This morning Josie has interspersed the phrase “my baby” about three hundred times into her two year-old pidgin English. Her sad excuse for a baby doll is a little black and white monkey stuffed animal. She’s made it clear that her baby’s favorite toy is a plastic sandwich bag. Most of the time its wrapped tight around baby’s face. She’s obviously a little unclear on maternal responsibilities toward infants, but still, I think her heart’s in the right place. The point is this little girl, now just over two and a half, is going full throttle into a girliness.
Before having a kid I used to fall more on the ‘nurture’ side of the debate. Not anymore. Since watching this little kid, and others, from day one, it’s pretty clear to me that there is A LOT of programming that comes pre-installed. Gender identity is one of those, and through no encouragement of my own Josie took a liking to horses before she could say the word. I believe in encouraging a child’s interests, regardless of my own, so we have many stuffed animal horses. I even bought a book on carving wooden rocking horses. Her interests have evolved though.
One morning Josie asked me about ballet. Ballet was in a picture book of hers (Angelina Ballerina). So I turn the computer on and we’re watching the Imperial Russian Ballet perform Swan Lake. My mother calls at this time, asks what we are doing. I tell her, and she tells me she is at Costco currently, and would it be okay if she bought her a ballerina tutu? This is now Josie’s most treasured object. If I don’t hide it from her sight, she will demand to wear it every day. She has x-ray vision though, so she finds it most of the time. When we look back through our photos of this period, I’m sure we will refer to it (in the past tense I hope!) as the “Tutu phase.” I think my transformation from a construction worker to a full-time dad was completed the day I carried her into a grocery store with this get-up on. Uh, that was little unclear – she, SHE, was wearing the tutu, not – oh, never mind.
She also, at least once a day, will go to the car and demand that I drive her to her ballerina lessons. Josie does not go to ballerina lessons. She’s two. I’ve informed her that she has to be at least four to go to ballet lessons. She, in return, confidently informs me that she is four. She uses her fingers for emphasis. Usually she only has three up.
With Sarah’s pregnancy, it seems Josie is now practicing to be a diminutive mother. When we go to story time at the library now, Josie’s MO is to immediately hoard the two dolls in the circle. She spend the rest of the hour ignoring the stories and songs in favor of undressing and dressing these two interracial doll sisters. Which is to say, since she can’t physically undo their snaps, that I spend the next hour undressing the dressing dolls. I’m beginning to suspect that having a stay at home dad as a caregiver isn’t making her more butch, but making me more effeminate.
I’m totally okay with this (her being a baby caregiver, not me becoming more effeminate). This kind of affection toward babies can only be for the better when the baby comes in the fall. What I’m desperately trying to defend her from is anything Disney that will ignite the pretty pink princess syndrome waiting to explode inside her. Ballerina? Okay, so maybe you’ll grow up to be a member of a backstabbing group of girls with bulimia. At least you’ll be cultured and artistic. Princess? No, I’m not going to have you fall victim to being an insecure appearance-based pink nightmare with entitlement issues and fairy wings. Hmmm. They actually don’t really sound all that far apart. And she’d likely grow out of the pink princess thing, while I could be stuck paying for ballet lessons into her late teens….I may have to rethink this.
I know she won’t last though. You can’t raise kids in a vacuum. Plus they just won’t fit in one after they get to be about three months old. One day the doctor’s office waiting room will be playing Aladdin or Nana will babysit and bring a copy of Cinderella. Something in her head will explode. I know this because while shopping recently for a birthday present for one of our friends’ kid the other day Josie found the Barbie aisle. The pink was so overpowering it dilated her pupils like someone taking their first hit of cocaine. Those social psychologists Mattel has on staff are brilliant. Without ever really seeing Barbie before Josie told me repeatedly, very clearly, “I like this one.” It was the barbie riding a pink horse. God help me.
See you at the recitals.