Does this book make my butt look big?

I caught Chickadee in a lie this evening; I gave her two more chances to recant–neither of which she took–and then when I revealed that I had evidence to the contrary, she dissolved into tears and demanded to know why I hate her. Having come to this interaction fresh out of trying to make her brother try on his Easter clothes (“Take your pants off and try these on. Take your pants off. TAKE YOUR PANTS OFF! Monkey, please PUT YOUR UNDERWEAR BACK ON.”), I did the logical thing.

I announced that as soon as they were in bed, I would be phoning the Easter Bunny to tell him to skip our house.

Eventually all was set to rights. I allowed as to how perhaps I had been hasty about the Bunny; Monkey’s clothes were selected and laid out; Chickadee and I had a discussion about what happens when she lies and also that I love her no matter what. Many tearful apologies later (no, I’m not saying from whom) the kids were tucked in for the night.

Earlier today, I’d sat down and read It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters (edited by the lovely Andi Buchanan) cover to cover.

I want to say something more profound and less trite-sounding than “I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats” but, well, I laughed and I cried and I really never understood why everyone thought Cats was so great, anyway, because frankly parts of the story really creeped me out when I finally saw it at the ripe old age of 32.

What I CAN say that will perhaps convey how important I think this book is, is that I will read it again. I almost never reread books. I devour books on a regular basis and am the sort of person who will read utter schlock rather than be without a book in my hands, but there is perhaps one shelf reserved for the few works I will read again and again. This book will join the others on that shelf, assuming that I take it off of my nightstand for any length of time, which may not even happen.

I can say that I think this book is required reading for any woman raising a girl, or thinking of raising a girl. My only complaint is that it wasn’t out eight years ago when I found out I was going to have a daughter. Every woman I knew acted as if I’d won the lottery, while I guiltily kept my doubts and fears to myself.

The first essay in the collection (“Her Perfect Woman” by Carolyn Alessio) starts with the author’s description of her initial conviction that she would fit into her child’s world much more naturally as a doting but essentially absentee presence, so daunted did she find herself by the day-to-day care a baby required. Well, I reminded myself as I came to the end of the first page, I was the very model of maternal instinct, at least, thanks to years of babysitting, and so perhaps this piece would prove interesting, but not particularly relevant to my own experience.

And then I turned the page, and read:

Friends called me a bad feminist when I confided that I was hoping for a boy. Wanting a male is such a ridiculous, old-school cliche–an heir, a farmhand, a business associate to carry on the name. I knew this, but I feared having a girl child who might have weaknesses similar to my own, especially struggles with self-confidence.

And so I was hooked, half a page in, relieved to know that I was not the only person on the planet who had dreaded raising a girl. Not because girls are hard or bad or anything like that, but because I feared seeing my own struggles transpiring anew.

Much later in the collection, in “Daughter Dread” by Vicky Mlyniec, it was summed up exactly as I would’ve said it if I could’ve found those right words:

Having a daughter would mean adding to the already huge responsibility of child-rearing the task of untangling my past from my daughter’s present.

Right. That’s it, isn’t it?

It’s an entire volume of women laying themselves bare to discuss those complexities that so often get buried in everyday life or are too painful or personal to speak about as a matter of course. It’s a compilation of love letters to our daughters from imperfect, searching mothers. Moms like you. Moms like me. It’s different stories but a very common theme: It’s nothing like I thought it would be, and so much more than I expected.

Thank you, Andi, for undertaking this project. I spent hours mentally interjecting, “Yes!” to so much of what I read. When evening came and I was fielding another “why is this child so DIFFICULT?” moment I felt buoyed and calmed by my afternoon of reading. I knew we’d get through it. I felt brimming over with a fierce love for my girl instead of just frustrated and tired.

Many of the writers in the collection have sons in addition to one or more daughters, and discuss the differences in raising the two. No two examples were quite the same and yet they all spoke of the same simplicity, with sons, while daughters just seemed more… complicated. It reminded me of something that happened earlier this week.

Chickadee was telling me about girl at school, and commented that she doesn’t really like her all that much. When I asked why not, she said, “Well, she’s kinda bossy.”

I feigned shock and horror. “Bossy? WELL!” I snaked a finger around her waist to administer a quick tickle. “That’s TERRIBLE. I wonder if you know anyone ELSE who’s bossy? HMMMM?” I was–of course–inferring that she herself knows quite a bit about bossiness, and that I was finding her distaste for this trait somewhat amusing. She knew exactly what I was getting at, too.

But do you know what she did?

“Yeah, I do,” she responded, trying VERY hard to look contemplative. As I awaited her epiphany and remorse for being bossy, herself, she broke out into a wicked grin. “YOU’re bossy, Mama!” She shrieked with laughter as I gaped and chased her out of the room.

Now ensued a good fifteen minutes of good-natured bickering back and forth, where I denied it and she continued to cackle and insist that I am TERRIBLY BOSSY.

[Sidenote: I am bossy. You wisenheimers in the back needn't point it out; I'm aware. This is not the point.]

“No, I’m not!”
“Yes, you are! You’re SO BOSSY!”
etc.

Monkey observed this drama unfolding in front of him and fairly quivered with his desire to join the fray. Chickadee and I were–although play-fighting over a less desirable characteristic which, let’s face it, we share–enjoying each other and having something of a bizarre bonding interlude over the unspoken acknowledgement of our similarity. Neither of us were paying much mind to the boy, when he spotted his opening.

“Stop it, I am NOT bossy,” I said.
“You are TOTALLY bossy,” she countered.
“Yeah, and also you’re FAT!” shouted Monkey with abandon.

Chickadee and I turned to behold Monkey–his declarative, punctuating finger held high in the air for emphasis–and then locked eyes with each other and laughed until the tears streamed down our cheeks. Monkey felt this was a victory and regaled us with variations on the original (“You’re SUPER FAT!” “You’re fatty fat FAT FAT!” etc.) while we gasped for breath. I doubt it would’ve been so amusing if I really was overweight, but as it was, his ridiculousness trumped ours.

So, yeah. Having a daughter is like that and a son is more like that and I love them both but “different” is sort of an understatement. An entire book about the thatness was a great reminder that 1) I’m not insane, 2) I’m not alone, and 3) I’m so, so lucky.

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13 Responses to “Does this book make my butt look big?”

  1. 1
    Mom April 16, 2006 at 1:06 am #

    Yup. Me too. So different they are. So lucky am I.

    Love,
    Mom

  2. 2
    Karen April 16, 2006 at 9:16 am #

    I’ve just ordered the book. Thanks.

  3. 3
    MsShad April 16, 2006 at 12:21 pm #

    I’m ordering the book. And I have a son, grown up, and no daughters.

    Wonderful post.

  4. 4
    Heather April 16, 2006 at 5:00 pm #

    Sounds like the book is going on my to-read list! I don’t have a daughter, but I am one ;) and hope to have children someday. I’ll see if my library has it!

  5. 5
    Amy-GO April 16, 2006 at 5:48 pm #

    Got myself three boys. Thank you, Jesus! And God bless all of y’all who have girls…I wouldn’t trade you for anything!

  6. 6
    Nancy April 16, 2006 at 7:49 pm #

    Great post Mir, thank you! I’m going to pick up a copy of the book this week. My daughter is 17 now and I see all of the insecurities, and things I didn’t like about myself at that age, in her; it scares me. Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. 7
    Em April 16, 2006 at 9:53 pm #

    I just went to put it on my wishlist and noticed they have one called “Its a Boy”. Same book about raising boys. I’m putting them both on my wish list. Thanks! That is why I love reading (especially “mommy blogs”). I love when people are able to express through their writing my exact feelings on motherhood that I just can’t find the words for (Kira does this extremely well and probably the most often of all of the blogs I read).

    Thanks for this recommendation!

  8. 8
    Carol April 16, 2006 at 11:23 pm #

    Thank you for the suggestion. I’m raising 2 boys and 1 girl. If you hadn’t mentioned that you’d wanted this book BEFORE you had Chickadee, I would’ve assumed that this was a book better suited for someone with an older girl child. My little girl is only 2. And while raising her has thus far been the same as raising my boys, it is also just *different*.

    I will get this book!

  9. 9
    Mary April 17, 2006 at 1:37 am #

    Great review. I can’t wait to read the book.

    But what I’m not so sure about is if I want my kids to start talking.

  10. 10
    Monica April 17, 2006 at 8:07 am #

    Thanks, I’ve been on the edge of buying both It’s a boy, and It’s a girl for a while now and this was just what the doctor ordered to push me over the edge. It was really close the last time I saw the “Buy your friends a book week” but It’s a boy wasn’t out yet and since my closest friends each have a single child, one in each flavor I decided to wait until both were available.

    No more excuses! Free Amazon shipping! Can’t lose.

    Of course that does leave open the question of should I read them before delivering them, or borrow them back as soon as they are done :)

  11. 11
    chris April 17, 2006 at 9:39 am #

    I have six sons, yet raising my one daughter is far more daunting.

  12. 12
    sfrewerd April 17, 2006 at 9:53 am #

    Girls are harder to raise than boys; that’s obvious to me now that I have a 14 year old girl and two boys 22 yrs and 3 yrs…My biggest fear: turning into my mother and my daughter hating me…probably a common fear among mothers.

  13. 13
    Bob April 17, 2006 at 10:26 am #

    I guess I’m surprised to find that women fear raising daughters more than sons. It had always been my observation that you fear the unknown – in this case raising child of the opposite gender – more than the known. I know that in my case, I worried more about being able to raise my daughter than my son. It is a difficult world for those that aren’t white and male. Maybe I should read this book.

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