Bebe update: five and a half years

Bebe,

We enjoyed such a great summer together. It was the highlight of the last half year. Your curiosity is my favorite thing I discovered about you. You’ve got to touch and smell and feel and wonder at everything. It’s your age, and it’s you.

Wearing a flowery dress to feel pretty, while exploring a botanical garden to feel nature. That’s you.

Dressing up as Snow White, to pretend your a ganenet to dwarves… that’s you, too.

Your science projects – that’s you, too. I think the science here was trying to figure out how many stones could fit on this plate filled with water before the water spilled, but it also just could be that I completely missed the point.

And what’s also you is painting your nails and together, getting excited about the newest color we’ve got.

And like I said, getting dressed up for a mother daughter day at the Botanical Gardens, where you found colors and butterflies and beetles and frogs. You’re also so outdoors.

And that extends to the beach, which I think is pretty funny since when we first brought you, you were overwhelmed by the waves and the sounds and the textures – until you weren’t. Now you are the beach, too.

You are so water – being with and in and around water – running through sprinklers, floating in pools, pouring it, dumping it, splashing in it.

And another texture you love.. a good messy dessert.

And a good messy juice-making.

You are so many things, Bebe, and you are also Super Gwirl, and as long as you keep being everything you are, you will always be.

A dream horse come true.

Because it’s so obvious I’m going to just lay it out, plain and simple. Because it’s so cliche, I’m going to hide behind my hands while doing it, peeking out between two fingers:

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who spent her early childhood in the 1980’s, into the 1990’s. It was a time of The Last Unicorn, of Lisa Frank. My Little Pony. Rainbow Brite.

It was only natural that the little girl, who’s first name actually was so suited to this, really really really wanted a horse.

Yadda yadda yadda… thirty years later… she has her own five-year-old girl…

And now, Bebe, who nearly six months ago started doctor-prescribed horseback riding (for building confidence and body awareness), riding, standing, trotting, smiling on a horse…

Not just a fairy tale: the Determined Mother, the Five-Year-Old, and the Princess Birthday Party

While I knew I couldn’t hold out forever, I didn’t think it would be this soon.

Bebe proudly declared: “I want a princess party this year!”

Always up for a challenge, I knew I could make this work –  make my daughter insanely happy at her 5-year birthday party while pass down and keep some of my values in tact.

So there’s be no glittery performer or makeup. Or passive preening. Or Disney references – well, some, but not too many. I went for the Kate Middleton approach – the glamorous but active-from-humbler-(eh)-roots princess.

Here’s the party activity menu:

#1 Design your own dress

I love these large rolls of thin material that the kindergartens here use to make everything. They can be bags, flags, costumes, capes – whatever you dream of, this relatively cheap thin cut-able material is yours for the making.

So that material, along with a ribbon, and some oil pastels, and the girls designed their fabric and then came over to be fitted. There was definitely some twirling.

#2 Dominate your castle

This was the best part – by consensus of the parents, siblings, and party guests. We made a castle from online shopping delivery boxes.

I basically weaved the boxes together and created a fortress looking castle; the cherry on top was the toiler paper rolls to be ‘turret’ style structures. When Bebe woke up the next morning to find it on the porch, she was ecstatic. When the kids walked in, it was the first thing they wanted to see because she had been talking about it all morning at her gan.

Inside the walls of the castle were coloring pictures and sidewalk chalk (and this is where a little bit of Elsa and Ana didn’t hurt).

Ok, ok, I’ll admit… when I Google-Image searched for coloring pages, I kept it as princess-feminist as I could. My daughter and her friends probably have no clue who Merida is, but at least they’ve colored in her face along with a bow and arrow.

And, yes. Elsa.

#3 Decorate your own treasure

Everyone got their own little wooden treasure box to paint/color/decorate with stickers to their heart’s content. At the end of the party, this was the take home gift along with a little rubber ring and bracelet to stick inside.

#4 Dance like crazy 

This was Bebe’s initiative – she wanted to play freeze dance. I didn’t realize how riled up a bunch of five year old girls could get, but they sure got into it. It’s been a long time since I was a five year old girl, ok?

#5 Devour your cupcake your way

I’ve seen some insanely intricate princess cakes on Pinterest in the past, but I opted instead for something more than eye candy – literal candy. In the form of DIY cupcake toppings. Everyone could choose from a bi-color palette of icing and a range of toppings, and then decorate their own chocolate cupcake before devouring it. As six girls sat around the table demolishing their cakes, all we parents could think was – has it ever been this quiet in the universe, ever?

Here’s why I get so tickled by kids over and over at these things: they end up making their own fun no matter what you plan. I had a scavenger hunt ready to go with clues (Find Snow White’s apple! Uncover Cinderella’s lost shoe! Where is Elsa’s glove?) and a few other back up activities, but after dancing their brains out, the girls found a bubble gun on the porch and ended up doing that for a good ten minutes.

All in all, I felt good about a princess party and maybe even princesses. Bebe had an excellent time.

And mom and daughter lived happily ever after… until next year.

Bebe update: five years

For the sweetest person I know,

I want for you strength. For you to recognize the right time and place.

To continue loving the little things, for not even knowing what is ‘little’.

I want for you to recognize your power.

I want for your love to never be bound.

For your creativity to go appreciated.

For you to never be afraid to experiment.

For you to always feel comfortable and light and invincible,

but when you don’t, for you at least to know that you will soon again.

Bebe update: four and a half years

Six months and you seem way more than four and a half. well, most of the time.

On our trip in Australia, you faced some fears head on and opened yourself to learning more.

For example, after a few years of being freaked out by the beach, and a summer of going (on two different continents), you’ve embraced it.

This isn’t new, but still wonderful to watch: the way you care about your friends.

You’re sense of pretending and role play has gone up a few notches. Your play indicates all kinds of roles and your hand motions indicate, always, ‘ganenet’.

You’re willing to get in there. For the joke.

What I said about beaches…

And your desire to be a ganenet…

You’re always thinking, always coming up with something, always have some emotion to express, even if you don’t always say it. I know it.

Just don’t forget to let it out. However you want. The world wants to know.

Bebe update: four years

New to the Bebe show? Here’s what you missed. 

Four years ago I became a mom for the second time – to a quiet, sleepy, cuddly bebe. Nicknamed by her older brother before she was born, Bebe is also who made me mother to a daughter.

I often feel that while I teach my firstborn a lot – because he asks, because he listens – since she showed up, Bebe has actually been teaching me.

There’s something about you, Bebe, inherently, that makes it so natural and easy for you to give. Here are a few things you’ve brought to me in the last six months.

Next stop: Makeup Princess Kingdom

I had heard it was inevitable. I had heard I must suck it up. I heard it would come, and it would pass.

And still, before I knew it, it had already snuck up on us. First there were the hair accessories. The preference for dresses. It had crept into the house in the form of rubber bracelets, plastic rings, cheap nail polish.

Then, last Purim morning, after months of wanting to dress up as Hello Kitty, after getting your face paint sorted out (all over your face, while calling it makeup,) it came. You asked to be something else. You said the p-word.

So here we are, at Makeup Junction. Princess Parkway. I actually like giving you licence to explore paints, powders and gels (on your face). And if I remove all the girly and non-girly rhetoric of today, I remember that I, too, loved mixing and matching jewelry and hair clips.

I’m ok with it. I’m ok with it. I’m ok with it.

So fill up my old Caboodle (!), since princess or not, you still manage to keep –

Walking your own way

You wouldn’t be one of us if you weren’t a weirdo.

It’s not that you’re a total outlier. You peek around to see what other kids are doing. You hang back if it’s too new, too fast, too in-your-face.

But then I catch you – when you forget to check that anyone else was doing it, when you lose yourself in the moment – I catch you just doing it your own way…

You’re willing to hear me out

I’m not an extremist in any direction, and that’s, bottom line, really all I’d want to pass on for my kids. You’re young, so who knows how it’ll turn out.

But for now, at this point, though often it feels you are already a pre-teen, you are willing to hear me out. If I’m suggesting an outfit, if I’m offering advice on which page to color, if I’m discussing the merits of going into a career where you’re not just a princess but the princess OF [something specific and productive], you listen. Sometimes you stick to your opinion. Sometimes you take me on. And it goes both ways.

I guess I’m learning to try and be accepting. That I have hopes you’ll accept the challenge of making it as far as you want as a female in this world. That you could go as far or in any direction you want, really. That’s what’s important to me. I hope it will be important to you.

And then, you started speaking up

Growing up, over and over, all I ever heard was ‘speak up!’

When I realized I had started saying it to you, it freaked me out a little.

But after a mix of growing a bit older, having Koala as an older brother, have a baby sister, and overcoming some bilingual challenges, you have started speaking up. You’ll tell me a story with incredible detail. You’ll tell us you don’t like something, and why, and please, ima and abba, stop doing it.

And there’s always been a little sass in your back pocket. I love it. And you need it – everyone needs a little sass. So keep it close, use it when appropriate. You’re being heard.

Bebe, here’s to another year of learning and growing, of telling me what is and what isn’t, of teaching me how to be and how to give and how to love. I have a lot more to learn and I know that you have a lot more to give.

 

 

Is it possible to raise modern kids with a less gendered tone? And other thoughts on my tzitzit-wearing daughter

Here’s how my kids tell it:

This morning, Koala offered Bebe a pair of tzitzit to wear today. Note that this on the heels of last week’s Bebe deciding to wear a kippa to gan (and actually doing it the whole day – I was more impressed hair-wise!).

So Bebe accepted his offer. I walked into their bedroom and found her putting them on, over an undershirt, before her sweatshirt. She looked up, beaming.

“I’m wearing tzitzit!”

And I was beaming too, and kinda chuckling, and before I could say anything, she was blessing them. Correctly. Standing there, shuckling, holding the strings in both hands.

I dutifully replied, “Amen!”

The rest of the morning I waited for her to ask to take them off. When we got downstairs she was only emboldened. She took out one of Koala’s old kippot and put it on. She repeated the blessing for the tzitzit and danced around the room. Somewhere between walking Koala to gan and following Bebe to hers, the kippa came off – it was too big and bothersome. But I watched Bebe stride into her gan, greet her teachers, and walk off to see her friends. Confidently.

Later, I asked her – very delicately – if during gan prayers she had said the bracha on the tzitzit. This orthodox-religious gan is located in a very secular-traditional town, with a generally pluralistic (for national religious lite) religious community. The staff are either dati leumi or traditional mizrahi.

I was trying not to put a spin on her experience. She reported matter-of-factly that she had said the bracha – and proceeded to recite it again. I asked, “with the boys?” She replied, “the boys said [insert mumble mumble ‘mitzvat tzitzit’] and then the girls said [insert mumble mumble ‘k’riztono’] and I said the bracha on the tzitzit.”

So let’s get this out right here: This is way less about religion for me than it is about gendered experiences. I don’t wear a talit, I don’t wear a kippa, hell, I barely pray and when I do it’s not to who you might think.

My three-year-old daughter, any way you slice it, is not considering God’s law when she is trying out new things. She’s curious about clothing and ritual. She’s testing out what other kids do. She’s figuring out boys and girls. She wants to be like her older brother. She’s heard me say boys can have ponytails and girls can have short haircuts.

She wants to be involved.

So she’s feeling it out.

That’s how I see it. Is it a sign that my attempts at toning down gender expectations are working?

I mean, there is so much to beat back. So much, it hurts. The colors, from birth. The clothing that reads ‘Daddy’s little girl!’ or ‘Boys get dirty!’ The behavior expectations. The princesses and ninjas. The kinds of activities on offer. The words directed at them. The way we praise. The way we criticize.

Involvement. Involvement in ritual, in activities, in anything we desire to try.

How much of kids is who they were born as, and how much is the way we’ve sorted them into genderized compartments?

I don’t think we should ban princesses or force boys to take ballet. I wouldn’t deny my son the opportunity to be a Ninja Turtle on Purim and, gulp, my daughter to try her hand at princessing any given year. Turns out, of all the chugim I offered them for the year, Koala wanted soccer and Bebe absolutely loves her ballet class.

So it’s in the little things – the things they ask about, the things they want to try, the questions they ask – that I try my hardest to leave it objective. So they can choose their involvement.

And are my tiny efforts going to make a difference?

Perhaps now that I have children – or perhaps the times I’m parenting in – probably both – I can’t help but see instances, trends, expectations in my childhood that molded me to be a certain way. They were everywhere then. And they are everywhere now.

Sometimes it makes me sick.

So while maybe my son’s ‘black velvet kippa’ phase was more about religion (for adults) than anything else, I really believe Bebe’s tzitzit-wearing is more about gender. And for her, it’s more about being involved. She’s asked to wear them on shabbat for tefillot.

I don’t know where it will go religiously. It’s actually more shocking that my son still wears his tzitzit than that my daughter is interested in being involved in a daily activity.

But this should be about gender expectations. We should talk about gender expectations. When applicable, there are actions to take to break down some gender expectations.

And, c’mon, little girls in tzitzit is just as freakin cute as little boys in tzitzit.

Bebe update: three and a half years

And like that, you were three. Bigger, a little bolder, a lot brighter.

This hasn’t been the easiest half a year for you Bebe; gaining a little sibling is wonderful as you know, but also kind of challenging, as you know… right?

Your love and warmth and all-encompassing care for your baby sister has been inspiring. Your hugs and cuddles and kisses have been (mostly) warmly received by this very lucky little baby.

But on perhaps a weird level, I’m also so proud of you – for the outspokenness when you need to be heard. For acting out when you feel out of sorts. For refusing, rebelling, for stamping your feet.

Your curiosity is budding. More likely to jump in, more likely to explore – and this was always true – way more likely to get your hands (and everything else) dirty for the sake of knowledge.

Along those lines – the building. You love to get your hands in there, putting together houses and towers and any other abstract construct.

Let the record show I’m vocal about making sure you get the same Lego attention as your brother.

You’ve always been about movement – whether doing your natural full split or, well, walking into walls. This year you’ve started a ballet class, which, can you guess, that you love it?

You ‘read’. To your baby sister. It’s the best reading ever.

And your baby doll is still following us everywhere.

Friends have always been and ever-growing an important part of your daily life. It’s most of what you talk about when I ask you how gan was.

We drink ‘coffees’ together.

You are the swimmer to Koala’s paper pool. The explorer to his wild plans.

There are things about you becoming a teenager that I find downright frightening. And there are others I think will be fun – like watching you get dressed every day. Some days you put on whatever we put out… and some days, you make magic (which I will get a photo of at some point).

Walk your own way, Bebe.