donut holes, not gender roles // part I
I heard that panic cry every parent knows, the one that means something is actually wrong, and looked up to see Bear’s face flushed and tears streaming down her face.
We had been driving up to Discovery Bay for the weekend, like we have done a millions times and stopped at a McDonald’s on the way so both kids could use the bathroom. I stayed outside in the car, because we had the dog and it was approximately 1,000,000 degrees that afternoon and no way I could leave the dog in the car.
She had walked into the women’s restroom and a woman proceeded to yell at her for “being in the wrong bathroom.”
“THIS BATHROOM IS FOR GIRLS. GET OUT.”, she said, and when Bear, confused, didn’t move, she proceeded to raise her voice and repeat herself over and over again until Bear, shocked and scared at what was happening, ran out crying.
She was sobbing, saying she froze and didn’t know what to say. She was confused, because she is a girl and was, in fact, exactly where she was supposed to be. She had never had a complete stranger yell at her, let alone like that before and unlimitedly, reasonable responses in the moment went right out of her head.
I immediately became red faced and furious; full Mama Bear mode. I wanted to race right in there, but Bear sobbing, one, didn’t want to go back in, and two, didn’t want to be left alone in the running car AND I couldn’t leave the dog alone. Luckily a few seconds later, Brayden, shocked as well, because he had heard what had happened, and was looking for Bear inside, came out and Bear and I went in; her nervous and scared, me ready throw down…
Bear is 10 years old and at that fun stage of life where she is getting to decide for herself what her likes and dislikes are. How she sees herself separate from our close family unit, and what identity of self she feels fits her the most at this time.
I remember being this age and playing around with “looks”; dying my hair funky colors, being all black and goth one day, then full Lisa Frank vibes the next.
Playing around with who you “are” and trying on different styles is one of the fun parts of growing up. It hasn’t been until the last few years, that I have truly settled into what I believe my true identity of self is, and plus, who is to say I can’t change that when the mood strikes.
It started with clothing.
She has always complained about going shopping and picking out clothes would always involve some argument between the two of us. Without consciously realizing it, I was the problem. The scene would always look the same: we would be in Old Navy, she would be browsing the boys department with her brother, laughing and comparing clothes they found, and I would be happily collecting what I thought to be “her style” from the girls department. Then we would finally meet in the changing rooms with two entirely different piles of clothes. Thus the arguing and negotiating would begin, and we would both leave feeling angry and frustrated with the other. End Scene.
Looking back, the hard truth is, I never fully allowed her to choose her own style. I was always subconsciously a little afraid to, I guess, let her be HER. At a deep level, it bothered me that she wanted to dress in only boys clothes. To be honest it frightened me, because I didn’t want her to be teased or for people to think she was unattractive. Saying that out loud makes me feel terrible. It was my fear, knowing the kind of world we live in, with close minded people, yes, even in CA, I didn’t want her to be different…well, that isn’t completely true…
“Being yourself” is exactly what I want for them as a parent.
I want my children to be individuals, shine bright in their uniqueness, be body positive, empathetic and I foster that on a daily basis. I didn’t realize what a confusing message I was sending to my own daughter.
Did I ever bat an eye when Brayden, as a middle schooler, wanted the matching pink R2D2 bathrobe to match his sister? Or when he was a baby, he wanted to carry a purse with a phone, wallet and keys in it, just like me? NEVER. Why did I hold this double standard when it came to my daughter.
It took taking a long look at myself and what my core value as her parent was. I want her to be confident in her own skin and love herself. Period. Even it that means shopping in the boys department.
Fast forward to the next time we found ourselves back in Old Navy picking out clothes since she seems to be growing faster and faster these days. This time my approach was different. I told her I was going to read my book and she needed to pick out all her new clothes and meet me in the dressing room.
“I can pick them out? From anywhere in this store?”
We left that day with full outfits, hand curated by Bear herself, but what we really left with was a whole lot more that was yet to be uncovered.
The following weeks she was more confident, happier, energetic, and more cooperative at home. She shined in a way I hadn’t seen before. Now don’t get me wrong, she has always been a happy kid, but at the same time, she has always had the edge of anxiousness to her, especially when it comes to being “alone” or, simpler said, when I am not around. I noticed a definite confidence boost and even had friends say the same thing.
I made a mental note.
Next came her hair.
“Mommy, I think I am old enough for a pixie cut now.”
She has been bugging me for a pixie cut for YEARS now. I have always said no, because as a person who routinely has short hair and has even shaved parts of her hair in the past, I know the painstaking task of growing it out and how much patience it requires. Again, looking back honestly, was this a “subconscious truth” I was telling myself in order to deter her whenever she asked? Maybe.
This time, reflecting on the metal note I made back when we were shopping for clothes, I said, “Sure! I think you are too.”
Appointment made and hair cut, it’s even changed a few times to what it is today.
I mean, look at that SMILE.
Look at that FACE. sigh…she is just SO cute…
She is so happy and loves everything about her new do’, how it looks and how it feels. Ultimately isn’t that want for your children, happiness and confidence in their own skin?
To be continued…
Note: Bear has read and consented to the above story and pictures