Ever since my daughter was old enough to express her very strong opinions about toys, clothing and anything else adorned with or made from any sort of pink or frilly materials, she has made her preferences for these items clear.
For a while, we resisted indulging her “girly-girl tendencies”, hoping to entice her instead with toys that could be considered somewhat gender neutral.
As with so many other things since becoming parents, we realized that we were fighting a losing battle.
Early in Elena’s life, when family members and friends asked what types of toys we felt would be appropriate for our young daughter, we suggested that they invest in educational toys, rather than toys typically considered for girls.
We struggled to hold off the inevitable onslaught of “girl toys”; we cited safety reasons to forbid high heeled dress-up shoes, inherited skin sensitivities to ban play make-up, and… well, vetoing Barbie really required no excuse at all.
Now, we have it all: Barbies, Bratz and billions of accessories. Gowns, tiaras, wands and wings.
Elena chose a “Top Model” theme for her recent 8th birthday party. I strongly recommended a princess, karaoke, or dance theme, but her mind was made up.
I wistfully sighed and thought fondly of her princess days of the past.
When booking the party, I requested that the guests’ makeovers not be overdone, and realized how ridiculous it was to use the words “makeovers“ and “appropriate for eight year olds” in the same sentence.
Following a meticulously tallied countdown, party night finally arrived. The girls had their hair, nails and makeup done while my husband and I watched, bewildered, as their excitement and delight reached fever pitch.
Next they walked on the “runway”, twirled and blew kisses as instructed by the “modeling coach”.
Eventually, they could no longer contain their true selves, when they seemed to explode with excitement and began to run around, bouncing off the walls (literally) like the little kids they are.
It was clearly not behaviour becoming of models. (Phew!)
This may have been the only time I can say that I was quite happy to see their less than perfect table manners when they sat down (sort of) for their sandwiches and cake and sang (sort of) Happy Birthday.
In addition to her glamorous side, Elena is also a nurturer, which of course, is not a trait limited to girls. I must say, though, that in our household, our 11-year old son is much more likely to throw a stuffed toy like a football, than to make sure it eats enough for dinner before tucking it into a lovingly prepared bed.
After pleading for what seemed an eternity – to both of us – Elena was finally able to purchase a stuffed toy she desperately wanted and “every single one of her friends already had” but her.
Our visit to the Build-a-Bear store was an over-stimulating experience – for both of us. Well-dressed and heavily accessorized bears, monkeys and dogs perched all around the store greeting us with outstretched arms. Each offered, not at all subliminally, countless ideas for mixing and matching outfits. There were mini purses, sunglasses, cell phones, backpacks, roller skates and more. Lots more.
Elena “built” a monkey. Maddie has a friendly smile and stuffed, furry limbs that frankly, are more realistic and much easier to dress than her collection of impossibly svelte Barbies.
She excitedly considered outfits and accessories that would exhaust her quickly- dwindling birthday resources, while I countered with suggestions in an attempt to convince her it would be wise to save some of her money. I was shocked by the price of some of the clothing that cost more than many of the outfits hanging in my human daughter’s closet.
I actually did enjoy Elena’s excitement at the store (and was able to contain my opinion), and I do appreciate the type of play Maddie encourages …but I can’t help but resent the fact that that, in order to furnish Maddie’s house, we practically have to mortgage ours!
In addition to all the typical female characteristics my daughter exhibits, Elena is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She still makes a mean mud-pie, and remarkably, given her size, can give anyone a run for their money when it comes to shooting baskets.
And though my son can barely tolerate her play habits otherwise, he openly admires her goalie skills as she demonstrates her ability to deflect the pelting of his wrist shot.
Elena is kind, sweet, fun and friendly. And we’re doing our very best to enjoy and make the most of these years, as we very patiently await what we have lived in fear of since the day she was born… the teen years.