My 4-year-old daughter’s working very hard at becoming a woman.
If she sees me applying lip gloss, she asks me to hand it over so she can “be beautiful.”
If she spies me with a knife and cutting board, she races to chop those veggies along side me (don’t worry, her knife is plastic).
If she hears the tell-tale sound of sweeping – and knows I’ve started without her – she tsk-tsks, “Mommy, you know how much I like cleaning.”
For some reason, she seems to think that working, wiping, food shopping, cooking and child rearing is a laugh riot. And I’ve got to tell you, I have not been sugar-coating the job. I am not June Cleaver with a smile on my face and an apron on my hips. But no matter how much I warn her that mommying isn’t all fun and games, she can’t be deterred in her desire for womanhood.
Just the other day while I was towel-drying her after her shower, she decided to take a peek down my shirt. Now I’m not that modest a person. If I’m changing and the kids are around, I don’t hustle to cover up. If I’m in the bathroom and they barge in, as they are wont to do, my pleas for privacy go unheard. But something about the way she was pulling at me made me a tad uncomfortable.
Before I could react to the kid-handling, however, she had her defense ready: “Mommy, boobies aren’t private.”
They’re not? Since when?
“Yes, they are, honey,” I said calmly and sweetly, while trying to pry her hands off me. “No they’re not,” she sing-songed. Which is true, I guess, if you haven’t hit puberty. But I digress …
“Do you see mommy walking around outside without a shirt on?” I asked her. “Do you see your aunts without shirts on or Grandma and Nana?” “No,” she responded.
“That’s because they’re private.”
(A side note here: I don’t know where she got the word boobies from, but it’s not from me. I’m a part of the real-words-for-private-parts fan club. I think I’ll blame my 7-year-old son for this one.)
Anyway, that seemed to mollify her. But it got me wondering, why the interest all of the sudden? Why the fascination with laundry folding, vegetable slicing and booby peeking? Are we all in training from Day One for the division of labor that adulthood brings? Is it simply inevitable?
While I know I’m outrageously stereotyping here, my son has no desire to cook, clean, fold or pack. And while he’d never turn down a peek at privates, he’s certainly not grabbing at them either. He loves tools, sports, explosions and vehicles of all kind. He can rake for hours in the dirt patch he calls his “Japanese Garden.” And he never turns down a chance to don a weapon.
My husband enjoys many of the same things as my son – sans weapons. But he’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and wash some dishes or make a meal once in a while. Our household is not a bastion of gender-specific roles. But, I must admit, on any given Sunday we do seem to be tipping toward the traditional.
So what gives with my daughter? Is it just a stage? Or is she more woman than I’ll ever be? As my friends and family can attest, I hated pink as a girl, refused to where skirts and scoffed at prisses who wouldn’t get dirty. I minored in Women’s Studies in college and proudly proclaim myself a feminist.
And yet despite all the rah-rah, Free To Be You and Me, “girls are great” stuff I was fed as a child of the ‘70s and ‘80s, I’m still doing the same job my mother did – except I’m working outside the home as well.
So what if my daughter is simply reflecting what she’s seeing at home? What if I am the woman I thought I’d never be?
Then I guess my new slogan should be: I Am Mommy Hear Me Roar. And I’ll be sure to cheer it, right after I finish matching the socks, making the lunches and scrubbing the baseball uniform.