November is National Adoption Month, and I am so fortunate I have the honor to celebrate. Without adoption, I would not have been able to find the missing piece of our family. Every night I thank her for waiting for me and for giving me the opportunity to love her.
The unknown author of the poem below, sums up the experience perfectly…
You’re Now Our Very Own
You first came to us in an envelop
With letters, forms and such
Just two tiny little pictures
With nothing warm to touch.
You grew in our imagination
In our hearts and in our minds.
You brought us greater joy
Than we ever thought we’d find.
A phone call started labor pains
Which lasted ’til we met
Strangers brought together
A day we won’t forget.
You bloomed as you were planned
In our hearts, our lives, our home.
Our child of chance, of plan, of will
You’re now our very own.”
The Older One was the first to notice it.
“Have you ever watched her eye?” he asked one evening when we were watching yet another viewing of the cinematic masterpiece, Bolt, with the Young One.
“What?” I sat up, intrigued by a good mystery. “You mean Penny?” I asked, referring to the movie’s animated heroine and thinking he was giving me some new detail in the movie I hadn’t seen in the first ten viewings.
“No, the Young One,” he pointed out. “Sometimes when we’re watching TV, her eye will kinda go out. Sorta like a lazy eye.”
I turned and looked at the Young One who was oblivious to our conversation. Nothing happened at first, but after periodically glancing her way, I saw it. One minute both eyes were trained on Bolt’s frantic race to find Penny, the next, the iris and pupil of her left eye started a slow drift out and up.
My mind quickly flashed to The Exorcist, and a chill went down my spine. It was three years later before we finally got a diagnosis that didn’t involve demon possession.
Strabismus, or wandering eye, is sometimes difficult to spot in young children. Kids are great at adapting, and often, as was the case for the Young One, the turn of the eye is so subtle, even doctors don’t see it.
So, for three years, both her pediatrician and optometrist told me, “Let’s just watch it for now, and see if it gets worse,” which, of course, it did. Shortly before she started first grade, we finally got a confirmation of an exotropic strabismus (an eye turn to the outside of the eye, as opposed to the more common esotropic strabismus or crossed eye).
The good news was we finally had a diagnosis and could seek treatment with a specialist. The bad news…many experts believe that by age seven, the only effective treatment is surgery. The Young One had turned seven just a few months earlier.
Fortunately, the specialist we were referred to is a proponent of vision therapy and believes that with repeated exercise, children can learn to control the eye turn and retrain the brain.
“About 5% of kids have some degree of strabismus, ” he told me. “The first thing they will experience is double vision. You have binocular vision,” he said, pointing at me. “Both of your eyes are aligned to the same position when you look at an object, so your brain processes one image. For her,” he turned to the Young One. “Both eyes don’t align to the same position. Each eye sees an object from a slightly different view, and the brain processes two separate images. This creates double vision. To counteract the double image, her left eye turns off, and that’s when you see it slide out.”
Technically, this double vision is called convergence insufficiency, and when she reads, the words look like this:
He went on to list the signs of this eye suppression: clumsiness, poor depth perception, tilting the head while looking at an object or while reading. As children enter school and begin reading, they will often skip words or entire lines of text. Their handwriting is often sloppier than their peers’. They also have a tendency to very quickly say, “I can’t” when faced with a new task because they have learned over time that new tasks are frustrating.
As he talked, I recognized every sign, but like many parents, I had attributed them to the fact that she’s a child. Kids spill things. They’re just learning to read and write, so you can’t expect them to be perfect. That head tilt? That’s just a quirk of hers, right?
A lot of things started to make sense–like how she stumbles over simple words, skips entire lines. If she’s tired, she gets frustrated and says what she’s reading makes no sense. I’d be frustrated and confused too if this is what the words on the page looked like:
“Well…”the doctor paused and looked at the new patient questionnaire I had filled out in the waiting room. Then he flipped to the Family History section where I had left all the questions blank.
“How old was she when you adopted her?” He asked quietly.
“Not quite 13 months.”
“Did she ever crawl?”
I sighed and shrugged. Crawling was one of those milestones, I never got to see. When we met her in Russia, she was eight months old, and while she would rock back and forth when we put her on her hands and knees, she never went anywhere. I didn’t see her again for five months. By then, she was standing and cruising around the room using the furniture for support.
Crawling, the doctor explained, usually occurs at about the same time as binocular vision develops. A child who doesn’t get enough tummy time and isn’t encouraged to crawl is at a greater risk of developing strabismus because the eyes don’t have a chance to become a team. A crawling child is not just moving. She is usually moving toward an object she has spotted and focused on which helps binocular vision develop.
I never saw the Young One crawl. I have, however, seen plenty of pictures of her taken in the orphanage–pictures of her jumping in bouncy seats, nestled in strollers and sitting in high chairs. I can imagine that a baby’s life in a Russian orphanage doesn’t include free reign to roam wherever she chooses.
So, as the pieces fell into place for me, the doctor walked me through what would happen for the next 12 months–weekly sessions with a vision therapist to learn exercises and strategies for controlling the wandering eye, supplemented by nightly exercises at home.
We’ve been at this now for eight months. I am more attuned to the signs that her eyes aren’t working together–the head tilt, the frustration when she loses her place while reading, the constant fidgeting while reading (a result of the brain being overstimulated by conflicting images). I pay attention to the eye turn more often too. When I look at pictures of her, I look at the eyes first.
She is learning to live with this too. At first she didn’t like having this thing that makes her different. “No one else at my school has to go to vision therapy,” she often complains. Finding time for weekly appointments and nightly vision exercises in addition to school homework and sports practices is challenging for a busy girl, and often the cause for pouting and whining.
But slowly, I can see things starting to change. She is proactively asking to do her nightly reading assignments for school, and she skips fewer words and lines than she used to. When we do the exercises at home, the left eye doesn’t turn out quite as often as it did when we started, and more and more I am finding pictures with both eyes focused on the camera.
It’s taken eight months, but I’m finally seeing some progress. I’m hoping she starts seeing the improvements too…in more ways than one.
I often tell the Young One how happy I am that she completed our family.
We were never meant to be a trio. The Hubs and I had a great plan to grow our family beyond that first little baby who came along 21 years ago. He was always supposed to be the Older One, not the Only. The Hubs, in particular, was looking for the entire backfield for a football team. I just wanted someone else to plan parties for and dress up in cute outfits.
Plans, however, have a way of changing despite our best efforts. That second pregnancy never happened. Instead of visiting doctors to talk about having babies, we ended up visiting doctors to talk about controlling and coping with Crohn’s Disease. Not long after my first major surgery, those doctors advised us that pregnancy would not be a good idea, and we adapted our vision of family to be momma, daddy, son and a doggy or two.
Years later, long after that little boy stopped asking for a brother or sister, the Hubs and I started to question this concept of three, and we realized that while the Hubs had earned the title “Dad”, and I was officially, “Momma”, our son would never be called “Brother”.
That, in part, was how the Hubs and I ended up in Russia almost seven years ago. During that trip, we met a little baby who needed a family, and that baby met a family that needed the last piece of its puzzle. It needed a daughter. It needed a sister. It needed to be complete.
November is National Adoption Month, and the 2014 theme is “Promoting and Supporting Sibling Connections”. That connection, according to childwelfare.gov, “is the longest lasting relationship most people have, longer than the parent-child or spousal relationship”. Sibling bonds, it says, are important to children’s development and emotional well-being.
I see this every time I see my children interact. Even though their age difference spans 14 years, they still have a relationship like none other. For example, the Young One does not ask me to play hide and seek with her. That game is reserved for her brother. When faced with a difficult challenge, she more often turns to her brother for guidance than to anyone else. He was the one who taught her to ride a scooter, play video games and to be brave enough to take the training wheels off her bike. For her brother, she will do anything…even *gulp* eat broccoli.
As for the one who went from being the Only to the Oldest, the concept of “sibling” didn’t come without complaint. Sleeping past 9:00 am was no longer an option; neither was having the house to himself when his parents were away. His responsibilities grew along with his new-found knowledge of diapers, and he quickly learned that “brother” is often synonymous with “babysitter”.
He also scored some unexpected bonuses when he gained a little sister. Suddenly, he had little hands reaching for his, eyes looking at him in wonder, arms wrapping tight around his neck and a little voice whispering “‘nigh’ nigh'” at the end of the day. He also had a reason to let his boyish ways creep back into his life. He could laugh at the funny parts of the movie, roll around on the floor and make funny faces. It’s okay for a teenager to be a kid when there’s another kid in the house.
I’m happy my children found each other. They each have so much to share with the other and a connection that compares to nothing else. With her adoption into our family my daughter gave my son the chance to be called “brother”, and in return, my son gave my daughter unconditional love.
The courtroom was smaller than I had expected. I had never been summoned to jury duty, subpoenaed as a witness or charged as a defendant, so my only frame of reference was the spacious and well-lit judicial proceeding rooms depicted on Law and Order.
The room I found myself in six years ago did not gleam with polished woodwork. Its wooden benches and railings were scarred and scuffed with years of worried tapping and shuffling.
Instead of well-waxed tile, the floor was made of cold cement painted a dull gray that matched the industrial cinder block walls. As I looked at the black scuffs on the six feet of walkway leading from the door at the back of the room directly to the witness box, I wondered about the people who had made those clumsy marks and what their fate had been following the ruling from the judge who sat at the opposite end of the narrow room.
She was dressed in black robes, like the prestigious judges on my favorite TV dramas, but her seat of honor didn’t look much more comfortable than my own straight-backed, hard, wooden chair. Her position apparently did not afford her the high-backed, padded and leather-upholstered executive chair of Hollywood legal thrillers. It looked more like the heavy slat-backed seat reserved for those on the wrong side of the interrogation table.
I could barely see her–the woman who would make such an important decision for me. The witness box was made for someone much taller, and the top of its ledge reached above my shoulders as I sat behind it, nervously fingering the evidence I’d brought along.
The Hubs had a better view from the box in his seat to my right. He’s a good ten inches taller than me, so he had no problem seeing the rest of the courtroom–the empty jury box to the left and the long desk belonging to the person who would record every word of the conversation to follow.
The problem came when we had to squeeze a third person into the small box with us. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do this without our interpreter, though, so we slid our chairs closer together and made room.
Finally the time had come. The judge read from a document in front of her, and I faintly heard her say something that sounded like a question. The interpreter leaned close and whispered the question in a more familiar language. The Hubs answered with the response we had rehearsed the night before.
After 20 minutes of question/interpret/answer/interpret, I was finally asked for my evidence–a thin book of photographs. I walked toward the judge, handed her the pictures and watched silently as she flipped from one to the other.
After another indecipherable statement, we were led from the courtroom to the equally dreary hallway and another hard wooden bench. There we waited and tried not to think about what we would hear when we saw the judge again.
Soon the door opened and we were led inside once more. I watched the judge in front of me read more papers. When she finally started speaking, the Hubs grabbed my hand.
“It is my decision,” I heard the interpreter parrot, “that these people will be able to provide a better life for this child in the United States than she will have as an orphan in Russia. I grant the request for adoption.”
With that, the judge closed the file and walked from the room. I stared at the Hubs, and together we asked the interpreter, “That’s it?”
She smiled and nodded. “That’s it,” she said. “She’s yours now. You have a daughter. Congratulations.”
With those words, that lackluster courtroom in Kemerovo, Russia, never looked brighter. I finally had a daughter, and today, we are celebrating six years of Forever Family.
Happy Family Day, Young One! Thanks for waiting for me.
**Today’s post was written as response for Blogging University Writing 101 day two assignment: A Room With A View (or Just a View).
One of my favorite stories about my daughter’s adoption is not so much about how she found her way into our family, as it is about how my son learned to be a brother.
He came home from school not long after I ended a phone call with our adoption coordinator confirming the court date to finalize the adoption. He sprawled himself on the middle of the living room floor and told me about his day. The school year was winding down, and he was excited to no longer be a high school freshman. His world was full of summer plans and football camp.
I let him tell me his news, and then I hit him with mine. “You’re finally going to be a big brother. What do you think?”
He was quiet for a moment, then sighed, “I wish I could tell you I’m excited, but I’m not.”
When I asked him why, I thought his answer would be pretty obvious. He had been an only child for 14 years. He would be completely justified in his hesitancy to share his parents this late in the game. He shocked me, however, when he finally put words to his worries. “I’m just afraid I’ll do something wrong.”
I smiled and reassured him I would help him learn the way of all things baby, thinking about diaper changes and basic baby sitter skills. Almost six years later, I can look back and realize he didn’t need much help stepping into his new role of big brother.
He was a pro at coloring inside the lines as well as encouraging self-expression with a little color outside too…
…and how to be stealthy when real ones are lurking behind the corner….
Six years ago, I made my first visit to snow-encrusted Novokuznetsk–an industrial city in Russia’s western Siberia. I had spent the week prior, googling the temps in the area and trying to decide which of my heaviest sweaters would travel best in my suitcase. The Weather Channel promised me I could expect an actual temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit and wind chills that would plummet it to negative 50.
I would definitely need warm clothes, but soft ones…definitely soft ones. I wouldn’t want to wear wool or any scratchy synthetics for this visit. Cotton would work. That would be soft and comforting.
Bright colors too, red or bright pink or maybe even a contrasting color block pattern of white and black…anything to attract the eye and make it focus.
I carefully chose my softest, brightest, happiest clothing. I folded and rolled them and wedged them in the crevices among the toys, books, photographs, blankets and files filled to bursting with paperwork.
That visit six years ago was the most important visit the Hubs and I had ever made. A visit half a world away where we would finally meet our child. After weeks of looking lovingly at a single photograph, we would finally hold her close…so the clothing she would feel against her baby cheek needed to be soft like a mother would wear.
She would finally see us, and I needed her to focus on the strangers in the room…to look at us and see brightness and happiness and the joyful wonder as we looked back at her.
That first visit to Baby Home #95 in Novokuzknetsk, Russia, was everything I ever imagined meeting my daughter would be. It was cold. It was foreign. It was exhausting. It was happy. It was heartbreaking. It was the visit of a lifetime.
**This post was brought to you today by Five Minute Friday and the word “visit”. I’ve been participating in FMF for about a year and a half, and this is the third time, I’ve opened my email to find a prompt that was made for me. Today is the sixth anniversary of the day the Hubs and I met our daughter during our first of two adoption visits to Russia. I’ve been thinking about it all week, and I’m extremely happy today’s word inspired me to tell you about it. If you’d like to see how fast you can write a blog post, check out Lisa-Jo Baker’s site every Friday. Maybe you’ll find a word meant for you too!
**With today’s post I can also check off the latest Zero to Hero assignment to participate in a blogging challenge.
I didn’t know my daughter had curly hair until I gave her a bath for the first time. She was almost 13 months old, and although I had held her a dozen times before that bath, I don’t think her hair was ever truly clean and in its natural state. She was an orphanage baby, and I can imagine that scrubbing and styling infants’ hair on a regular basis was low on the priorities for the overworked and underpaid caregivers.
When I pulled her from the tub in that tiny hotel room in Novokuznetsk, Russia, on Post-Adoption Day One, I marveled at the spirals that sprung from her freshly washed head. “You have curly hair,” I said in awe. Then I smiled into her innocent eyes and followed with, “Just like me.”
I knew in that moment I had something to teach this new girl in my life, and not too long after, I stopped straightening my hair with regularity. I had previously let my hair spiral naturally only during the summer months when the act of straightening proved counter productive in the heat and humidity. I wanted my daughter to have a role model, and I knew I would be sending an anti-curly girl message with a straightening iron as my styling tool of choice.
Little did I know that leading by example would be an uphill battle. Three years after that first curl broke free, I was once again kneeling tub-side and scrunching the Young One’s hair when she declared angrily, “I don’t want hair that goes like this, ” and she waved her little hand in circles.
I knew what she was trying to pantomime, but in my shock I asked for clarification, “You mean curly? You don’t want curly hair?”
“No!” she said with a splash of the water. “I want hair that goes like this,” she demonstrated, raising a flat palm in front of her face and bringing it straight down.
She’s FOUR, I thought, amazed that my positive self-image initiative had been thwarted on the preschool playground!
Who had told my daughter curly hair wasn’t good enough? And what else have they told her? Have they said she’s too fat, too skinny? Did they say she has too many freckles or that her teeth are too big? Please tell me they haven’t pointed out to her that her left eye sometimes wonders in a direction different from her right. (Even the optometrist couldn’t verify my suspicions of a lazy eye until she turned six.)
Some days I am terrified to be the mother of a girl. I’ve been a girl. I know how hard it is. That pressure to be perfect…and to be yourself…but not at the expense of being different. My heart aches for the fact that some day I may no longer be able to wrap my girl in a big fluffy towel and hug the insecurity away. I won’t be able to make a funny face and distract her from something so heavily on her mind that she had to gesticulate to find the word she hasn’t yet learned.
Suddenly I am aware that in my greatest attempts to be my daughter’s most influential role model, I am not the only person she interacts with on a daily basis. Her life is a constant rotation of teachers and coaches and bus drivers, and now that she has graduated to Kindergarten, she interacts with even more children than she did in preschool.
Some of them have most likely had the same experience as Kasey Edwards, who wrote in “When Your Mother Says She’s Fat” about hearing her mother talk about herself in a self-loathing way These words disillusioned her and helped to form her own poor body image. She writes:
Years later, I looked back on this conversation and the hundreds that followed and cursed you for feeling so unattractive, insecure and unworthy. Because, as my first and most influential role model, you taught me to believe the same thing about myself.
I hope my daughter doesn’t hear me say things like this. I like to think I don’t say them at all, but I’d be dishonest if I said I never felt fat or never looked in the mirror to see a face I didn’t like. I wouldn’t have a love hate relationship with a straightening iron if I never had a bad hair day. Overall though, I’d say I have a healthy body image, and I want that to come through in my conversations with my daughter.
The fellow WordPress blogger behind Laments and Lullabies has it right when she makes “A Plea to Women who Know Girls”….
“My plea is that even if you don’t yet believe it, show my daughter, and all daughters, that you think your self is a good self.
We are powerful and important in every body, and like all powerful and important people, we’re being watched.”
I still don’t know how my daughter came to the conclusion that straight hair is more desirable than curly. Even though today, her hair has grown to be more wavy than curly, I will continue to tell her it is beautiful, and I will continue to wear mine in its crazy curliness too. Sooner or later we’ll both learn we’re beautiful the way we were made, and if somewhere along the way another little girl hears us talk about how much we like ourselves, maybe she will start to like herself too.
***The two blog posts linked above are powerful statements about how body image is formed. I encourage you to click through to read them in their entirety.
2014…Day Two. The Christmas decorations are wrapped and boxed again. The bushes lining the house are dark as their formerly twinkly lights are extinguished for another season.
People are returning to their pre-Christmas carol, pre-gift giving lives of work, school and business as usual. “Merry Christmas!” has been replaced with “Happy New Year!” followed shortly thereafter with, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?”
I am rarely able to come up with a resolution much sooner than 11:59 p.m. on December 31st. I’m too exhausted from all the party planning, menu making and present wrapping to think beyond the current holiday much less think about how I want to change my life starting at the stroke of midnight.
Then I’m faced with the inevitable failure of actually keeping the resolution. The minute I resolve to get back in the gym, I want a nap. If I resolve to eat a healthy diet, I will immediately start craving Reese cups.
I have never experienced the thrill of successfully achieving a resolution…until January 1, 2012 when I wrote and published the inaugural post of a little blog named after my alter ego, Stiletto Momma. In that post I resolved to simply “Do Something New.”
Yes, it is very open ended and non-commital, but at the time I also threw out a few possibilities like learning photography and Photoshop. I did buy a good camera that year…in September. I haven’t learned to use it beyond what I read in the first half of the instruction manual, and about the only thing I can do in Photoshop is look at my pictures. I suppose that counts, but just barely.
I mentioned one other possibility in that New Year’s post two years ago. “I’ll start a blog,” I wrote, and because I typed those words and clicked the “Publish” button, I was a successful resolutioner in the very first hours of the new year! Counting this post, I have gone on to write and publish 64 posts as Stiletto Momma–warrior of all things maternal, corporate and pointy-toed!
When 2013 rolled around, I knew exactly what my resolution would be.
Do Something New!
However, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, 2013 was a witch of a year and a wicked one at that. I couldn’t get around to deciding what “new” was going to be, so I stayed with what was working, and I blogged some more. Pretty soon I was blogging about what was really on my mind–my ongoing battle against Crohn’s Disease.
In my quest for answers and information, I ran across what has turned into one of my favorite websites, www.thegreatbowelmovement.org, which has been making Crohn’s and Colits (the two forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease) cool since 2010. The founders of this non-profit encourage patients and caregivers to talk about their diseases in an effort to raise awareness. They even sent me a cool prize pack complete with intestine socks and an “Ask Me About My Crohn’s Disease” hoodie.
My 2013 “new” turned out to be writing about something that has been a part of me for almost 25 years. I may have lost some readers who weren’t interested in learning about the woes of a sick person, but embracing a new mission of raising awareness for something I know quite a lot about encouraged and empowered me in a time when I needed to feel strong.
With two successful resolutions under my belt, I’m ready to declare the 2014 version. Any guesses on what it might be?
DO SOMETHING NEW!
That’s right. I’ve decided on a new “new”, and if you’ve been following along for the past few months you could very well have an idea of what it might be.
I am a writer. There, I said it. I am a writer and this year, I intend to write with more dedication and purpose than I have in a long time.
I have a master’s degree in journalism, but outside of internships during college, I have never worked in the field. Maybe I was just waiting around for the blogosphere and digital publishing to be born. Whatever the reason, I graduated from Penn State with a journalism degree and immediately took a job in marketing.
The next one was in fundraising (another form of marketing). When I tried technical writing next, I found my skills were wasted writing about boring things like databases, and moved back to marketing. I had found myself a niche, and that’s where I’ve stayed for over 20 years. I was a marketer with writing skills.
Now, I want to be a writer who knows how to market herself. You can expect to see more of Stiletto Momma in 2014. I will soon be launching a Facebook page, and I might even start Tweeting. If you’re lucky, you could get a glimpse into this impressive shoe collection I’ve been hinting at. We could even do a contest or two!
I’m starting this blog re-energizing effort with the WordPress Zero to Hero program where my favorite blogging platform will give me a daily task for blog improvement during the month of January. Today’s task is to introduce myself to my readers. If I’ve done my job, you should have been able to pick up a few nuggets of me from the above ramblings, but in addition to being a chronically ill writer who markets (or a marketer who writes) and makes unoriginal New Year’s resolutions, I am:
- a momma to two amazing children–a six-year-old tomboy and a 20-year-old all-American boy.
- an adoptive momma to that six-year-old who was born in Russia and became a US citizen five years ago.
- an Army momma since the 20-year-old is a cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point. (Go Army!)
- a football momma because that cadet also plays on the offensive line for the Army Black Knights and has been working toward that goal since he was five years old. (GoArmy!)
- a football wife because the Hubs played football at Penn State once upon a time, coached our son for most of his football career and will accomplish seemingly impossible tasks to avoid ever missing a Penn State Nittany Lion game or a Pittsburgh Steeler game.
- a doggy momma to the Furry One and the Fluffy One who, like the rest of the family, have clever pseudonyms in this blog because it is my choice to blog about them, not theirs, and they deserve a little bit of anonymity.
- a fairly decent home cook whose specialty is anything her son requests and anything her picky daughter will eat.
- a lover of shoes and all things fashion.
I am Stiletto Momma, and I resolve to make 2014 blogtastic for everyone!
What’s your resolution…or un-resolution…or re-resolution?
As the Hubs and I were standing at the base of Adoption Paperwork Mountain, we were posed a fairly simple question.
“What is the gender of the child who is meant to be yours?”
Unlike biological parents, we were granted the choice of son or daughter. The Hubs, ever the football coach, dreamed of another boy who would call him out of youth football coaching retirement.
I, on the other hand, dreamed of bows and ribbons and sparkly things such as I could only pine for as I waded through endless department store racks of baby girl dresses in search of the lonely shelves in the back of the store reserved for the corduroy and tweed of boy’s wear. I wanted someone to play dress up with and little pink polished fingers into which I could pass my beloved dollhouse.
After a relatively brief discussion, we settled on forever being parents to only one of each. We already had our boy, so I eagerly checked the box next to “Female,” and eighteen months later I embraced my daughter for the very first time.
Since then, she has had flashes of extreme girliness–the summer she refused to wear anything but sundresses to pre-school, the Halloween she chose Belle as her princess of choice, and that first glorious post-adoption year when she protested loudly if I dared to dress her without her beloved shoes. Yes! Shoes!
Recently, however, we are both beginning to see what her future holds, and much to the sorrow of my stiletto-loving heart, it does not include beauty pageants and dance classes. For as much as she enjoys and excels at her gymnastics lessons, the desire she most frequently expresses is, “When will Daddy sign me up for football?”
When awarded for good behavior with a selection from the classroom prize chest, she passes over the shiny purple rings in favor of plastic green Army men. Halloween saw the demise of the princess and the rise of the Pink Power Ranger complete with boots and laser gun.
She now confidently answers that age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with, “I want to be a police cop! I want a taser and suction cups!” (Through a series of entertaining charades, I soon realized what she wants more than suction cups to restrain her villains is a shiny set of hand cuffs.)
Now, on a nightly basis, I hear chorus after chorus of, “I wanna be a boy!”
I tell myself this is just another phase of childhood when I gently ask, “Why do you want to be a boy?”
“Because,” she declares with a stamp of her foot, “boys can run and play football and chase bad buys, and girls can’t!”
Who told my baby she couldn’t run just as fast as a boy? Who said she can’t play football if she wants? Who dared tell my child she can’t be a bad ass if that is who she wants to be?
Certainly not me.
While I diligently apply my gel nails bi-weekly and stock my closet with the latest pointy-toed fashion, I know she may not grow up to have the same interests. But I walk tall in my stilettos and stand confident in my surroundings, and that is most definitely how I want my daughter to see herself. If her idea of strong and confident is a gun on her hip and cleats on her feet, I’ll do anything in my power to help her achieve those dreams.
Society (ie. Nickelodeon, Disney, Toys R Us and Amazon.com) does not seem to be quite as encouraging. My daughter needs a hero–a girl hero with brains, brawn and probably a weapon or a super secret special power. Somebody give me a female icon for my child to emulate.
I’ve walked toy store miles in my quest for positive female role models who don’t wear party dresses and drive pink convertibles. I have flashbacks to my previous department store disappointments with my son as I scan the action figure row hoping to spy Wonder Woman or GI Jane.
My successes have been few–a pink Power Ranger action figure to complement her Halloween costume and the Spy Kids movies featuring a girl and her vast array of cool spy gadgets. Meager though they are, these gifts have brought a sparkle to her eye and a spark of fantasy to her game-play. I have also been impressed to see the new line of girl-themed Nerf blasters on the shelves this holiday season, and I can’t wait to see the Young One’s face when she unwraps her very own plastic cross bow in a few weeks.
This search for the perfect hero for my daughter recently led me to ask her if she could watch a movie or a TV show or read a book about a girl, what would it be about.
“She’ll be a superhero,” she tells me with a gleam in her eye and a smile on her lips. “She’ll wear a cape and fly and make fire, and she’ll beat the bad guys!”
“Oh, yeah,” I say, smiling along and taking notes. “And what will her name be?”
“That’s easy, ” she says. “It’s the same as mine.”
She’s right. She will be the superhero–one to whom I will gladly have defend my dollhouse, my real house and the future of the free world. Now all I have to do is make sure she believes it as much as I do.
Help me find a super hero for my daughter. What are your favorite girl-power books, movies and toys?