A few weeks ago we got the big news: WE’RE HAVING A GIRL!
I’d say we were surprised when we found out, but we both were so sure it was a girl that by 20 weeks in that when the ultrasound tech told us it was a girl we literally replied with something along the lines of, “Didn’t you already say that? Because we knew.” (It should also be pointed out it took over an hour of the tech trying to get all the readings and measurements her exact words finally were, “Of course it’s a girl, a boy would never be this much trouble!” Which, okay, fair.) We are naming the new little nugget Daphne and we have since learned that people either react to that name with, “I love that name!” or, “Oh, um, so, how’d you come up with that?*”
We have a c-section scheduled for April 4th, which apparently is 3.75 months away, which sounds like that’s tomorrow, which freaks me out so much I need to stop talking about that fact right now before I continue this ridiculous run-on sentence any further.
So, moving on. A girl. Wow. While we knew we were having a girl even before we found out officially, Chris and I started talking about all the things we didn’t know about having a girl. Is diapering different? (Yes.) Is sleeping different? (Um, no? Yes? You mean likely little to no sleep for at least 2-3 months? Then no, no different, apparently.) We just wanted to know what we didn’t know! (Everything. We know nothing, per usual, Jon Snow.)
One of the big things we started thinking about (read as: people kept mentioning to us) was the subject of clothing. “Oh how nice you’ll have one of each!” people would say. (Agreed! Yay!) “Too bad they can’t share clothes because they’re different sexes though!” many would then continue. Typically I would look at the person befuddled because it would never occur to me that my girl can’t wear jeans, navies, blues, green, or any multitude of “boy” clothes. I can’t say I honestly care whether or not my girl baby “looks” like a girl baby. Babies are babies, and babies are cute, whether they are in pink or blue. Connor was constantly mistaken for a girl despite wearing “boy” clothes, and I’m sure Daphne will be for a boy, even if she is wearing a pink tutu and a bow on her head.
No, the real “problem” with clothes we’re facing is the actual logistical spacing of the chitluns. They will be 2.5 years apart (within 2 days of exactly 2.5 years, actually, assuming Daphne doesn’t make an early grand entrance into the world) which sounds great on paper until you realize that the 6 month difference actually means their clothes are diametrically opposed to each other. When Connor was 3 months old it was January and when Daphne will be 3 months old it will be July. Their sizes and clothes for the seasons, by and large, simply will not mesh well for reuse.
This timing conundrum is what leads me to looking at clothes for girls almost constantly and wondering, “what the damn hell, world?!” And then I start thinking bigger, which is when I usually start thinking that question in all caps in my head.
Suddenly all the articles I’ve read about girl and boy clothes make so much sense. I am given flashbacks to a Gap ad from this year that was almost universally panned because the boy clothes were advertised as “The little scholar: your future starts here” with a t-shirt with Albert Einstein on it (cute! So cute! Yay science! Industry! Innovation!) while the little girl clothes were advertised as “The Social Butterfly: …the talk of the playground” because, why? Girls don’t care about science? Girls have to be social to succeed while boys don’t?
I’m still baffled by this. Here, let me show you the exact ad I’m talking about and then we can go on.
What’s sad to me is that Gap got in trouble because the Internet-at-large decided this one time was annoying, not because they are the exception to the rule. Here, let me give you another example of what I’m talking about that didn’t get that kind of backlash.
A few months ago there was an Internet-at-large fad called “3 characters.” The premise is simple and fun: you name the 3 fictional characters that best encompass your personality or put them up as a picture (it’s more fun if you do the picture thing because The Internet). Chris and I had a healthy debate about his 3 characters and settled on these three:
The important thing about 3 Characters** is that you name the characters that actually represent you, not the ones you wish represented you. When it came to my turn we stalled. Completely. We got Liz Lemon from 30 Rock and Jane from Jane the Virgin because her struggles in parenthood and balancing a creative career have been so beautifully depicted on the show. But then..nada. Here’s what my 3 Characters looks like:
Again, totally stuck on my third. I racked my brain trying to find female characters. Mindy? Well, I love Mindy (well, before she went to Hulu, that is) and her style, but she’s not my inner being as she is (funnily) only interested in popular culture and her own self image. The Gilmores? Nope, not really. Rory is far too type-A, Lorelei strikes me as being far too immature for being 32+ (which I am happy to debate her stunted emotional development having had a child at 16, but still doesn’t capture my inner being either way). The Sex and the City ladies? Can’t say that any one of them captures a huge part of my personality. Jessica Day from New Girl? I love her style but I’m simply not as into crafting, glitter, and all things that make her funny. Lucille Bluth? Obviously into the “wish” category and not the “actual” representation one, like Jack Donaghy is for Chris. Anyhow, you get the idea. Thinking of female characters with big parts was hard enough, but finding female characters that didn’t have only one dominating personality trait became almost impossible, especially when trying to find a personality trait that wasn’t “hyper-tense” or “ultra girly-girl”.
The exercise was frustrating because mostly I wanted to put my three characters up and participate, but by the time I had finished my existential crisis and lack of understanding of why women in popular culture are portrayed as one-dimensional beings the fad was over. (To be fair, it lasted approximately 30 hours.)
I came to the realization that the conversation underlying my anxiety about having a girl was a much more nuanced conversation than what the-media-at-large was willing (and/or able) to have. It’s also a conversation I am definitely not qualified to speak at length about. But in my opinion, pink isn’t the “problem”, because if you like pink, wear pink! Pink is cool, just like purple, or blue, or green, or any color that strikes your eyeballs in a pleasing way. The problem for me, I came to realize, is that kids (and adults!) are rarely given books, cartoons, shows, that depict women or girls as lead characters with more than one personality trait, where male characters are more often multifaceted and nuanced.
So what do I do about this for my own children? Little things. I read Madeline to Connor just as much as Paddington. Just because Madeline is a girl doesn’t make it “off limits” to boys, just like having a male character won’t make a book “off limits” to girls (which, thank goodness, because we’d pretty much be left with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Madeline otherwise). The thing I work toward is normalizing female and male characters to both my children, regardless of their gender.
The thing, is, though, this normalizing thing is harder than it sounds, as demonstrated by my own difficulty with the 3 Characters exercise and Chris’s ease with it. Then, almost by fate, I met Andrea Doshi, who also happened to be thinking about this exact problem. Only, instead of stress-eating chocolate and cheese (as was apparently my personal solution) she went out and did something cool. Thank goodness for people like Andrea.
The lack of female protagonists isn’t in my head. According to a study done in 2011, only 31% of children’s books have a female protagonist. You guys, females don’t even make up a third of female protagonists in kids literature. Not. even. a. third. When I said “normalizing is hard”, I didn’t realize I meant “normalizing is next to impossible.” I’m going to add this to my “list of reasons to have a glass of wine in less than 4 months” as number 348,734,872.
So while I was busy eating chocolate and cheese, Andrea and her sister-in-law Jimena started a passion project to create a series of fairy tale books with female characters as the leads, based on real-life women in history. Cool, right? Like, super cool. The first in the series is about Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license. Since my dad was a pilot this one holds a very special place in my heart. This little girl dreaming of touching the sky someday is exactly how my dad talked about flying airplanes.
In order to get these fantastic books off the ground and printed there is a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money. Funds have to be raised by January 15, and for $15 you will receive your very own copy of “Bessie, Queen of the Sky” once printed. What I love is these books aren’t just for little girls – they’re for every child who wants to imagine what they can do if they put their mind to it, which is to say more simply: every child. And, because that wasn’t big enough, they will donate a book to local and international literacy charities for every book purchased in a one-to-one program. Wow.
My anxieties in raising a little girl (slash, child) in the world in which we live in today haven’t really gotten lower, and we as a society have a lot to talk about, clearly. But knowing that I can help normalize the idea of women and men both being able to choose their paths, favorite colors, and participating fully in 30-hour internet memes with equal ease is comforting.
Now, to actually go prepare for a second child to enter my house while also potty training the first. Because that is most certainly not comforting. TGFCACWP (Thank goodness for chocolate and cheese while pregnant.)
*The answer is: we agreed on close to 0 girl names and close to 15 boy names, and finally compromised on a name that was “old” (as in, “had been around a long time”, a Chris criterium) yet wasn’t super popular and was somewhat unique as well (a Taylor criterium). I spent a lot of time on nameberry.com. A lot of time.
**I am fully aware there is not actually any important thing about 3 Characters.