raising girls pt. 1

October 22, 2010 |  Category:   life parenting

I’ll be the first to admit to you that when I left the 20 wk ultrasound of my first pregnancy and found out that we were having a girl I was happy. Like so stupidly, gleefully happy that I wonder if I would have been disappointed if I found out I was having a boy. Which is ridiculous, of course, but if I was being truly honest, I’m glad that I didn’t find myself in the situation to see whether or not that would be true. When we found out that we were having another girl a few years later, I was almost as ecstatic as I was the first time around. I will even admit to you that we tried the shettles method for what it was worth to get that other girl. Sometimes I think back to the miscarriage in between the 2 pregnancies and wonder if that lost baby was a boy. Some things happen for a reason though. We were totally meant to have Claudine and I fear to think that if the cards were played out differently, she may not be here. Although we would have been happy with a boy, Mark admitted he wanted another girl too. Maybe it’s because I always wanted a sister. Maybe it’s because Mark didn’t have a male figure around for the later part of his life growing up and was more comfortable with girls. Seems funny to think that he’d feel more comfortable raising a girl than a boy, but it was true. It was probably true for me too. Or maybe it was because it just seemed easier to have another girl since we’d already been through it before and it was going to be more of the same. We knew what to expect.

So far, raising girls has been fairly “easy”. When they’re babies and toddlers it’s about cute dresses, pigtails, striped tights, patent leather mary jane shoes, maybe some dolls and maybe some dress up clothes. Mia was never particularly girly when she was little. She was more interested in puzzles, maps and letters than she was princesses, though she certainly got more into that sort of thing when she got older. I still pick out what she wears every morning and it’s usually met without protest. I wonder when she’ll start asserting her own opinions about the clothes I pick out for her. I wonder when she’ll want to go shopping with me and I wonder what she would choose if given the choice.

Now that she is in school, I see the influences of her peers around her. She wants to grow out her hair from the Louise Brooks bob that suit her so well so that she can wear barrettes and ponytails. She asks when she can get her ears pierced. She asks why she can’t wear makeup. She loves pretty dresses like any other girl, but so far, what she’s wearing to school doesn’t seem to matter to her too much. It’s really only a matter of time. She’s still not really a girly girl at age 6 in that regard, but she and Claudine do love putting on play makeup, lip gloss and painting their faces. I wonder where it comes from. I don’t wear much makeup so it doesn’t come from watching me. Is it just inherent in girls to like this stuff just like I hear from my friends who have boys that despite what they do or don’t do, most boys just flat out like trains and cars and shooting and swords? It’s so interesting, isn’t it?

The girls play this game sometimes that drive me a bit crazy. They’ll get dressed up and go all fancy and they’ll ask each other “do I look pretty?”. And the other will usually answer, “not so pretty” and they’ll go back and forth on this for a few rounds until one of us intervenes. They’ll also trade jabs at each other, sizing up the other and saying that she has a prettier dress on. I never had a sister so I don’t know if this is completely normal sisterly behavior. I suppose with girls so close in age it’s par for the course to have rivalry, competition and jealousy. Maybe it’s because Claudine has an older sister to look up to that Mia never had, but it worries me a little when she stares at the mirror at her reflection and whines that hair style is not “pretty enough”, that her fading, smeared face painting is “not pretty anymore”. It may be 3 year old talk, though Mia never went through this phase, but I see now how early the seeds are planted for body image and self esteem issues.

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  • Helen October 22, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I hear you. I have two girls too (and I was equally delighted)who just turned 5 and 3. It seemed that from one day to the next, they switched from liking maps and numbers and machines to princesses and unicorns and fairies and rainbows. It certainly happened earlier with the youngest. The endless do I look pretty/ this dress is not pretty/ my sister is not pretty drives me a little batty, as does the coveting of other kids’ clothes/ makeup/ earrings.
    Right now they are arguing about the “pretty cherry pink” pencil and which cat is prettiest, simultaneously. Growing up with two older brothers I don’t remember this at all, but suspect it must be normal girl-sibling behaviour.

  • lindsay October 22, 2010 at 10:31 am

    You sound as though you’re writing about my girls too. They are 4 & 6 and they do the same sort of thing. They always do the critical dress up routine. My older one even had the nerve to slam the younger’s hand me downs (which are in great condition, and adorable I might add). “It’s not the NEW style”. ugh. The begging for pierced ears, braces, and straight hair is trickling in and I’m hoping I have all the parenting skills necessary to ward off those self esteem issues, promote being an individual, etc. Tough job.

  • Annie October 22, 2010 at 10:37 am

    I was terrified to be having a girl, mostly because my relationship with my mom was pretty bad at that time and din’t want that to repeat. It all changed once she was born.
    Then I had a boy… wow what a difference. If he had been first we would most likely be a one child family, the amount of energy and fearlessness he has drain you completely.
    Uma, my girl, is not the girliest, but like Mia, you can see the influence that school is having on her…sometimes it kills me.
    … the make up thing also amazes me, specially because all the make up i own is mascara that my sister gave me.
    From growing up with a sister I can tell you that there will always be a rivalry and a competition, but also an understanding that you wont have with anyone else.

    … you have THE most beautiful girls!

  • Jen Laceda October 22, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I have 2 girls (3.5 years old and 7 months) myself and I can’t imagine ever having boys!

    I guess this is what I have to look forward to with 2 girls….

  • kay* at from india. with love. October 22, 2010 at 11:40 am

    my sister JUST had her 20 week ultrasound and found out that she’s having a girl…her first child – my first time being an aunt. i’m so excited it’s kind of ridiculous. i’ll have to email this to her to read.

  • Elisabet October 22, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Well, I still don’t think the girlieness is genetiacally inherent, but we can not isolate our kids from society, and society has pretty set rules about gender. Not even the energy thing is totally a gender thing I think, sure, I have a little girl who is reasonably calm, but at the same time my cousin got a little girl who is more energetic and forward than any little boy I know, just like my cousin herself. We are shaped by our surroundings, and of course the second child will be influenced by its older sibling, who in turn of course is influenced by friends and other. That said, I always thought I wanted a boy, I have two brithers, but when I got pregnant I wished for a girl

  • Jo October 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I seriously love reading your posts. Most blogs I dislike the reading and yearn for more photos, your writing is captivating. My husband and I have yet to have children of our own but hope to someday, soon. I have a strange feeling that we will have girls and, if not, I am confident we will be just as happy with boys. I have a sister who is two years younger. I am not sure when the jealousy began but I remember we really disliked one and other. I mean serious dislike – pulling hear, mean comments, etc. We were extremely competitive. I was so jealous of her natural talent when it came to school and athletics and she was jealous of some traits of mine, some of which I can’t recall now. My parents never did pin us against each other and sadly we both suffered through some major body image issues, they were always so perplexed at how and why these things came about. Today, I am very comfortable in my own skin. I believe that it is important to not make comments like “I look fat today” or “I’m watching calories, I can’t eat that” as I believe girls, and boys too, can get enough of this from the outside. It sounds like you are giving your girls everything they need. Know and trust that one day they will be confident, lovely adult woman who love each other very much and want nothing but the best. I am so happy I have a sister; words can’t express how proud I am of her. I know that she feels the same way. Thanks for sharing!

  • tina October 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I have a daughter and a son. My husband, admittedly, would have liked another daughter but he fiercely loves his son. My daughter, who is 7, was and is still into all the princess things but I never dressed her particularly girly – more jeans than skirts or dresses. She too has asked me when can she wear makeup and have her ears pierced. I just tell her all in good time.

    Although, I would have liked my daughter to have a sister (as I grew up with 4 sisters), she does have a girl cousin who is a year older and only has a brother. So the two of them are sort of like sisters to each other.

  • SY October 22, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    We have the opposite, two boys and I often wonder if the miscarriage I had in between was a girl. I too know that life as we know it might be completely different had the pregnancy made it through, my sweet and funny 7 year old probably wouldn’t exist today and I can’t imagine life without either of my boys. Funny, but the whole body image issue does affect boys, just not as strongly as with girls. I think it’s up to us as parents to instill a healthy body image into our kids and we try to remind ours daily that it’s about what’s on the inside, not on the outside that matters.

  • neta October 22, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    I have 2 girls ( 20 and almost 18 ) and a boy ( 13 )
    The girls loved to dress up ( still do ) put on jewlery, and I also have no idea where they got it from because I was a tomboy and perfectly happy with jeans and a T, no make, no jewlery…. they loved when I bought them clothes and let me pick their outfits up until about the 7th grade!
    My boy, on the other hand, had a very sound opinion on what he wants to wear from the time he was 2! no “baby” motifs on T’s, only pants or sweats that were super comfy for him. it’s funny, i really had to take in consideration colors he liked et”c…
    I guess a lot of it is in the genes, and a lots from what they pick up, all though I must say when it came to clothing non of them was ever much influenced by what “everyone’s” wearing.. ( thank god ) and they loved hand-me downs from cousins and friends… so that’s nice:)

  • elena October 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    loved your post, you made me remember exactly how I felt when I found out I was having a girl 4 years ago. in this crappy day that i’m having today it feels good to remember that, thank you.

  • Justine Hand October 22, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    If it makes you feel better, my kids do the same thing, except I have a girl and a BOY. And it’s my son who always wants to know who is prettier. So maybe it’s less of a gender issue than one might think. Might just be kids trying to navigate feelings of sibling rivalry. I can relate to how it makes you feel tho, it always make me feel terrible whenever I hear my kids not being 100% confident in who they are. Feels like grad school all over again! I wish I could spare them that.

  • Caroline October 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Hi there. Came across your blog from buying your cookies and this is my first comment! I really look forward to your posts b/c I am a designer by trade as well, and a newish parent, and yes, slightly neurotic about things. I appreciate your candour about things.

    I was the opposite in this case – I was very nervous about having a girl (she is 21 mos now) as I have a difficult relationship with my mother and I feel destined to repeat some of that. Thankfully I’m loving every minute of life with Ivy:)

    People are a;lready asking me though, is Ivy girly? And I kinda dont know what to say. Is it even possible to tell at 21 months? Also, it makes you think about how we define gender. If Ivy likes to run and climb is that considered boyish or just normal toddler? If she’s really social and loves to chatter, is that her personality or is it girly? I hate to box her in this early…

  • Kayla @ Exquisite Banana October 22, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Great post. I am 24 and have a 21 year old sister, who I am extremely close to (and always have been). I just had a memory of being about 6 and 3 and putting on capes and high heels as “princess mommy dinosaur superheroes.” (it made perfect sense!) I now teach preschool in Manhattan and am constantly in awe of how much imagination and candor surrounds me daily. I only worry for my kiddos when I don’t see what I perceive to be a strong, loving, and supportive foundation at home. But Mia and Claudine? They have a couple of real “good eggs” for parents. I think they’ll be more than alright 🙂

  • Emma October 23, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Your girls are so pretty!

  • Kaci October 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    I’m 22 and if I were to have kids in the future, I secretly hope that they would be boys. I think it’s easier to raise boys- especially teenaged boys. Just remembering some of the things my friends and I did as young teens scares me. And most of the times, the things we did, we did to impress guys. *sigh*

  • Sherry October 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I have a son that is 2.5 years old. He has five older, girl cousins, ages 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7. He also has one younger than him that is 1. Because of this, we have all seen the different stages and revisited them the past seven years. I can say this, I never thought there were things that “boys” generally do that “girls” don’t and vice versa. But it is amazing the genetic make-up that come with your sex, not only your parents genes & environment parts, but the simple fact that you are a “boy” or a “girl”. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone, but what I’ve seen, it’s interesting. Here’s an example, two of the girl cousins were crying, real sobs, real emotions over a stuffed animal that they both wanted but only one could have. I was shocked that they felt that way and my mother-in-law says “oh, they do it all the time”. If they were boys, no tears, only wrestling, pushing, shoving and grabbing.

    I do like what Elisabet wrote about society. My husband read something to me the other day, it was an ad on a kids toy website that said to list if you wanted the blue or pink. It made a joke about how kids don’t know blue is for boys and pink is for girls until we teach them that.

    Anyway you look at it, it’s hard to raise a child, girl or boy. You only want the best for them. And for them to grow up feeling confident in their own skin and loving who they are.

    Thanks for sharing Jenna. I love your insight.

  • Trang Le-Huy October 24, 2010 at 4:44 am

    I’m sure you won’t have any problems as the girls get older. And if you do, it’ll only be because your girls are so beautiful.

  • Sandy October 24, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Wow! Raising girls can be complex. I’m sure that your girls will grow up great, as you are aware of these subtle things and have insight to their thoughts. You and your husband will affirm them and their abilities and they’ll grow up confident trusting in you.

  • Theresa October 25, 2010 at 6:17 am

    I think kids are totally sponges to their enviorment, as in if they watch any kids shows (anything from Yo Gabba, Gabba, Little Einsteins to Mickey Mouse) they get it… girls are always girly and the boys are boys.  Girls wear dress often in pink, yellow, red and orange and boys wear blues, brown and black.  Girls have curly eye lashes and longish hair (or pinned up hair) while boys have short hair or no hair.  Even toys are super masculine or totally girly at a super early age.   

    I have a 17 month old boy and a 3.5 year old girl.  Since day one Quincy has been much more aggressive Tilda so maybe we are just born into it?? Tilda is totally getting into the “I want to look pretty”, “you look so pretty” thing but guess what she hears everytime she sees grandma or at least a couple times a week at daycare drop off.  Plus she sees moms, sisters, teenagers on the street, she’s three but she sees her surroundings and she takes it all in. I wonder if she would be talking about “pretty things” if we lived in some random village in South America.  Maybe but I doubt at such an early age.  It’s all very interesting!

  • Chuzai Living October 25, 2010 at 9:47 am

    I had miscarriage between my two girls as well and I think about the same thing you wrote. If the card was played differently, would I have not met my second child? That idea kind of scares me. Things do mean to happen and I am happy with how things happened. Lovely pictures as always. Your girls are growing and so are mine. Kaho

  • PJ October 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    I have made my desire for a daughter known to my husband, who, of course, hopes we have a son when the times comes to start a family. Ideally, we’d have one of each, but I have this irrational fear that if we don’t have a girl first, we’ll never have one. I understand that boys may be easier to raise, but I desperately want to have close mother-daughter bond with my child when she grows up. I’m not sure mother-son bonds are the same.

  • siri October 27, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Hi Jenna. Yet another good post…Our little boy was born after 3 early-term miscarriages, so the question of what gender those 3 little souls were, does surface from time to time. Alas, it doesn’t matter. Even though his gender was kept a suprise until the day of his birth, I always secretly knew (and yes, kind of hoped for) a little boy. Until just recently, I was in complete denial that all little boys prefer cars and trucks and swords over dolls and tea parties. But then he immediately ran over his new boy “doll” with a Tonka truck. You’re right, even at 8 months, there’s something to it…

  • s October 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    The first paragraph of this post really hit home with me as we had almost exactly the same experience…except we found out we were having a boy.

    Throughout the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy I had thought it didn’t matter to me either way, but I knew DH wanted a girl for similar reasons to your husband.

    When the doctor told us, a tear slid down my eye. And then a few more followed when he left the room. I was disappointed! I couldn’t believe I had had that reaction. I was really overcome with intense emotion about all of it – what did I know about raising a boy? What I eventually realised is that all the things I was imagining about my child to be were slightly girl focused things – the birthday parties we’d have, the hallowe’en costumes, etc. And, of course, I felt like I could relate to the girl experience.

    It was rather a jarring experience and I felt awful for feeling that way. After zooming around on the interwebs I found out that it was quite normal to have the reaction I was having. Eventually I made the adjustment in my mind, and ideas for boys birthdays and costumes etc. started coming.

    My little guy is almost 2.5, and I have to say that I absolutely LOVE having a boy. He is the perfect match for us, and hopefully we for him.

    But man did that throw me for a loop.

  • Anissa October 29, 2010 at 9:44 am

    I’ve always refused to believe that my boys and girl would be any particular way based on their sex and, I think, as a result, they refuse to conform to those stereotypes. My 9 year-old boy wants Kit, the American Girl doll for Christmas. He also wants a hand held video game system. My 7 year-old daughter wears dresses or skirts nearly every day and yet, while looking at all of the sexist Halloween costumes this year, declared, “I’m not a very girly girl.” She can be found much of the time playing action heros or stuffed animals with her brother. Or, when friends come over, playing Barbies with them. It’s lovely and refreshing to have them interested in fashion and adult life (Barbies) as well as really great to have my daughter playing in powerful adventures with her brother. I love having a boy and a girl so close in age. They are best friends and I think that it helps them see that boys and girls aren’t really very different after all.

  • shisomama November 1, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    I’ve been waiting for Part 2 of this post! I have a boy and a girl, and have tried to raise them without gender biases, just like Anissa, but I’ve found that people treat boys and girls differently. It’s not just that my family will buy pink stuff and dolls for my girl and blue stuff and cars for my boy, but they will talk about them differently – her in terms of how cute she is and about him with regard to how smart he is. And they also expect him to be loud and misbehave and her to be quiet and obedient. It drives me crazy. And unfortunately, it’s not just my family that does this.

    And now that my son’s started kindergarten, I see that’s he’s also become more aware of what his friends think, and it’s really breaking my heart to see him moderate his behavior according to what he thinks his peers will like. I’m trying to tell him to be his own person, but I can definitely see why parents (definitely not me) decide to homeschool.

  • Nina November 3, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Oh dear…
    I’ve read your blog before, and feel in love with your girls.
    Probably because they remind me, maybe a little too much, of my sister and I. We were painfully close when were were little, playing dress up, making fun of each other, just like it sounds like your girls do.
    My sister and I have drawn apart, I assume that’s what happens when you grow older.
    I miss her. And I hope your girls stay best friends, because it’s very difficult out there after years of being together like that.
    You’re girls are gorgeous 🙂

  • Patty C. July 16, 2011 at 11:46 am

    It is true that the whole “am I pretty, am I not pretty?” issue comes up early and can affect self-esteem early on.
    I thought this article was quite true: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html
    It was also enlightening and made me check how I talk to little girls when I first meet them.