Sugar Bee doesn’t seem to mind. She notices….she’s a noticer that misses nothing at all…but she goes on about her way and finds someone or something else to play with. She’s confident at four. It’s the future that worries me.
This is the costume that she picked out of racks of them at the store:She has loved fire trucks since she was teeny tiny and that love has never left her. She’s wearing the hat that my cousin gave to her when we visited his fire house in Ohio last month. She’s very proud of herself and loves her costume. She wanted me to put “dragon makeup” on her so she looked like she just finished fighting a fire. I told her we can do that on Halloween. She’s so creative and is always acting out rescues with her Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, along with all her larger police and fire vehicles. She even wanted to bring her three fire rescue cars to go with her costume!My ramblings and slight anxiety are about my parenting. Face it, we all know kids can be mean and ostracizing. And normally, I would have never given this a second thought for her since she’s just in pre-K. But I have seen it starting already, mostly with the ones that have older siblings that then gather the ones that will be “the followers.” I just keep shaking my head, thinking, “Already?! They are only FOUR and FIVE!”
Have I taught her enough yet to make her confident about her choices? Will she be able to defend her thoughts, likes, and preferences when questioned, or worse, bullied? I could never have imagined that I would have these thoughts before elementary school; 2nd or 3rd grade was the first I really expected to have to even worry about this stuff. On the way home, I kept imagining the girls in class telling her that she’s wearing a “boy” costume. Women are firefighters, too, dammit! And it’s not like they wear a different outfit than the men to do their job.
This is only the beginning for me. For her. I’m sure I’m overreacting and that nothing like this is going to happen today. If it does, I only pray that she retains her confidence with who she is and what she likes, and that she talks with me about it. I am sure that we will face this eventually. I never want to see her spirit squashed. Looks like I will have work to do before she hits public school.*****UPDATE***** So I went to the second half of her class party to observe and she was incorrect on a lot of the costumes…surprise, surprise. She’s four. Clearly she was the only girl in a neutral costume, but she told me that everyone said to her, “Hey, Sasha! I love your firefighter costume. It’s really cool!” I’m taking that one for what it is because even if it’s not true, she clearly felt good about herself and that’s what matters most. Watching the class play in the big room inside because it was getting yucky outside (and who wants to mess up a costume on the playground?), I could see that she does have more in common with the boys than the girls with the way she plays. I watched her try to break in and participate a few times with “the” group of girls, but with no avail. I plan on talking with her about it at some point, once I can find the right words to help give her the tools that she needs. Wish me luck!
Like the majority of the kids in the part of the northeast that I grew up in, I was raised as a Catholic. It seemed you were pretty much either Catholic or Jewish. Because of this, most of the kids that went to public school together also attended the same CCD classes and belonged to the same church. If you lived in my hometown, it was highly probable that your family belonged to St. Patrick’s Catholic church. Unless, of course, you were Jewish. I think we had a few other denominations of Christian churches around, but I can’t really remember any. Where I grew up, spring break always seemed to fall on the week before Easter to include Good Friday, what I personally consider the holiest of days. I’m not sure if things are still this way, and it may or may not have been to accommodate Holy Week. (I am curious about this now.)
The old stone church – St. Patrick’s Parish, Yorktown Heights, NY
I’m embarrassed to admit that I still don’t really know much about the differences between the other Christian religions. In fact, I probably know more about Judaism and the religions of cultures different from mine (which I studied while in college) than what separates the Catholics from other Christian sects. One of my best friends growing up was Jewish and I never thought twice about prayers or meals or their traditions. I have been very close with a family that practices Kosher traditions and their faith has always played a big part in their lives. I have seen what a strong family they are; a strong marriage, fantastic children, and a truly loving family. I believe this has a lot to do with the sharing of their faith as a family. We both believe in the Old Testament, it’s just latter part of the Christian bible that separates the two religions (I know there are other things, but I’m simplifying it). We are both steeped in traditions, one of the things I love most about my own religion as I am generally a traditional person.
Saying that one was raised Catholic, generally means you attended CCD (now called PSR) which is basically Sunday school, you were forced to go to mass on Sunday mornings, and maybe you even attended Catholic school instead of public. You at least attended mass until you completed the sacrament of Confirmation. After that took place, it seemed that many parents backed off on the Sunday morning ritual (including my own) as social lives, SAT stuff, and college applications started to fill your weekends.
By the time I went to college, my outlook on religion (and the world) had gone through a lot of changes, yet I still picked a small, private college that had deep roots in religion, Manhattanville College. It’s not in Manhattan. (That sentence is for my fellow alumni.) I chose that school for a long list of reasons, but religion wasn’t really one of them. Well, not exactly. I loved the diversity of the student body and I ended up taking lots of courses on various religions from around the world. I have always been curious about the customs, foods, and people that are different from me. Perhaps I was also doing some subconscious soul searching.
I spent the next 9-10 years drifting farther and farther from the church. I became what are referred to as “Easter-Christmas Catholics,” attending mass on those two holidays and a few others interspersed here and there throughout the year. Those attendances were usually because I was visiting my grandmother upstate or she was at my mom’s, so I would always attend. She was a very faithful woman that loved her church, and that deep faith can also be found in my mother. It seems that now the legacy is living on through me.
I had a crazy-fast romance with The Russian; meeting the last day of June in 2003, getting engaged that September, married that November (by a judge the first time), and moving south to Georgia the following January. What a six months that was! For someone that is not very good at making decisions that had never lived more than 30 minutes from my childhood town, I still laugh sometimes at that time of my life. Moving south was the best decision I have ever made, but it also marks the beginning of some of the toughest times of my life.
When we moved, The Russian couldn’t work as we were waiting for the government to do what they had to do with his status. The financial responsibilities fell on me. I had spent the previous 5-6 post-college years in NY teaching preschool and pre-K, supplementing with a ridiculous amount of babysitting on the side. Did I mention that we moved here without any jobs? We had an apartment that was paid for and that was it. So I looked for work. Anywhere. I ended up with three jobs in order to support us, and we still needed help occasionally from family. I worked Monday through Thursday for a naturopathic doctor, Fridays for two to three families at a time to watch all their kids at once, and then on Saturdays and Sundays I worked at a flight school (where I still work on Saturdays because it’s awesome and I love it). Yes, I held down three jobs and worked seven days a week to support us. I always do what needs to be done. This ended up costing me some of my health which is how I began my journey in the natural world, but it also brought me back to the church.
This was such a dark time for me, not my darkest ever, but I was exhausted, struggling with a new marriage in a new place with no money and no friends. My friends have always been my family, sometimes more than my family to me, and I cried. A lot. I was so homesick. I wanted my mom. I wanted my friends. I wanted to be back in New York. But I continued on, thanks to the strength that I found when I went back to my faith.
It was February 25, 2004. Ash Wednesday. That was the day I realized that I was not alone. I did have something to turn to. I had my faith, and at that moment, I began my journey back to the church. I googled Catholic churches in the area where I was working and found one that had a mass I could make to get ashes during my lunch. It was strange to walk into a church I had never been to, alone, unsure of the way things flow for communion, and I didn’t know anyone. Then the priest at the altar completely surprised me. He was young…as in, he seemed to be around my age. And during the homily, he spoke to us instead of talking at us. He didn’t stay behind the pulpit. Instead, he walked around the front and up the aisles a bit, making eye contact and smiling. This was so strange to me and I felt so welcome and calm that I almost cried right then and there. I knew I had found what I needed. I was glad that I listened to the voice in my head that told me to seek out mass that Ash Wednesday. It was the start of something big for me.
I continued to go to church there, becoming a registered parishioner and attending mass nearly every week even though it was 20+ minutes from where I was living. There aren’t a lot of Catholic churches down here as we are in Baptist land, and I didn’t do much looking around after finding Father Bryan. I knew this was where I was meant to be. He was a contemporary, even relating his homilies to things like Star Wars. He was the best priest I had ever encountered and I know God wanted me to meet him for this purpose. I needed to see that the church is changing, albeit slowly, but it is capable of change. And I was getting drawn in because of what I was now experiencing.
In 2005, we got married. Again. I needed, and wanted, to receive the sacrament of marriage. I wanted to share our love and celebrate with all the other people in my life that didn’t join us for our very small (8 other people) first marriage and celebration. It was planned back in New York at my mom’s church as it was easier to ask a few people to fly up there than to ask everyone up there to fly down here. It wasn’t a full mass. I was the only one to receive communion, my sacrament of marriage, and that was all that I needed. It was so important to me that The Russian gladly obliged to marry a second time, this time in the Catholic church.
October 15, 2005 – St. John the Evangelist, White Plains, NY
Then in 2006, The Russian joined the Army. I had changed jobs and started to feel like this particular church was no longer a good match for me. Long story short, some other priest started with politics from the pulpit and I nearly walked out – some people did – so I knew I had to find a new church. I go to mass for my personal relationship with God, my own spirituality, not for that junk. I don’t have to agree with all the things that the church pushes forth, I have my own mind (most die-hards would call me a “cafeteria Catholic”), and my going to church is about me and my spirit, nothing more. So I found another church that was close to my flight school job that had a Saturday Vigil mass. I started going to and in the first few weeks, who do I end up seeing there?? Father Bryan! I knew that again this was where I was to be. I registered at Saint Catherine’s and have been a member since. This is where I really started to grow and realize why I was back for good.
When The Russian deployed, it was tough. I had amazing friends and a great support system by this point (2009-2010), but there were still many times that I would cry for no reason. That was a hard time in my life, despite the appearance I put up going out to distract myself. I had to in order to stay sane. I decided it was time for me to start getting involved in my church community as he wasn’t home and I had too much free time. I noticed in the bulletin that they needed Catechists, the people that teach PSR/Sunday School/whatever you want to call it. I was missing teaching and thought this would be a great place for me to start. So I signed up. I was given 3rd graders my first year and I taught on Wednesday afternoons. As I taught that first year, my assistant in the room was full of compliments. There were times when the kids would ask me tough questions and I swear that I had no idea where I got the answers from. Her and I would look at each other sometimes and make “Wow” faces as she knew that I had never taught religion before. It was the Holy Spirit coming through me. What else could it be?
Grandma Tish and Gram – Two of the strongest women that I have ever known
During his deployment, I also lost both of my grandmothers within two weeks of each other. I honestly feel like I would have been lost during that time without my faith, without believing some of the foundational pieces of my religion in order to make sense of it all. And let go. My dad’s mom left us first and my mom’s mom was still hanging on even though she should have already left to meet her maker. Both of these women were close for many years, so I asked Grandma Tish to tell Gram that it was okay to leave, that it was time to go. A few days later, she did. When I went to Gram’s service back in NY, I had another reason to be thankful for the church. The priest had actually known my grandmother very well and it was an amazing eulogy. He was full of words that gave me comfort and I started to feel proud that I am continuing her legacy through our faith. I am not as involved as she was or my mother is, but I’m sure I will be as I get older. When I would visit Gram in North Carolina at the place she ended up spending the last years of her life, I always took her to church. It became our thing and I think even when it got more difficult for her to remember my name or who I was at first glance, she was happy to see me because she knew I would take her to church. I miss her, but I feel connected to her every single time I’m at mass. Faith.
Gram and mom in NC – 2009
Growing up, we are put in religious education classes and dragged to church (what it feels like to a kid) on Sunday mornings. Looking back, I feel that I missed so much of what was taught. My heart wasn’t there, it was just an obligation that I had. I didn’t get it, not like I do now. To be able to share with children really deepened and strengthened my faith and understanding in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The following year, I signed up again and got the perfect class for me – Kindergarten. I LOVED that class. I had the best time teaching them and have many incredible moments where again, I have no idea where the words came from. Sometimes it felt like an out-of-body experience. I got pregnant that October and haven’t been able to go back to teach PSR since then, but I will once Sugar Bee is old enough to attend. And I can’t wait.
Teaching wasn’t the only reason I that I understand why I was led back to the church. It was also for my daughter. She has the strangest affinity, and I say strange in a positive and endearing way, for Jesus. Let me be specific here, it’s Baby Jesus. Everything relating to Christ is referred to as Baby Jesus with Sugar Bee, and I absolutely love it. She often went to mass with me up until the age of two when it started to get more challenging. Since the age of one, she has been attending “school” at local Baptist churches. I know that her love for the Christian religion is not a sole credit to me as I don’t take her as often as I would like these days, but she has gone several times during this Lenten season, and for this I thank these churches. I have never thought twice about the fact that she’s not in a preschool at a Catholic church. We are all Christians and they are teaching her more that I had ever hoped for her at this age. She gets upset if I pick her up early and she misses bible time. That makes me beam with pride and my heart swell. I am eternally grateful to them for instilling what I am not sure I would have been able to as her mom. What a blessing.
We sing Christmas songs. All. Year. Long. I can’t complain and it’s not every night this year because I have been resisting rocking my sweet babe to bed every night, something that I would do the rest of my life if she would let me. Her favorite song in the entire world is Little Drummer Boy, which happens to be in my top 5. Since this past Christmas, she likes to sing it to me at bedtime. How could I refuse?
One of the most incredible conversations that continues to happen between me and Sugar Bee is when we pass a funeral. There are several large cemetery and memorial parks around our house and the first time she noticed a funeral, she had questions. I explained it as simply as I could, that someone had died and those people were all gathered there to say goodbye. This little child said, “That’s so sad, mama,” but her mood changed when I told her that it was okay because that person was going to meet Jesus. She was so content with my explanation, but still said that it was sad. Now whenever we pass another funeral or we stop for a funeral procession as they do in the south, she talks about how that person is going to meet, of course, Baby Jesus, and that it’s still sad, but good. And I find myself smiling every time.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
We baptized Sugar Bee in my church when she was three months old. There were rumors of The Russian leaving again for an extended period of time and we decided to just do it. As I said before, she attended mass quite often as a little one. We took a break from when she turned two until around three, but she wants to go to church with me. How can I refuse that?
She is still learning the ropes at communion time, and I have to share a few of the things that she has done. (crap, this is a LONG post!) Before making first communion, both for non-Catholics attending mass or for the littles that walk up to receive a blessing, it is customary to walk up with your arms crossed, placing your hands on your shoulders. The first time she started to “get” what was going on, she got upset on the way back to the pew. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I didn’t do a good job because I didn’t get any.” She almost started to cry, and I almost started to laugh. I squeezed her tight and reminded her about her cousin’s First Communion and she was content for the moment. A few months ago when the deacon went to bless her, she tried to grab the whole cup of communion out of his hands. He and I looked at each other and chuckled. She wasn’t amused. Then two weeks ago, the person giving her the blessing raised their hand above her head and she gave them a high-five. That time, we both laughed out loud. Last week during Palm Sunday mass, I glanced down while I was kneeling and praying before receiving communion and there she was, kneeling along side of me, hands clasped and her eyes closed. I found the hugest grin sweep across my face and I thought I was going to burst with pride. This is why I found my way back to the church. To nurture this child, not only with her mind and her body, but also her soul.
Sugar Bee with us and her godparents – October 2011
I look around my church when I am at mass and I feel sad. I feel somewhat alone in my generation. There are not that many young families at the masses that I regularly attend, granted that I usually attend Saturday Vigil or Sunday evening ones, but most people are around my mom’s age and older. Who will be there to keep our church going? What has happened to my generation? To get slightly political, I blame the media. Christians, and most often the Catholics, are made fun of and treated poorly for their beliefs. Not to say that they are perfect and don’t deserve some scrutiny at times, but what group of people is perfect? There is no perfect religion or group of people. Christians are being persecuted in the Middle East, just for being Christians, and no one is talking about it in this country. Christians represent the largest population in the world, yet the media in this country is all but silent about these atrocities. These “tolerant” people in government and the media are quick to bash Catholics and Christians, showing very little support. Yes, the Catholic church might be the richest in the world, but we are also among the largest donators and charity supporters, incredible humanitarians, and strong missionaries. I probably should evangelize, but I don’t. (Insert Catholic guilt.) If people ask me anything, I will share, but I personally don’t care what people believe. To each their own. I am only responsible for my own soul. Church as an institution isn’t for everyone. I happen to get something out of it. Actually, I get a lot out of attending, but I don’t judge anyone for not being a practicing member of whatever faith. Just believe in something.
Catholics are moving forward and have a Pope now that is trying to show the world that we are capable of change. Don’t let a few judgmental Christians or other negatively painted stories that you hear about in the news decide if you want to be part of the church or not. I promise that you are not being told all the good being done.
This was a long and flip-floppy post. Anxious to get it out before Easter Sunday, I probably should have spent more time reorganizing, but there it all is. Thanks for visiting and have a blessed Easter and Passover!
Note: This post is about my frustrations with the toy industry and the merchandising (pink and blue aisles) in stores, their obsession with boy and girl toys, and the lack of options outside of the split-gender toy culture, and is not solely in response to the Facebook thread that I refer to. This piece reflects thoughts that have been going around in my head for the past several years and it was coming regardless of the virtual conversation that took place. I have concerns about placing strong gender expectations on our children and can’t wrap my head around what has happened to toys just being toys as when past generations were growing up. There have always been Barbies and dolls, but things have gotten carried away.
“that’s it. i’m opening a store for kids that sells things that have nothing to do with gender, being separated by gender, or “tells” them (and their parents) what toys and clothes they should be wanting/getting based on their gender.” ~ December 1, 2014
It’s been a week since I updated my Facebook status expressing my frustration over trying to find a bicycle with training wheels for Sugar Bee that wasn’t pink and glittery or covered in Spider-Man decals. I’m still bothered by the discussion that followed, so I am letting my thoughts have an outlet here and now. Of course it got a few likes, a few comments from friends implying that they would like to see the same thing and would shop there, some other supportive comments, but not all of them were free from judgement. I’m quite certain that I probably inadvertently offended some of my more sensitive Facebook friends by using the phrase, “pukey pinky with tassels and crap,” as I bet they felt that this was a personal attack on them or their daughters. I would never, ever mean it that way and I love that most of the daughters of my friends are into all the usual girl things. I know my daughter will love her time with them no matter what they play with. I was just really frustrated and getting anxious about what kind of bicycle Santa was going to be able to bring on Christmas morning.
What was most ridiculous to me was that I felt like I had to defend why I didn’t want to get my kid a “girly” bike. Do I care what anyone else buys their kid? Do I judge if there is all sorts of girl stuff in someone’s house? No, I just assume that their house is aligned with the interests that their child has. Your particular home with a little girl in it might be all full of pink, princesses, play kitchens, and dolls, while mine is full of construction machines, trains and tracks, and matchbox cars. What I don’t think people ponder very often is what it might be like to have a daughter that is not princess-obsessed, one that everyone sees as less “normal” than others. People talk to me in public and assume that my kid knows the entire score to Frozen. I sometimes comment that she’s more of a Cars kid, other times I just smile. When your child’s birthday came around and you asked them what kind of birthday party they wanted, perhaps they picked a gender-appropriate (whatever the hell that means) theme. My daughter enthusiastically declared that she wanted a Dusty party. It just so happened that the second Planes movie was coming out two weeks before her birthday weekend. Good timing for her and a great time was had by all.
My point is, everyone likes and dislikes different things, even all of us as adults, so I am still having a hard time wrapping my head around some of the 44 comments on my status update. I was struggling with my online shopping to find something that wasn’t clearly labeled “boy” or “girl,” one that wasn’t over-the-top with pink craziness or over-the-top about a character. As I shopped, I knew she would be totally fine with something that was clearly for a boy, but why should it have to be this way? Why are there no other options? That was the entire point of my post which has now led to this lengthy piece.
An argument that girls are by nature more nurturing is as absurd as expecting everyone to want kids of their own. Not all girls need or want dolls and have to participate in or initiate creative play of a domestic nature, for lack of a better term. She is genuinely loving and caring for others, she welcomes people into our home, greets people everywhere she goes whether they are strangers or not, and has always been like this. She loves on any animal she comes in contact with (once causing her to get stepped on by a pony) and has one of the sweetest souls ever. I trust her instincts about people more than my own. But nurturing is not a word that I would choose to describe her. I don’t want my child to feel that there’s something wrong with her because she has no interest in dolls or pink or princesses or whatever way other people think she should be. She might totally change someday and do a 180. That will be just as fine.
In the past, I have felt pressure to clarify that we DO expose her to girl stuff, so here it is. (For the record, it’s making me cringe every time I’m referring to something as a boy or girl thing.) She has a Disney Princess Tea Set that she does play with on occasion. So what if it’s probably only because she likes to sort and organize things. I’ve shown her how to have a tea party and she will sometimes (now) pretend with me, but she mostly uses the tea cups to hold some of her cars. She has a doll, a stroller, and even a few outfits for it, but would you like to know how she plays with her doll? On the half a dozen times that she has voluntarily touched the doll, she puts her in the stroller and races around the house, chasing/torturing the dog, letting the doll hang half out of the stroller, sometimes falling out completely. Then she runs away, leaving the doll on the floor. Nurturing? Not so much. I know she has played with the kitchens and stuff at other homes and at school sometimes, but these are just not the things that she gravitates to. She plays with the cars and the trains most of the time, and is obsessed with puzzles. And I’m perfectly fine with that. I sneak peeks at her creatively playing with her cars and trains, making up scenarios and conversations. It’s the same thing girls do with their dolls or stuffed animals, just with a different medium. And that’s perfectly fine. She helps me in the kitchen (she calls it “bakering”), and although it’s usually a brief encounter, at least she shows an interest. She helps me move laundry into the dryer or laundry basket and wants to help Swiffer the floor. But one of the most exciting times for her this past week was when I let her help me change the batteries out of two toys, showing her how to use the screwdriver and teaching her what to do by herself. Her face beamed, her concentration was so focused, and she was over the moon with pride when they toys worked again. I have little doubt that she will be taking things apart in my house before she enters intermediate school. That is my child.
My problem isn’t what anyone else does as far as buying toys for their kids. Frankly, it’s none of my damn business. To think that I would want to do away with princess things or pink things is absurd. My oldest niece was princess obsessed and I loved it! I would buy all sorts of cool Disney things for her and had a great time playing with her and all her things. My question is, what has happened to toys? How have we let toy manufacturers and marketers create such a huge divide in what toys children feel they “should” play with? Why do we have this obsessive need to make things for boys and things for girls, things that are essentially identical aside from color? My child gravitates toward blue, orange and red. Those are just the colors that she likes. So why can’t we just have TOYS like we did when my generation was growing up? This was the entire point of my post (rant) on the good ol’ Facebook. How fun for you (or maybe not from what some friends say) that your little girl is obsessed with Frozen. It took me THREE tries to get through that movie with her and I really wanted to watch it, so I basically forced/bribed her into finishing it with me. She’s not much of a fan of movies with people characters…Cars, Planes, Toy Story…those are her jams. And I have so many movies that I hope I will watch with her. Someday. But that day is not today. It’s not where she is, and maybe she never will be. And that’s just fine, too. I will sit and watch The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast for the trillionth times, reciting the words and singing every score by myself. Maybe that will make it more interesting to her. Someday.
After the whole bike discussion on Facebook, I took her to look at bikes at REI and a few other places the next evening to see what she gravitated to when selecting her own bike. It went just as I expected it would. After all, I do know my own kid. (Santa will probably be bringing a nice blue BMX bike with training wheels this Christmas.) After we found “the one,” we went off to Target to check and see if there was something less expensive that she liked, but everything in her size range was character dependent. It’s fine if your child is completely obsessed with something and you as parents choose to get a Hello Kitty bike for your daughter, Lord knows that Sugar Bee’s head nearly exploded when she saw the box that held the Planes: Fire and Rescue bike in it and she told me she “needed” that one, but my husband and I decided before this FB discussion even took place that we did not want something so thematic for her. We want a quality bicycle that will last for more than one year and hold her interest longer than her newest movie or toy obsession.
While in Target, I was wandering the toys getting ideas for other kids’ birthday and Christmas presents. I saw girl nerf guns and girl lego sets (those were mostly lame, in my opinion). I understand the point behind making things available in pink. We want to be able to offer the pink things to the girls that love pink in the hopes that they might discover something new that they may not have tried otherwise. I think it’s a great idea, but I feel that it’s gone completely overboard. Gender-neutral toys, or toys as they were called when we were growing up, are disappearing. I saw this pink tool set two years ago and had my mom get it for her. She absolutely loves it and plays with it constantly. Yes, I bought it because it was pink. But I would have bought her a tool set at some point, pink or not. Do we need pink tool sets? Pink Nerf guns? Pink Lego sets? What if a little boy sees the stable Lego Friends set and wants it because he loves horses? He has to cross to the pink aisle to the girl Legos, opening him up for possible future ridicule from friends for playing with girl toys. I was perfectly happy with my normal old legos growing up. We are perpetuating and encouraging this cycle of pink = girl and blue/orange/red/whatever = boy, and making a greater toy divide. I bet the toy companies are making a killing by offering the same thing in different colors to each gender. Why are we letting them make the rules?
Scooter bought when she was 1 1/2 by grandparents. Helmet chosen by her when old enough to ride.
Now back to my anxiety over the bicycle situation. Last Christmas, my nieces gave her two gifts. One was a travel Thomas train and tracks (obvious hit with her). The other was a pink stroller. Upon opening that one, she stared blankly at me and pushed it aside. I felt sad. For all of us. At her birthday this year, some friends from our neighborhood that we really only know from the pool gave her a set of something like My Little Pony, all different sizes, with a hair dryer, fake braids to attach, and all sorts of accessories. As if the face she made wasn’t reason enough for me to want to move on to the next gift quickly, she actually said, “I don’t like that” as she handed me the gift. I still hope that she said it quietly enough that the family didn’t hear. (There’s a reason why Russians never open gifts in front of people.) I was anxious about being able to prevent a wave of disappointment from coming over my child’s face on Christmas morning. I just want more options and less boy versus girl.
Since she could move, Sugar Bee has been fascinated with things that move. She is constantly shocking me with the capabilities of her mind. She is crazy amazing with puzzle skills. She loves learning about outer space. She wants to know everything. I know kids are curious, I taught kids her age for years, but she needs to know EVERYTHING. “What kind of car is that? What is that machine doing? What kind of stuff is that truck carrying? Are we going to the highway? What road are we on?” She misses nothing. In a frightening sort of way. She looks at and observes every detail when we are outside, always asking questions. I never want her curiosity and love for the world around her to dwindle. I want her to always be free to express herself and her interests without being told that something is for boys. It’s inevitable, I know. Kids are mean and can be downright ruthless, and adults (myself included) sometimes make comments without thinking about their potential impact. I only hope that I can arm her with enough self-confidence in who she is and what she can accomplish to defend her spirit from the judgments. Until then, we will continue to put Top Gear on the DVR when she asks for it.
One of my minors was sociology. This is something that really hits home to me, but not only because of that. I was a building kid and I loved to be outside. I had an incredible sandbox that I remember playing with huge, metal Tonka construction vehicles in. I had Barbies. And they had a Tonka truck to ride in. I love sports and watching them, talking about them, playing in fantasy leagues. I played soccer, softball, and basketball from elementary school until I graduated high school. I have incredible spatial skills and a ridiculous sense of direction, if I do say so myself. I love cars. I have my motorcycle license. I know how to shoot guns. I’m a math and science nerd whose favorite subject (and original major) was physics. I have been lucky enough to always have had teachers that recognized and encouraged my math and science skills, instead of telling me they were not things that girls are good at. I’m not your average girl, so why would anyone surprised that my kid is who she is? I don’t care if she’s doing boy things or girl things. I want her to be caring, loving, and generous, to love who she is, both inside and out, and not judge others based on their interests. So, toy industry, stop expecting my sweet girl to only want to shop on the pink side of a toy store. And know that I will never feel like my kid should be all about the pink.
It has been two weeks since giving up the pacifier and we are both still struggling a bit. All of us, I guess. But mostly Sugar Bee and I.
Bye-bye, paci. “When I’m three, I will have zero pacis.” She was telling everyone that. She would also talk about giving them to a friend’s new baby because she needed them more. I had done my best to prepare her and we talked about all of the events that surrounded her becoming a “big girl.” At the ripe old age of three.
I completely admit that I am guilty of doing lots of things that the old preschool teacher me of the past would want to slap me for. I still help her eat sometimes. She was still in a crib until just after her third birthday, and she still had a paci for sleep and those time she needed extra comfort. I can’t seem to get this stubborn kid to be independent enough with some things so I end up helping or doing them (slap); pottying without help with her pants (she knows how), getting dressed on her own (or at least only needing help), even shoes are often a discussion point (annoyance). Lots of other kids her age do these things already. I have milestones in my head from years of teaching and helping to raise other people’s children. I am aware that I may place more pressure in other areas as I can see what kind of brain she has, but for some reason I’m not pushing some of the other things that I should be encouraging her to do. Maybe I’m subconsciously trying keep her my baby just a little longer. I know that I am savoring moments, every moment, maybe a little too much. No one has any idea what lies ahead and this gift from God may very well be the only one that I get to receive. Savor, I must.
I always wanted lots of kids (like 3 to 5), but things don’t always turn out as we planned. Our own plan is not THE plan, and that is possibly one of the hardest things I’ve tried to learn throughout my adult life. It is still a struggle for me. We had put off conceiving our first child when we found out the Russian’s army unit was going to deploy. And then they put off his deployment. Twice, if I remember correctly. So I lost a few of the easier-to-conceive years living by the the motto most military families are familiar with, “Hurry up and wait.” Sure, I could have gotten knocked up and handled pregnancy, delivery, and even those first weeks/months on my own if I had to. But I didn’t want to. I knew the awesomeness and wonder of babies, but the Russian did not. He never held one until she arrived (true of most men) and I didn’t want him to miss anything. I’m so glad that we waited because all of my experience didn’t prepare me for this kid. And I needed him so much those first months. Colic is no joke.
Now here I am pushing 39. I may never have another opportunity to experience these moments of being a mom to a preschooler, so I make the most of everything when I can. I know what you’re thinking…lots of women have babies in their 40s. Let’s be realistic here. I come from a line of women that didn’t have the easiest time conceiving, I delivered my first child at 35, I have a full-time career and the stress that comes with it, my husband is in school at night after working all day and we hardly ever see each other (or have energy to get together), and I’m already tired. Babies take a lot of energy. If it comes to be, I will be overjoyed. For now, I’m settling into accepting the fact that I may very well be raising an only child. I will save my thoughts on that for another time.
I’m slightly envious at times of true SAHMs that do not have a job (that they get paid for) outside of the millions of jobs we all have inside the home. Even my times with her in the house with me (after her morning preschool and nap are over) are often distracted by my computer/sametimes/conference calls and the myriad of things that I have to get done on a daily and weekly basis to run a household. So when nap time comes, I make the most of it. Putting her down for a nap has always been my favorite time of day. Yes, I still rock her her to sleep (slap) because I can. There are no other children that need me, and this allows me these precious times with her. It is the one time of day that I truly give her all of me…and I take plenty from her in return. I soak up her peaceful quiet and enjoy the sound machine in her room, temporarily able to leave my work on the other side of her door. Most days, this time is the only point in the day that I am able to do that, to completely focus in on her and her needs. And sometimes I can’t. There are days when I have to get her down earlier or do it in a hurry in order to make a conference call or get back to a really hot issue for work. I hate those days. The ones when I feel like I have to rush through this precious time that I’m trying to hold onto. I’m grateful for my job and my career, but I despise when I feel robbed of this part of my day. Evening bedtime is treated differently because she is left to fall asleep on her own so that I can return to my computer and finish working after the break for cooking dinner, giving a bath, reading books, and saying goodnight. Nap is our time together. I cherish it.
I watch her, peeking through my eyes as she finally starts to drift off. Then I just stare at her, taking in every part of her face, the way her hair falls, her breathing. Now as she lies there without the pacifier blocking part of her face, I am forced to see that she really is no longer a baby. I mean, she will always be my baby, but she really is growing up. I forced us into this with my thoughts and feelings that she needed to be out of a crib and was not supposed to have her paci anymore, and what better way to make it all happen than to tie everything together in one big event. Turning three. So we took away the beloved plug that we all didn’t really mind having around. She only was allowed to have it for sleep or when in dire need for comfort, and it had been that way since before she was two. It soothed her, gave her comfort when she was really upset, tired, or not feeling well, and the best part was how well it helped her sleep.
Did I do the right thing? I still don’t know. Here we are, just past the two week mark after losing the paci and she still seems to struggle at times, especially with falling and staying asleep. In the days since I started drafting this post, at least the sleep has improved for her, but other things have gotten worse. What concerns me is that she seems to have more of an oral fixation than I realized, regressing sometimes by putting toys or her hands in her mouth, even chewing on her nails a little. She’s looking for a way to soothe herself. Even her blankies aren’t enough….but those are only for sleep times. The paci has been her comfort through so many things in her entire short life that I can’t blame her. Maybe I should have waited longer and found a different way to say goodbye, but I can’t go back. We have made it this far and things are improving. Just a lot slower than I thought they would. I still have that last paci stashed away in her drawer, and I have fought the urge a few times to give it to her. We will fly in October for the first time without one. To be honest, just thinking about it makes me kind of nervous. She’s always been a fantastic traveler, but we also always had two pacifiers with us. I know it has always helped her with flying and that we will find another way to cope, just as we are finding ways to help her cope in her daily life. She still talks about her paci almost every day and I feel sad for her. And maybe a little guilty.
I’ll never know if I did right by making turning three, the big girl bed, and letting go of the paci a triple combo or not, but what’s done is done. She’s sad. It’s like she lost her best friend. And I am sad, too. I lost my baby. She’s growing up so very fast. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
Did you have a paci kid? What was the adjustment like? How long did it take? I would love to hear some of your experiences. Please share with me in the comment section below.