When I was pregnant with my daughter I knew exactly what she was going to be like, what she was going to eat and that she would not, I touted, be allowed to believe in princesses nor have a PlaySkool vacuum, if she wants a Barbie, Barbie better be a vet. There would be no Little Tikes kitchen, she would never don an apron and God forbid she have a babydoll.
Well, God apparently forbade my mother in law, who saw it as more of a challenge and threw in a stroller and a bottle. She rolled her eyes at me as my daughter held her baby and patted it’s back, “I mommy like you, mama!”
When my daughter played house during a play date in her friend’s plastic kitchen she cried out, “I making pasta like mommy!” My friend ceremoniously smirked, “She just wants to be like you.”
I finally gave up on my aspirations of a feminist toddler when I saw how enamored she was with Cinderella and the glitz, glam and goodness of her fairy godmother. She stood wide-eyed in front of the TV while one of my girlfriends and I nursed broken hearts on my couch. My friend had just found out her boyfriend cheated on her and I was turning marital memories into line items for a judge to review.
My friend looked forlorn as she nodded toward Liv, eyes puffy, as the “One Day My Prince Will Come” part came up. She wrapped her arms around her legs and sighed, “This is how it starts…” Then she started singing along.
“I know. Look at how happy she is though…”
I looked at my daughter with magic swirling around her, wispy fairy tales and Happily Ever Afters and resigned my desire to keep her chin above the dumb girls who only seek a Prince Charming, “You go ahead and believe in love, baby girl!”
My daughter has turned my expectations of mother/daughter on its well-highlighted head. I have had to come to grips with the fact that making a list of the exacts was going to be drawn through with crayon by a child who, at times, feels more like my teacher. I did not have a strong female role model growing up and once my belly started to nudge forward against the button of my jeans I realized that I’d had to become my own role model. I worried that I wouldn’t know how to be a mother so I handled it the way I do when I have a problem. I came up with a plan.
My plan looked like it came directly from a Boss Girl article in Glamour.
My plan did not at all take into consideration the example I could be without bullet points; the woman I am. So, I had to rip it up and rather than starting over, I accepted the fact that the lessons will bubble up around us as they may.
I’m learning too.
I recognized that I wrap myself up in dresses, beauty products, chop veggies and wear high heels with reckless aplomb, but don’t sit before a castle wringing my hands waiting for a man to rescue me. Instead the heels click clack toward boardrooms and Fly By lanes. I realized that my daughter’s viewpoint of femininity and love will be molded by the examples in her life as opposed to Disney and Hasbro.
The last time she wore my heels she did explain that she and Cinderella were heading to New York to close a deal, so I must be doing something right.
Melissa and I discussed this over drinks one night. I fell in love with her a little as she explained that her daughter already knew that Snow White became a dentist before the wedding and Sleeping Beauty went to Stanford. We agreed that we adore the new face of the Disney princesses. Elsa and Anna’s Act of True Love was between sisters; one defending the other against a certain beheading by the manipulative narcissist, Hans. Merida of Brave wanted to compete for her own hand in marriage and decimated the boys with her mad archery skills. Her father finally declared that rather than fighting for her hand they could fight for her heart.
Liv has asked me to reenact the new Cinderella movie several times this past week. She runs down the stairs with my shoes and flings one behind her so that I can pick it up. I call out to her and I better do it right because the Prince doesn’t know my name yet, mom. Don’t call me Cinderella! She waits for me on the couch while I fit my heel on her tiny little foot and then she says we can get married.
There is such a chasm of confusion surrounding women who try to live in a man’s world. We think we have to ditch the things that make us soft, strong, nurturing and true to nature. I did the whole “I’m a boss” kind of thing in my early thirties when I needed boys to know that I could smile and then eat their lunch. Now I recognize I can still be powerful in a room and maintain my femininity. I can be a mother with nurturing arms, an intelligent force with a voice and good God, shove the power suit into the corner because that is so last decade. I don’t have to be a version of what the world expects of a strong woman, but stand within the woman I am. I want my daughter to grow into womanhood knowing that she can wear heels and close deals and run marathons and be a chemist, an architect, a cowgirl, stagehand or Power Ranger and if she wants to do it with a hot lip color and bag in hand, do it, girl.
We’ll figure it out as it comes or as she guides me.
She, after all, is clearly the boss.