It gets harder you know. When they’re babies, their needs are basic: food, sleep, human contact, love, a change of diapers. I know I’m totally oversimplifying it and for some people the baby phase is the hardest, but I loved the baby phase, though admittedly our girls were relatively easy babies. But raising little girls, not babies, is so much harder as they get older. It’s the fine line between giving them enough freedom to discover and explore who they are while instilling enough discipline and guidance (yeah, yeah, the whole Tiger mom thing…lemme get to that in a different post) and shielding them from stuff you never want them to experience (impossible).
I cringe when people gush over how cute Claudine is in front of Mia. What’s worse is when they turn to me or her and say “oh, she’s cute too”, like an afterthought. I know they’re not being intentionally insensitive and a lot of times it goes unnoticed by Mia, but if it does I’ll just quickly brush it off by saying it’s only because Claudine is the baby. Even though my brother and I are 6 years apart, I’m not totally unfamiliar with sibling comparisons and competitiveness, but I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a sibling of the same sex so close in age, where the potential for constant comparison in looks, talent, smarts, whatever, is always there. You can do all you can to raise 2 girls with 2 totally different personalities into 2 confident young women, but it’s near impossible to protect them from the rest of the world.
I grew up in a culture where family members didn’t hold back on their opinions about appearance, weight, manner of dress, or pretty much anything else. I grew up in a culture where looks meant almost everything if you were a girl and if they thought you were looking like crap, they’d let you know. Any time we’d go to a family gathering, you were pretty much guaranteed some kind of comment and in my case it was things like, “oh, you’re looking much prettier than last time”, “you look better, not so skinny anymore”. The unsolicited comments weren’t necessarily bad things, but an uncle did once say to me that my clothes could be so much better, that he didn’t understand why my mom couldn’t buy me nicer clothes when she made all that money (I was 22 at the time). I never cared for conforming to whatever was deemed “pretty and acceptable” by my family (and by family, I mean extended family). I didn’t want to look “normal” and I usually wore whatever I wanted and none of those comments did much harm as I pretty much brushed them off (rolling my eyes, of course). But I did see it take a role in shaking the self esteem of my brother. I saw what seemingly innocent comments can do.
Some of my twitter friends and I laughed over piercings and tattoos the other day. We joked that we should have listened to our moms – not that we necessarily regretted it, but you really don’t think about how you might feel about these tattoos and empty pierced holes when you’re older. I never got any tattoos, but I do have some old piercings and wish somebody would have showed me a picture of a pregnant woman with a belly ring because yeah, if I had seen that shit I would have thought twice about it. I think I got addicted to poking holes in my late teens/ early twenties and as a result, have a million holes in each ear. I was still living in NY when I got my first nose ring (I’ve had 2). I’d take the nose ring out whenever I’d go see my parents because I knew they’d freak out. There was one summer when my extended family all took a vacation together and rented a few hotel rooms for all of us to cram into. Well, that was a dilemma, and I sort of went into a mild panic because I didn’t know what to do with the nose ring. It was still new enough that I knew it would close if I took it out all weekend. I think I even had to share a bed with my mom! But I snuck that stud in after I was sure everyone in the room was asleep and then woke up early enough to take it out before anybody got up. Ha! By the end of the weekend, I felt triumphant that I fooled everyone. I think it was a few years later in the car when we were driving somewhere that at a stoplight, my mom turned to me and said “you have a nose ring, don’t you?”. I said yes. There was a pause and she said “I can’t believe you did that”. The light turned green and she started driving again.
I know that eventually my girls will come home wanting to wear or do something that I don’t approve of or like. It’s hard to imagine what my reaction will be. Maybe the fact that I still pick out clothes everyday for Mia, who is almost 7, is just a form of control to avoid any confrontations, I don’t know! There are definitely some items of clothing that Mia has wanted to wear that I just flat out said no to because I didn’t like them. (Edit: I should add that Mia is fine with me picking out her clothes in the morning. She is not so focused on clothes yet and doesn’t usually care what she wears). Maybe this is acceptable now because they’re still young, but what about when they’re older? I don’t look forward to the day we’ll battle it out over some article of clothing. We’re already dealing with lots of attitude that’s starting to emerge ever since she started first grade. Now that I’m older, I can’t say for certain that I won’t react like my mom, even though I swore when I was 18 I would be totally cool and let my kids do whatever they wanted. It’s hard sometimes not to get totally exasperated by your kids and let your words be ruled by your emotions. I think this is where you get in trouble. I think like so many other aspects of parenting, we’ll just wing it as we go. I’ll just have to remember that I was a teenager once too, dying my hair all sorts of colors, getting things pierced, wearing ripped fishnets and Doc Martins. It only seems like yesterday. Can’t believe I’m already on the flip side.