Friday, January 25, 2008

The Things We Hand Down...

So I have to tell you about my deep "soul-searching" around my daughter's birthday. While preparing for her party, I had to pick out a cake for her -- nothing super fancy from the bakery anymore. I find that for the kids parties that she likes to have now that she is in school, the traditional sheet cake decorated with the latest popular characters is the best way to go. When I went to the store to place the order, I looked through the book with all of the cakes and there were a few she's already had, and a few that are now too "baby-ish" for her (in her opinion), and there were a few that she would have liked and I chose one of those -- a "Bratz" cake. Now, I am NOT a huge fan of the Bratz dolls, and my girl has "suffered" because of this -- ALL of her friends have them, and some of her cousins -- she was like a social outcast (in her mind) because up until last year she did not own any. If you have ever seen a Bratz doll, you will know what I am talking about -- I feel as though they look very similar to a cartoon prostitute, which I do not really find to be super appropriate for a 7 year old. Well, Mommy will not buy them for her, but Santa has given her a Bratz doll each of the last two Christmases -- but at least he has picked out the most tasteful, least obnoxious that he could find...

With this in mind, I was talking to my best friend Christine after I ordered this cake and I said that they also had a cute Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean cake that my father would love, and a Harry Potter cake that my mother would love. And I mention that I was torn, because my girl also LOVES Harry Potter -- LOVES him -- and has mentioned having a Harry Potter themed party the past 2 years, but I have kind of swayed her into a different direction. Christine then calls me on the carpet about ordering a cake for a character that I am mostly opposed to, and not letting my child have the Harry Potter theme party that she would really like. I say, "Well, I know, but the Bratz cake actually is the least offensive Bratz product that I have seen, and she does really like them, and I think that my girl would be the only one at the party that would like Harry Potter." SO? It is HER birthday! "Yes, I know, but it's all little girls and I don't want them to think she's odd because she likes Harry Potter and they don't." And Christine told me, "If SHE doesn't have a problem with it, don't MAKE HER HAVE a problem with it!"

And so I've been pondering that for a while now... Where did this come from? Aren't I the mom who bought my girl the "Free to be You and Me" dvd that I watched in the '70's? Didn't I sit there with her, watching it countless times (she LOVES that dvd, by the way!) and talk about the story/song "William has a Doll" and how it's perfectly ok for boys to play with dolls and for girls to play with trucks and what have you? Don't I think that women can do anything that men can do (and better, sometimes...)? Aren't I trying to raise my girls to be strong, confident, independent, free-thinking women? So where is the disconnect with the Harry Potter cake?

After a lot of thought on the subject, I don't think that it has anything to do with "girls should like girly-things and boys should like boy-things." I think it comes from a fear that I always had growing up that I was not going to fit in, and that I didn't want to be different from everyone else. Was I different? Well, everyone is different, which I tell my daughter now, because if we were all the same the world would be a very boring place. But, was I really some stand out from the crowd, weird child? I would definitely have to say, no. In fact, looking back I think I was terribly boring and average -- I wanted to blend into the crowd -- I would about keel over if someone noticed me! And interestingly, I think I blended fantastically -- I am quite convinced (and although my friends would disagree, there is mounting evidence to the fact) that almost no one that I went to school with remembers me! I think I am much more outgoing now -- still not interested in getting up on stage by myself and performing for a crowd, but much better with meeting new people -- yes, I am definitely more confident as an adult.

And my husband has told me time and again about how when he was growing up he was so shy that he would sit in the car at family functions and would at some point after the party started, slip into the shadows, trying to ease into being noticed -- by this family!

So, the fact that we have this daughter who, at times has a hint of shyness, but for the most part seems to relish having a spotlight turned on her 24/7 -- really, beyond me! And not only is she not as shy as her parents were at her age, she really does not seem to give a hoot about what people think of her! She loves Harry Potter and she doesn't care if she is the only girl in the first grade who knows about Harry Potter. She loves the "Laura Ingalls" bonnet that her "Aunt" Chrissy gave her, and she'll wear it to school, or out shopping at the mall -- doesn't bother her one bit if she looks different from other people!

I'm so proud of her for being her own person and being confident about who she is -- I just pray that I keep my ancient insecurities to myself and I don't pass those on to my daughter! I always try to encourage her creativity, and I'm going to make it a point to encourage her confidence and her uniqueness, as well! Oh, and on her actual birthday, I surprised her with the Harry Potter cake, and she loved it -- just like I knew she would!


Christine said...

I think this is a very insightful and honest piece. It's hard to turn the lens on ourselves sometimes and see the way we may influence our children.

It's hard because no one wants to be the outcast. However, we want this even more for our own children. I think watching an outcast child might be more traumatizing for the adult than the child! So I completely understand.

I love that she loves her bonnet and wears it proudly, heck, I don't even do THAT. She's a real independent girl. She'll have that forever.

Deanna said...

I definitely feel that "mama bear" instinct come up whenever I feel as though someone is treating my child harshly or unfairly! That's another thing that is hard to deal with as a mother -- trying not to take things too personally and get inappropriately defensive if someone says something about or does something to your child. Especially when they get into school!

We just try our best to influence her to be a good person and she's definitely exhibited confidence at an early age, but I'm also proud that she shows her good heart a lot as well!