I adopted my daughter from China, and from the time I met her I have felt like she has a very strong and interesting personality. Well, all mothers love their children, right?
I remember once, before I had my daughter, when I went shopping with a mom and her young daughter, and I was a little taken aback at how much the mom controlled her daughter’s clothing. It was not just that she, the mom, did all the choosing, it was that everything that the daughter picked out, the mom responded with statements like, I don’t like that. I’m not buying that. That’s a stupid outfit. Those are not direct quotations, but the general spirit of the thing. I felt as if it wasn’t enough to deny her daughter the choosing of the clothes, it was the addition of insult to each choice, as if the mother just could not get over how horrible and stupid her daughter’s taste was, and wanted her to know, to be put in her place.
With my own daughter I have faced some clothing challenges: number one, by age three she had given up pants. No more pants. Only skirts, only dresses. No sneakers. No shorts.
This preference means nothing to me, but drives my own mother a little crazy I think. Many times she has sent my daughter presents of shorts, and each time my daughter has opened the package and been sorely disappointed. Frankly I think she feels unheard by my mom.
The second challenge of having a fashion-determined daughter, her friends and/or their moms/grandmoms. My neighbor has a granddaughter who sometimes comes and plays with my daughter, but my neighbor will not take my daughter anywhere in a dress, and her granddaughter has zero dresses. Usually my neighbor will invite my daughter, then send my daughter home in tears because she says, “You cannot do (insert any activity here) in a dress.” Then I walk over and ask, “Are you really saying she cannot go because of her clothes?” And my neighbor says, “I didn’t think you would want her to go in a dress,” careful dodge there. And then, finally, my daughter can go, at last, in her dress. But, we always do this dance, each time her granddaughter visits. I think it’s simply cruel. My neighbor calls herself a liberal, but she is blind to her own conservative controlling ways.
For my child, for my neighbor’s grandchild, and for all girls who are, fortunately and unfortunately, raised by women, women who often are passing down their anxieties, and their prejudices about who and what women can be, prejudices that they received as gifts from their own moms or grandmas or aunts or sisters, I’d love to see this kind of in-home harassment stop.
This is what I want to try to make myself do, to curb all my own little micro-agressions against my daughter.
I want to make a pledge:
~If my daughter is chubby, too thin, or perfect, I will bless her, and help her to understand, feed, and regulate her own appetites as it suits her.
~If my daughter’s outfit is clashing, too loud, too feminine, too masculine, or just not my style, I will bless her, and let her go out into the world and find her tribe.
~If my daughter does not do or say or think or wear or eat what I would do or say or think or wear or eat, I will bless her. Let her go; let her grow, I want to be the place she can come back to and always feel accepted. You never know, someday, at some party, some future Supreme Court Justice might just get her and hold his hand down over her mouth so tightly that she thinks she’s going to suffocate and die right on that spot. Or some boy or girl might marry her, and go about taking her apart with little insults, or big ones, little injustices, or big ones, piece by piece, until she is trapped and so fractured she cannot free herself. Or someday maybe everything will evolve around her into the most perfect world and the most perfect life. Or any spot on the line in between…. And because anything is possible I will pledge that, regardless,
~I will kiss her, bless her sweet head, and try my damnedest teach her that I am always the place that she can come to, can run to; I want to always be the nest, the place of no judgement, the place she’s loved best.