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I Flunk Being A Girly Mama

Little girl with Braids and Tights

My kids never look like this

Babble has a hilarious essay up today on the difference between boys and girls: braids and tights.

Author Hayley Aizley recounts a typical morning with her daughter, and how the stuff of girlhood – those ridiculous fashion tights every girl wants but never wants to actually wear, braids that take 20 minutes to put in but will be torn out in the car on the way to school  – defines their morning.

And makes her late to school and work, while her sister gets her two boys out the door in 18 minutes flat.

Hayley chalks some of this up to being a lesbian. If she was straight, she imagines she wouldn’t care about all the girly frou-frou stuff. She’d say, “There’s no time for braids. Put on your own tights or wear jeans.”

Maybe. My colleague Carolyn is a straight chick who loves to dress her daughter like a doll. Me, I’m not straight, nor am I capable of putting three braids in my daughter’s hair before school.

I’ve been flunking “knowing how to do girly stuff” for 32 years, and to my kids’ chagrin that’s not changing anytime soon.

I tried. When my oldest was three, my mother cut her hair for the first time. Before that, I’d fought my spunky little toddler tooth and nail to keep it washed, brushed and pinned up in adorable little braids. Most of the time.

I was just bad at it. All the other girls would arrive at preschool with matching ribbons in their immaculate pigtail braids, wearing clothes that were not only clean but also adorable. My daughter would show up 30 minutes late, still in her PJs. One time she came to school wearing a swimsuit and galoshes. Her teachers assured me that some kids are just strong willed about dressing themselves.

Given permission to stop worrying about dressing her like a doll, I cheerfully did. The avalanche of cute baby things that flowed through our house after I gave birth to a girl mystified me. I like to dress up a little myself once in awhile. But she’s a baby. Does she really need a $90 denim jacket? 45 frilly dresses in slightly varying pastel floral patterns?

Mothers with sons cooed their envy when they saw my baby doll and I parading around the grocery store. “I love little girl clothes! You can never find anything cute for a boy! I wish I had a girl so I could dress her up like yours!”

The only piece of clothing I ever bought for that child was a pointy black witches hat I picked up at a thrift store in Vermont shortly after finding out I was pregnant. Everything else came from hand-me-downs, clothing swaps, and friends who could not resist buying just this one cute thing they saw at the store.

Now I have two girls, ages 3 and 6. I remain largely immune to the joys of styling their hair with colorful ribbons. In fact, when my oldest had lice this summer, I seized the opportunity to cut her hair short. She was heartbroken at giving up her Rapunzel tresses. I was delighted that we wouldn’t have to brush it before school for at least a few months.

I don’t foresee this problem going away. This year I have had to admit that I don’t know how to do a French braid or apply nail polish without getting it all over their hands. As they grow up, I suspect my girls will also be disappointed to discover that I cannot write in cutesy girly-girl curly script, I do not know how to shave my legs, and I have no idea what a camisole is (seriously, what is a camisole?).

I do know how to apply first aid, make basic meals, swim, read, drive and do well in school. I’m not going to send them out into the world unprepared to be awesome adults. But I’m failing them in the girly girl department. They won’t have any warm memories of Mama’s beauty routine, or any mysteries of girlhood I shared with them. I never got the memo myself.

For what it’s worth, though, Hayley, if you’re reading this: we’re still late for school most of the time. The only time I have been reliably able to get the girls out the door in under 20 minutes was this summer, when I spent a month living in Maine with my girlfriend.

Photo: gemsling

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