What She Wants To Be

It’s absolutely normal, I imagine, for little kids to want to be what their mom and dad are when they grow up. I suspect that is especially true if your mom or dad is a firefighter, a ballet dancer, a painter, a pilot or a vet. Or, in the case of my daughter’s father, a professional athlete.

Our child watches Dave play hockey with an enthusiasm wholly unfathomable to most adults. She loves the crowd, cheering for the team, waiting for him at the rink after the game. She also loves watching hockey with her father, on his lap during playoffs or together in front of the laptop watching highlights on YouTube during the off-season. Last week while Dave was on the road V and I were cruising YouTube over breakfast as we often do, watching Jack Johnson videos and alphabet song remixes and the like. And suddenly she was making requests. For hockey highlights. *sigh*

In recent months her love of her father’s profession has turned into a desire to be just like him. She asked for hockey sticks and a helmet. We obliged. She says very matter-of-factly “Vesper play hockey too!” while nodding vigorously. Her father loves it; I hope that she and any future children choose a pursuit with less chance of physical harm. But what can I do?

I get it. When I do yoga, she wants to do yoga. When she sees her aunt rendering, she wants to draw. For goodness sake, when she sees my dad picking up sticks in the yard, she wants to be a stick-picker. She focuses in on the people she sees as cool and fun and wants to emulate them. I get it. But this is unique. This is precious.

DSC 0054 from lcb on Vimeo.

Because as normal as it is for her to want to be just like her dad, I realize with sadness and frustration that she is still untouched by societial expectations of her in terms of what is normal according to her gender. That eventually (soon?) she might be told my some asshat that girls don’t play hockey. Can’t do this. Don’t act like that. For now she is still following her instincts, but rest assured the campaign to pigeon-hole her started the day after she was born and her gender was revealed. Tiny shirts that say ‘Pretty Diva’ for girls and ‘Tough Guy’ for boys. Blankets with flowers and hearts and kittens for a lady baby, gear covered in footballs and rockets and dinosaurs for dudes. Everyone knows girls can’t throw, will never get to space and are scared of dinosaurs/science! Might as well teach them this lesson right out of the cervix!

DSC 0055 from lcb on Vimeo.

The truth is that as cute as this is, her interests are bound to shift and change constantly until she finds her passion(s), and even after that she will always be evolving. The point, though, is that I want her to be able to make those changes and choices with the understanding that her status as female doesn’t define or limit her. I want her to dress herself and choose her bulldozer t-shirt with her tutu and not feel that this is a contradiction. I want her to be express herself through sport and/or through art. I want her to think of herself as strong and funny and smart AND beautiful. If I were to have a son, I’d feel the same way. I’d want him to feel free to dance and sing and jump and play and cry and laugh and have no concept that our society views some of those activities as the territory of girls only. A dream, perhaps, but one worth pushing into reality as much as I can.

If she wants to play hockey, I want her to play hockey. I want her to be veryveryvery careful and always wear her mouth guard and have a giant helmet. But I want her to do what she wants to do.

DSC 0056 from lcb on Vimeo.

Although I do have to put my foot down somewhere. Gender be damned, I prefer to not be put through the stress of watching my child play goal. Pleaseletthisbeaphase.

7 thoughts on “What She Wants To Be

  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. My girl just started preschool, and now suddenly she’s all “dat pink! I want pink!” And pink, PS, is the only colour she can regularly identify. Prior to her exposure to other kids, she had no idea about these types of gender normative colour preferences. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, I bought her as many cars as dolls, stayed away from overtly pink princess things, and just let her play what she wants. Still, she’s now gravitating towards girly pink things, and my pleas of “girls can wear any colour they want. Boys can too” just feel hollow.
    Especially in Asia where people think I’m a crazy person for insisting that that my kid not be a pretty pink fluffy tutu rainbow bedazzled high healed sparkle princess.

    1. I hear you Erica. Vesper is all about tutus whenever there is music. Like…she needs a skirt to dance? I remind myself though that phases will come and go, she might be into pink pink pink one day and over it the next. Or she may fall in love with pink and never go back. I am not in control of what she will like, even if that means some of those things are by suggestion of gender norms, but I am in charge of how we treat those choices. In other words, I am not here to tell her that she “can’t” like traditionally ‘girly’ things, but I am here to help her question “why” girls can’t wear blue/have short hair/play sports/etc. Ultimately, it is out of my hands what she chooses at this age and at the more complicated ages to follow, but we’d be remiss to not help them have a critical mind when it comes to expectations! Fight on sister mama! 🙂

  2. The next Manon Rheaume! This entire story is awesome…your husband must LOVE it.

    PS – You are right…I want to be a teacher…my mom was a teacher but alas, I am a “manager/director” like my old man. Teaching is in my future though so mom eventually wins.

  3. I hear you. And as you know I do want the same for my daughter and my son and have NO clue how to do it. And most of all while I think it is my responsibility to share my experience and “wisdom” with them I want them to have the full freedom and responsibility to choose what they want to do. Not going so well though, when U expressed that she wants to be an engineer like mama and daddy I almost got deaf from a loud “noooooooooo” in my head.
    BTW, you definitely need to come visit. Hockey is THE sport for girls here, V would fit right in.

  4. Someday when you live here during a winter I will be so excited to take V to watch the girls play hockey here in Marquette.

  5. I love this!! One of my very best friends, BTW, a total hockey freak now coaches a girl’s hockey team. He LOVES it. Couldn’t be happier. 🙂

    But I struggle too. Raines loves pink right now…I wonder when he’ll learn that it’s not a “boy” color? Soon, I think. The other day he was telling me that girls don’t play soccer or climb trees. I was like WHAT??? OH HELLS YEAH THEY DO. He informed me that girls play with dolls. OMG. I was dying. So we sat down and played some Hot Wheels, then did some soccer outside. I kicked his butt. Totally unremorseful. At some point, modeling is the only thing we can do. Scary that already (almost 5!!) the peer influence is so big. And will only get bigger. At least I know I’ll be able to beat him at soccer for a few more years. 🙂

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