Being a mother to a little girl is a lot of responsibility. I mean, the same is true of being a mother to little boys as well, but today, I want to speak of raising Sunshine.
Sunshine is my first baby. She is the one who has been teaching me to mother since the moment we decided to conceive her.
When she was a tiny, flailing newborn, she showed me how to trust my instincts. Somehow, I knew when she needed to be held, when she needed to be fed, when she needed to be rocked, and when she needed to be saved. I did not know how I knew. I just did.
When Sunshine was two, I told Saint Daddy that, at some point, being her parents had required shifting from merely keeping her alive to somehow guiding her toward becoming a well-rounded person.
And, honestly, while the keeping her alive thing was tough to do for a while, we got the hang of it. This teaching her to be a human thing is much more difficult. Every day is a different challenge. There are many more facets to it.
Sunshine loves princesses and sparkles and the color pink. She is the quintessential girl. We wanted her to play soccer, but that would involve sweating sometimes. Sunshine does not like to sweat. She has been very clear about that. She does, however, love to accessorize. She is obsessed with being fashionable. She takes ballet classes instead, and her favorite leotard has sparkles on the cap sleeves and the attached skirt.
Sometimes, I have felt compelled to explain Sunshine to people.
Yes, she loves to have her toes painted and her hair pulled into complicated updos, but she loves science, dinosaurs, and trains.
Our society has told me, as her mother, that I am supposed to encourage her to question princessdom so that she knows that her favorite girls in their pretty dresses are not realistic representations of life. I am supposed to get her outside to play in mud. I am supposed to cut back on her pink and dresses.
If I want to her to be successful in the world in which she will live, I need her to want to do less girly things. After all, girls are not taken seriously. Girls are ignored. Girls are passive and accepting. Girls do not fight for themselves.
So allowing Sunshine to love her girlness might be failing her in her pursuit of being a well-rounded person.
To that, I must ask: Why is being feminine a detriment to my daughter? Why is being feminine a detriment for any woman?
Sunshine is smart. She problem solves and works through issues. She has a thirst for knowledge. She works hard. She understands that practice is how she improves.
She gets frustrated by slow progress sometimes, but she never gives up. She is currently sitting next to me and practicing her reading skills of her own volition because she wants to read on her own and she knows that she will only get there by spending time on the process.
And she is doing this with a sequin bow in her hair, a long necklace over her pink polka dot shirt, and a polka dot skirt lined with tulle.
Does her outfit choice make her any less capable?
Before I became Sunshine’s mother, I hated the color pink. This is true. I would never have been seen wearing it. I owned nothing that was pink.
I said it was because of my skin tone, but what did that have to do with pink notebooks?
No, I did not like pink because pink is for girls and girls are weak and I did not want to be associated with weakness.
When I discovered that Sunshine was going to be a girl, I began to shift my views of the color pink. I do not know why that happened, but I knew it did. I bought a pair of pink flats to wear with my spring dresses.
Six years later, I own quite a few pink items. I wear it regularly. My phone case is pink.
Do you know why I like pink?
Because Sunshine does.
And Sunshine is not weak. Sunshine is strong. Sure, she is scared of bugs and heights, but she will talk to anyone. I will not do that. I am too scared. But Sunshine, she is fearless in her pursuit of love and friendship.
Sunshine is dedicated. She sets her sights on something, and she achieves it. She is focused and determined.
Sunshine is disciplined. She is probably the only five year old in the world who can ration her Halloween candy herself, having full access to it and still being able to eat only a piece a day.
Sunshine is loving. She loves everyone. Her heart is big and can hold a million souls within it. Her prayers contain multitudes.
Sunshine is creative. She makes plans and builds towers. She tells stories and makes up her own songs. Her illustrations have impressed me for years.
Sunshine is giving. She will give someone her last pretzel.
Sunshine is concerned. She knows what is going on and empathizes with those around her.
Sunshine is not weak.
Girlness is not weakness. We need to move away from this idea that women need to hide their feminine side if they want to be successful. We need to celebrate our daughters, even if they want to wear dresses at all times.
I mean, think about women. They bring life into the world. They pick themselves up when their worlds are falling apart. They support their children and each other. They fight every day for those the love. There is nothing weak about women.
Sunshine helped me see this. Without her, I might never have known.
I do not steer Sunshine toward or away from anything. She was born fascinated by all things little girl.
Sunshine is proof that loving pink princesses covered in head-to-toe glitter does not make anyone less of a capable person.
Sunshine wants to be a doctor or maybe a teacher. She definitely wants to be a mommy, but not to twins because that seems like it might be painful. (Her words, not mine.)
Sunshine wants to move mountains.
And she will, probably while wearing a beautiful pink polka dot dress.
As for me, I will be behind her the whole time, supporting her and being awed by her, with my pink cell phone in hand.