Bebe, I present to you, on this your third birthday, as you leave ‘toddler’ life behind and stand in the doorway of girldom, a contract I will sign, in the hopes I can help you continue growing without… totally screwing it up.
Article 1: On being ‘a girl’
Dolls. Nail polish. Dresses. Giggling. Princesses. Beauty. Poise. Complexes.
What an awfully powerful mix of associations to face right out the gate, amiright? It seemed when my generation was little we got to play with pretend makeup and dress our Barbies and no one bothered us much. Were our mothers, fresh off the 70s, overthinking it too?
I think we can do this, Bebe. You’re welcome to request some experimental nailpolish. I cordially invite you to play dress up in my closet. Explore what makes you giddy. What makes you giggle. And take it further, laugh deeply. Laugh hard. Enjoy it. I’m going to try very hard to remember that when I was a little girl, I did the same. And I came out ok.
Article 2: On ‘girl power’
Here’s another thing I will have to not get caught up in: girl power. Is girl power the amazing super strength nature gave us to make, grow, and give life to babies? That’s an awesome super power your brother is surely secretly jealous of (he’s told me so).
Is it the power of empathy? Of affection? Of proving yourself? Of overcoming self-doubt? Of becoming something awesome?
I’m thinking all of that deep down is plain old power… And you have it already. Let’s work on not letting either of us get boxed in by a notion of and the pressure for ‘girl power.’
Article 3: On the fact that you are a girl
You’re a girl. You have a vagina. You’ve said so. You’re also waiting to grow your penis so you can become a big boy like your brother. I hate to break it to you. But we’ll get it through to you soon. I think watching me grow your little sister and now feed her has maybe tipped the scales on that a little.
Article 4: On the fact that you are, actually, above all else, Bebe
You’re Bebe. And here’s the part I gotta initial and stamp and sign every day. You are your own glorious person. I’ve been learning from you, and I hope you’re – for better or worse – learning from me. It’s going to stay that way forever. So as much as I have to hold down contempt for the way the world around us treats girls, women, people who are different, I’m going to keep my own crap at a minimum as now you explore it all.
We’re here and we’re going to face it together. And you’re going to do that as you, and I’m going to do it as me. And sometimes we’ll be wearing nailpolish. Or dresses. Or jeans with holes in the knees. Or mud under our fingernails.
Signed with a decent amount of time behind me, admittedly a little self-doubt, plenty of curiosity, a sense of adventure and a whole lotta love,