Kayli had her first soccer game this week. Right before the big game she jumped into her purple outfit, had her hair french braided by our fabulous babysitter and finished off the look with a dollop of lip gloss. She nodded in the mirror and smiled. Totally and completely satisfied with her “soccer look.” You might be asking yourself what any of this actually has to do with soccer right about now. Pretty much everything for my girl who fixes her fly-aways during a “throw in” and poses when she “traps a ball.” You learn something new everyday people. Every. Single. Day.
She’s lovely and gentle and adores all things pink, sparkly and girly. She’s also earthy. And fiercely competitive. Fiercely. Competitive. For those of you who know me well, there’s absolutely NO need to chime in on where she got that from. Nope. No reason at all. Thanks-a-million.
Now back to Kayli. She’s smart. Loves worms. And is only six years old and I’m already contemplating the mishmash of traits that define her, explain her, are her. If “contemplate” means worry about, stress over and analyze much, then I’m also “contemplating” how some of these characteristics contradict each other.
Contradictions are innate. And natural. To everyone. But they’re absolutely pervasive in messages that girls receive both in our culture and gulp from us, their parents and role models. Gentle but tough. Friendly but private. Caring but independent. Kind but assertive. Join-the-group but stand-out-from-the-crowd. Healthy but eat. Take care of yourself but don’t be too into yourself. Oh. My. God. How could anyone possibly define themselves within these fuzzy parameters? Especially a young girl.
I also contemplate how I’m supposed to support my girls as they maneuver through these messages, ideals, wants and attempts, stabs-in-the-dark really, of figuring out who they are. I could definitely take the approach of whatever will be will be. I’m open to the kids defining their own selves and images. But in reality just living my life with them, as me, I’m sending messages. Of my own beliefs, biases, rights, and wrongs.
This piece is crossposted from Twin Cities Jewfolk, where the Minnesota Mamaleh writes about being a Jewish mother in Minnesota.