All Dolled Up
When we were expecting, Greg and I wanted to be surprised with the gender of our child. As far as we were both concerned, it really didn’t matter whether we had a boy or a girl. Elly’s birthmother knew the baby’s gender and when she chose us, wanted us to know as well. While we had always imagined that moment of finding out to take place in a hospital room with a doctor exclaiming, "It’s a girl!", we were nonetheless quite surprised when we opened a card with a pink rattle on the front that inside held an ultrasound picture of our soon-to-be daughter. From that point forward, we were literally tickled pink.
Having a daughter is such a joy. Don’t get me wrong. We would of course, love a son just as much. Nevertheless, there is a particular delight in doing all the "girly" things that one can do with a daughter. I think you know me well enough by now to imagine this scenario... Flash-forward a dozen years or so, where can you better imagine me? Choosing a prom dress in Nordstrom’s with my daughter or spiraling a football to my teen son? I know. I know. Gender stereotypes are so last millennium. I can appreciate that girls can play football and like sports, too. Of course I will support Elly 100% if she wants to do those things. Sports is also what heterosexual uncles and lesbian aunties are for which brings us precisely to the "nature versus nurture" argument.
Nature versus nurture can’t help but be in the forefront of your mind when you are around children and observing their actions. Hoards of kids, falling into specific niches with almost programmatic accuracy, is fascinating stuff. At three, right now, it’s hard to imagine that Elly will grow to become a tomboy. While she does have excellent coordination (better than me), I can envision her more as a gymnast than the captain of the lacrosse team. But one never knows. As modern day parents, we made it a point from the time Elly was born to buy her toys that one would consider "boy" toys along with the "girl" toys. To an extent, we continue to do so.
Besides her dolls (that outnumber "Nineteen and Counting") and pocketbooks (that rival Project Runway’s latest Accessory Wall), she has a dump truck, a tool set and some Matchbox cars. Nurture? Check. Enter nature. Inevitably, the "boy" toys become vehicles for "girl" play. The dump truck is typically used to tote a doll around or to go shopping. Now there, my friends is a girl after my own heart! I’m certain that in her mind, she’s thinking,"A car can only hold so much. But a dump truck? Now that can haul a serious bounty!"
Elly’s girliness isn’t just limited to pretend. It encompasses all of her actions. When I’m getting ready in the morning, she pulls up her step-stool and stands by the vanity. There she intently watches my every move as I go through my routine. (Cue image of Joan Crawford with ice water and cucumber. Well, I don’t really do that but that image has been emblazoned in my mind ever since the first time I watched "Mommy Dearest.")
As I lather the shaving cream on my face with my shave brush, Elly asks,"Daddy, when I’m a big girl, will I shave?"
"No, sweetie, only boys shave," I respond, judiciously deciding to save the "some gals need to wax" discussion for a later day.
She continues to watch me, patiently waiting for what comes next. I take out my moisturizer (you know, the one with SPF 7000), and she asks, "Can I put on my ’moistulizer’, too?"
"Sure, sweetie," I reply and I pass her the travel size bottle of L’Occitane Gentle Lotion that I saved just for this reason. She carefully squeezes some out and proudly applies it to her cheeks as though she’s putting on Crème de la Mer. It’s truly adorable.
"Can I put ’deroderant’ on, too?"
"No, Elly. You can pretend; just not for real. Deodorant is just for grown-ups."
For nearly every lotion in the house, I have a story. One time, ages ago, when she was still in diapers, Elly got to the Desitin which was in with the changing supplies. That day, her doll Cindy got slathered in it from head to toe, along with the floor, the dresser and Elly’s arms and legs. By the time she had finished, her bedroom looked like a crime scene where the police chalk out the area where the victim laid. For those who are unfamiliar with Desitin, let me tell you something. It’s not the easiest thing to remove. It’s entire raison d’être is for it to stick to the skin. You can imagine that cleanup took a while.
And who could forget the time that she decided to Vaseline her heels? As I heard her hit the floor, I thought, everybody has to learn that lathering one’s heels makes for slippery walking. Today was Elly’s turn. Which leads me to my favorite story...
Lately, one of Elly’s favorite pretend games is to take a shower. One afternoon, as I was preparing dinner, Elly says, "Daddy, I’m gonna take a shower."
"All right, Elly, but remember, it’s just pretend. That means you don’t turn on the water."
"I know, Daddy. I won’t" she says, heading for the bathroom, stripping off clothing and leaving a trail of garments in her wake.