A Love Letter to Two

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My dear daughter you have grown so much this last year.  I have not done well at keeping up with your baby book and milestones, but I want to take the time to tell you who you are at two-years-old.

This year you transformed from baby to toddler.  You still alternate between wanting to be a baby and a big girl.  You started the year with one or two words and ended it speaking in sentences.  Words like dog, no, mama, dada, dotted your early vocabulary. Now sentences like, “me wanna see too,” or “Baby Tiger misses her mommy” spill from your mouth.

You’re fascinated with wild cats.  Every night you sleep with Leppy, your stuffed animal leopard.  Wild animal figures and dinosaurs fill your imaginary world.  You also love Snow White, princesses, and castles.  In a year developmentally defined by parallel play you have been pulled into an imaginary world of play with your big sister, joining tea parties, slumber parties, far away lands of Lion King, and pretending you’re the lost boy “Cubby” from Peter Pan.

You are my sidekick, my partner in crime.  With your sister there was time for endless mommy and me classes.  I try my best to do fun things with you too, but our mornings when your sister is at school are often filled with shopping trips, helping with laundry, cleaning, and bike rides around the block.

Your sister is your best friend.  Everyday when we picked her up from preschool you rushed to her with open arms shrieking her name in happiness.  She was so proud to have her baby sister greeting her at the end of each school day.  You give her daily hugs.  You tell her you love her.  After naps you always ask to wake her up.  She loves you enormously.  You are her best friend too.

You are charming, social, and comfortable with the big kids.  This past winter you started greeting your big sister’s friends at school on the playground, “Hi Grace, Hi Annie, Hi Ellen,” as you raced to catch up with them and pushed yourself into the line on the slide.  I can already see the competition over friendships budding between the two of you.

Your emotions are electric, high voltage from one extreme to the next with no insulation to protect us from the shock.  At this age your sister had a couple tantrums, but you throw many tantrums.  You love to play outside and you often scream and kick when we must go in for the night.  Your scream is loud and high pitched.  You scream when my foot enters the room and you know that bedtime is approaching.  You scream when your sister reaches to have a toy in your grasp.  You scream when the dog comes too close to your food.  You fight teeth brushing like a kick boxer.  Your scream punctuates our days.  You are strong willed.  You make me fear adolescence.

Mid year your scream mutated to a roar.  You became the wild tiger you adore. You roar at your sister.  You roar at flies.  You roar at ants.  You roar at the dogs.  You often roar at me.

You have a little gremlin voice.  At two your voice often sounds as if you smoked a few too many cigarettes.  It is so low compared to the chirpy voices of your peers.  It makes me smile every day.  To add emphasis you sometimes whisper the last words of your sentences, it works and I don’t think there is anything more adorable in the world.

I gave birth to the infamous biter that you read about in parenting books, fear to have in your playgroups, and look at and think “my child would never do that.”  For a couple of months you bit.  You bit your sister.  You bit the dog, poor Cru I can still see the shock on her face.  You bit your Dad.  You bit me.  I think and hope this behavior is finally fading, but I had moments of fearing your preschool future.  Luckily, so far you’ve kept the biting within the family.

You are adventurous.  You jump from the side of the pool.  You put your face all the way in the water.  You float on your back and look up at the sky, closing your eyes peacefully.  You fill cups of water in the tub and pour them over your head.  Sometimes you are surprisingly sensitive, “me scared mama” as we climb onto the train at the zoo.  Some TV shows scare you.  You say, “me scared” and grab my arm and bury your face in my shoulder.  I’m impressed you articulate your fear.  I love that you love to cuddle.

You are a daddy’s girl. You say, “Me ride daddy’s car.” This summer you’ve insisted, “Me want Daddy stay home and Mama work.” Sometimes your words sting, but I agree he is golden.  I too love to spend my days with your dad.  You, my daughter, are golden too.

You have your dad’s dark skin, dark eyes, curly hair, and my long torso.  You dribble a soccer ball, shoot a basketball, and love to run.  You spell your sister’s name over and over again.  Starting at 18 months, you saw signs with letters on them and sang your jolted ABCs in recognition.  You count to ten. You know your colors.  You sing the months of the year song that your sister learned in preschool.  You imitate your sister and have mastered language and ideas so quickly.

You are our welcoming committee, pure love and warmth.  You shriek with excitement when your dad comes home from work and rush to see him.  You exhibit joy whenever your grandmothers enter the house.  You love your Zaidy.  You run excitedly to give him the first hug and be lifted up into the air.  You love your cousin (three months your senior) and have claimed him as “your own” since big sister has her own big girl cousins.

You talk constantly.  Your mouth is constantly running telling us what you are thinking, what you are doing, what everyone else is doing, and what you were doing when your big sister was doing something else.  There is no end to your stories.

This year you acquired a love of books.  Your sister loved books from an early age.  A year ago you did not want to focus on a story, you now love to sit and read.  You love books that rhyme with musical language.  You love books about animals.

No label describes you.  You are wild cats, triceratops, and princesses.  You are playing sports and playing dolls.  You are outgoing and the next moment you hide in my shoulder.  You are giant snuggles and ‘leave me alones’. You are rough and tumble and pink fluffy skirts. You are impossible to capture in words and labels.

You teach me every day.  You taught me that my parenting or lack thereof did not make your big sister a rule follower or cause you to throw tantrums.  Our children are who they are, there is no singular parenting strategy for well behaved children. Parents cannot take all the credit for their childrens successes or all the blame for their flaws.  You taught me not to take everything so personally.  You taught me that parent preferences change, I can’t be offended if you want dad to say goodnight.   You helped me to start to let go of my perfectionism.

I am so lucky to be your mom.  You will press my buttons, but I will always be awed and inspired by your fire, spirit, and warmth.  You are my firecracker baby.

I love you two-years-old.

My Gripes with Gender Stereotypes

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Focus on Physical Beauty

My daughters are beautiful and I want them to know they are beautiful.  However, I am frustrated by people who feel the need to constantly comment on their physical beauty.  “You are so beautiful,” comments are nice to hear every once in a while, but it should not be the only thing one says to little girls.  They should hear that they are smart, fun, unique, adventurous, brave, and the list goes on, the more specific the comments the better.

Society’s fixation on female beauty infuriates me.  From fourth grade through college, I was uncomfortably aware of who was the most beautiful girl in my class.  Growing up, girls constantly hear how they rank in the spectrum of superficial beauty.  Throughout my life my physical attributes were compared to those of my sisters.  Strangers felt they could comment, “Your oldest daughter is so beautiful,” as my twin and I sat next to her.  We were labeled, the “pretty one”, the “smart one”, the “artist”.  I remember thinking “if only I was prettier, I’d have more friends … I’d be happier … life would be easier.”

I know I cannot protect my daughters from the superficiality of our world.  I want them to have healthy self esteem, so they never feel ugly in this world fixated on beauty.  But it irritates me that at two and four, adults constantly comment on their looks.  Adults don’t approach toddler boys and continuously comment on how pretty they are.  They may comment on it once, but it is not something daily repeated to little boys.  Beauty does not play a primary role in a boy’s narrative.  It should not be a part of a little girl’s either.  I hate that I have heard my three and a half year old daughter ask, “Am I beautiful?”, after hearing an adult make a pretty comment about her sister.  My daughters have a lifetime to worry about superficial beauty, they need not concern themselves with it now.

I am struck by my daughters’ beauty everyday. Sometimes I tell them they are beautiful and I hope my words stick within their brains, but I don’t want to focus on it.  Telling them they are beautiful every day is not going to make them have healthier self-esteem, instead it will teach them that the adults in their lives highly value physical beauty.  My daughters’ are so much more than their physical appearances and I wish adults focused less on little girls’ superficial beauty and more on their individuality.

As adults we need to think before we address young girls about their physical appearances.  Cute comments have become ingrained in our psyche, I fall prey to the superficial focus as well.   It’s important to thoughtfully consider our language and engage children in gender-neutral compliments.  The more specific the comments the better – “I love how much you like hyenas, it’s so cool that you’re not afraid of snakes, you run so fast, you climbed that wall so well, or you’re so brave on the slide” rather than “do you know how pretty you look today?… or “your outfit is beautiful.”

Toddler Boys are so Much Harder than Girls

Oh, how I can’t stand this comment.  Yes, typically boys are wild and rambunctious.  They like balls, trucks, and all things physical.  They aren’t sensitive.  They fall and pick themselves back up.  They are messy.  I admit that often gender stereotypes can be true, but who is to say they are always true?  Accordingly, who is to say one sex is harder than another?  (Who knows maybe I’ll have a boy and end up eating my words, but I don’t think so).

For those of you that continuously make this comment: (1) do you have both a boy and a girl?  (2) Is it easier to label it a gender difference rather than a personality difference, or a birth order difference?

My daughters are as different as night and day.  One is at times more reserved, a reader, an observer, more cerebral, sensitive, and the other is at times more physical, she’d sometimes rather throw a book than read it, wild, adventurous, a hitter, a kicker, and a biter.  I hate to even use these labels on either of them because they both change daily and at any given moment can be so different.  However, innately they were born with distinct personalities.  If my second was a boy then maybe I would write her physicality off as a gender difference, but she’s not, so I know there is a wide range of personalities and physical differences amongst both boys and girls.

One often hears, “he is pure boy”, alluding that he likes all the stereotypical boy things, as if other boys are not “pure” boy.  I assert that a boy can be “pure boy” and play dress-up or play with dolls.  My daughters are “pure girls”.  They sometimes play with dolls and princesses, but they often prefer to play with wild animals or dinosaurs.

Give Me a Kiss and I’ll Give You a Cookie

It is pretty obvious what is wrong with this comment when you see it typed in black and white.  But this statement is made over and over again to my daughters.  It is not always so blatant, but sometimes I even catch myself pressuring my daughters to give someone a hello hug when one or both clearly don’t want to.  Is pressure like this put on little boys too?  It shouldn’t be placed on boys or girls.

Teaching girls to ignore their feelings and succumb to the pressure to hug or kiss someone sets a bad precedent.  I want my girls to have boundaries.  I don’t want them to be people pleasers.  I want them to listen to their own feelings and respect them.  If they don’t feel like hugging or kissing someone then they shouldn’t have to do it.  They should not be rewarded for doling out physical affection and they should not be publicly embarrassed for wanting to maintain their own physical space.  My daughters need to learn that their feelings deserve respect and they shouldn’t make decisions based purely on an adult’s happiness. For instance, if a situation is uncomfortable then they should leave even if someone will be hurt or disappointed.  I may be jumping ahead of myself, but they need to know if they feel uncomfortable by someone’s touch, they can say no.  I want my girls to know they are valued for something other than their looks and their physical affection.

We need to teach our children to trust themselves starting at an early age.  I want my girls to know that I (as well as the other important adults in their lives) respect their feelings, and hopefully this respect can build the foundation for mutual (parent/child) respect in the future and their own healthy self respect.

You’re Pregnant Again????  I Hope It’s a Boy!!!!

For all of my readers that don’t know, we are pregnant again.  I am due for a New Year’s baby this time around and we will find out the sex in August.  We truly are excited to have either a boy or a girl, what’s important is a healthy baby.

It bothers me when people tell us that they hope it will be a boy.  It seems that people act as if giving birth to a boy is winning the gender lottery.  When I was pregnant for the second time with a second girl, some people were truly disappointed to hear we would have another girl.  Or they’d say, well maybe the third will be a boy.  It hearkens back to medieval times as if girls are second-class babies and everyone secretly wishes for a boy.

Of course we would love to experience a boy, but we would also love to have another girl.  All we want is a healthy and happy family.

Little Girl Underpants

Now that my youngest will be potty training soon, we are looking for underpants that will get her excited to ditch the diapers and use the potty.  The problem is the only underpants sold for girls are fairies, princesses, hello kitty, Dora, etc.  My girls like princesses and pink, but my youngest loves Diego the animal rescuer (Dora’s cousin), wild animals, dinosaurs, and the lost boys from Peter Pan.  None of these options are available for little girl underpants.  They are not all available for little boys, but the boy options are more fun, i.e. Diego, Lion King, Monsters Inc., Spider Man, etc.  My oldest didn’t love the girl options either, so I ended up buying her a set of boy underpants.  I didn’t think this is a problem, but sometimes I worry what their preschool teachers will think if I send my daughters to school in underpants that are clearly made for boys (i.e. the open flap in the front).  I know we must not be the only ones in the world with this problem, so why do clothing manufacturers genderize toddlers’ underpants?

Another issue with toddler underpants, once the sizes get out of the toddler range, it seems that the preschool and above sizes are all bikini styles.  Why should four and five year olds be wearing bikini cut underpants? Little boys get to jump up to boxers, which provide more coverage and more comfort while little girls’ underpants get skimpier once they hit elementary school, there is something seriously wrong with this scenario.

To conclude, I like princesses, fairies, and the color pink, but there should be more fun options for girls.  We don’t need to pigeon hole our children into gender stereotypes at two and four years old.  It’s all about creating more options.

Speaking of which, after writing this post I saw this video on the Huffington Post. Goldiblox was created by a woman disappointed in the under representation of women in engineering professions, so she created engineering toys for little girls.  She too was frustrated by the lack of toy options for little girls i.e. barbie dolls, dress up, etc.

What do you think about gender stereotypes?  Am I being overly sensitive?  Do you think there is too much focus on girls’ physical beauty, clothes, etc.?

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