Soft hair.

“Ima, feel how soft my hair is.”

How many times have we said/heard our girl friends say this?

“Ima my hair is so smooth today, I used extra conditioner.”

She has thick hair and it gets knotty; I tell her to use double.

“Ima, <boy friend> is going to love it…”

Huh?

“He tells me he likes it when my hair is smooth.”

They’re just innocent six-year-olds. Everyone loves smooth hair.

“He is definitely going to want to be my friend today.”

I stop her dead in her little girl tracks. I call for her to come back. Her brother is standing next to me, wondering what is about to happen. She skips back towards me. I bend down, so we’re eye level, and I take her face close to mine.

“Listen to me: no one is your real friend because your hair is smooth or because they like your clothes or because of how you look. Your real friends love you because of the kind of friend you are. <Boy friend> loves you because you are a good friend. Otherwise, you are not real friends.”

She smiles and nods and I tell her to go have fun, and she bounds onward toward the path to her kindergarten.

Her brother looks back at me. I look at him.

“That was important,” I tell him.

I should have said, “for you too.”

Bebe update: six years

This is the year, Bebe. The year I start to feel the weight of what it is to raise a daughter.

There’s something about this year – kindergarten, the oldest of the gan years, first grade prep, heightened self awareness, heightened emotional intelligence, deeper self expression.

Taking more responsibility. Finding love in different places.

Volunteering to try new things. Speaking up.

Finding a sense of style. Preferences for patterns of your own design.

Giving of yourself. Thinking of others.

This is the year Bebe. You’re getting to be a bigger, bolder kid. You’re thinking things through. For better or worse, you’re aware of what’s going on around you – the good, the bad, the scary. The uncomfortable. You’ve figured out privacy. You’ve figured out whats makes a kid ‘in’ or ‘out’. You want to fit in. You want to be appreciated.

Just keep nurturing your ability to speak up. To speak against injustice. Learn when to step in. Learn when to step up. I will help you. It’s hard for me too. But this is the year, Bebe. So much learning and growing. You teach me every day, too.

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.