Tomboys Raising Girly-Girls in a Gender-Neutral World

Today was a milestone day for me in motherhood. I openly declared that I have to stop fighting the idea that my daughter is a girly-girl and start looking at things like Barbies. I abhorred the day I would ever have to figure out all those pink aisles, but I have to meet my daughter where she is.

Many times in my life I have pondered about the peculiar sense of humor that God seems to have. No situation that he has placed me in draws more speculation than that of the child he gave me as a daughter.

Growing up, almost everything I did would have been labeled boyish. I would have much rather spent my day playing sports in the neighborhood, climbing trees or playing cops and robbers. Indoor, it was He-Man and Hot Wheels. My parents would try to get me more girl oriented toys, but by the time He-Man came out I think they had resigned themselves to She-Ra being the closest they would get to my interest in anything feminine. Barbies? I would have rather gouged my eyes out with a spoon!

Once I was married, I began to search for a better definition of masculine and feminine roles. I found differences in the ways that hubby responded to situations versus me. I started to see value in the ways I was more traditionally feminine, such as a drive to nurture. Certainly, I still by and large prefer my tomboy’ish ways, but I began to treasure what made me different from the guys.

Fast forward to building a family. Our firstborn was a son. I am not sure anyone could have guessed my relief! I was petrified of having a girl that I could not relate to. I was so excited to teach him sports and build things with him! Growing up as one of the guys, I felt confident that I could raise a son.

After our son was born, I began to wonder what it would be like to have a girl. My curiosity early in marriage about masculine and feminine roles morphed into an interest in the difference between raising a son and a daughter. As always, God would provide!

Slightly over two years after our son was born, Little-Flower made her entrance into the world. An eight pound fiery, feminine ball of everything I was scared of. I remember holding her and wondering to myself, “Now what?” How in the world could I ever teach this innocent baby everything she needed to know to be a successful woman?

God’s particularly odd sense of humor didn’t just give me a daughter, he gave me one that passionately loves all things girly. She wants to wear dresses and twirl them back and forth. If I ask her what color of something she wants, the inevitable answer is “Pink.” regardless of whether that is even an option. She loves bows and running to her daddy when she is all ready to go and wait for him to tell her how beautiful she looks.

Although she is adopted, I see so much of myself in her attitude. She is determined and fiercely independent. She loves to be in near constant motion. It is like looking at a blonde hair, blue eyed, girly version of myself. She is both familiar and completely foreign to me at the same time.

I find myself trying to girlify my thoughts in order to relate to her. I have spent my life appalled at pink aisles in toy stores. They were like a neon light drawing attention to all things I had no interest in. Now I search them up and down trying to examine the toys and how my personality may have enjoyed them if I grew up with a more girly inclination.

Our culture is trending toward a gender neutral world. Prior to having a daughter I would have welcomed some of this trend. I have always felt a bit unsure of where I fit in our world when I was unable to enjoy all that society was telling me I should. But, now I am begging that we do not gender neutralize!

I have a little girl that exudes all sorts of femininity. I need society to help me help her. I need pink aisles to show me what she may love to play with. I find myself searching all things feminine in order to help my daughter to better understand herself as she gets older.

It is okay to recognize gender. Even though I have struggle to relate to women, it is important to me that I have a model of what women enjoy. I have learned to accept myself as I am and understand that I may not share all attributes with “normal” women, but appreciate the things that make me unique in comparison with men.

I worry about Little-Flower’s generation of girls, especially ones who are raised by tomboys like me. How confusing will it be to find that they all share common interests, but are unable to describe those as feminine because society is trying to relabel how we define gender.

One of the ways we determine IQ is in the ability to quickly recognize patterns. While I think it is not good to strictly apply stereotypical assumptions to an individual, our brains are wired to recognize patterns and define them. In trying to erase the demarcations that define masculine and feminine, we are trying to go against the natural inclinations of our brains.

As a tomboy, I have lived outside of the margins that define females. But, now, I have a girl and know that she relates to all things that live within those boundaries. She needs to know that it is okay to embrace those even if her mother does not. She deserves to feel the normalcy of being a girl and loving things defined as girly.

We are not doing anyone a favor in attempting to remove gender identity, even us who don’t really identify well with our assigned role. Having things labeled as uniquely male or female helps me to understand what makes me tick. I have always felt like one of the guys, but then there are these little nuances that I have that separate me from them. I see those in other women recognize the femininity that resides inside me.

I am a tomboy raising a girly-girl in a world that is striving to become gender neutral. Please, we need to stop and think about what this means for the next generation. No one to say what is feminine is only going to further confuse girls like Little-Flower. She cannot identify the interests she has are feminine by looking at the woman who is raising her. She needs to look out into society and embrace the beautiful attributes that make her female.

We can attempt to remove the words “Masculine” and “Feminine” from our vocabulary, but we will never be able to remove the patterns of behavior that fall under the framework that those words represent. There will always be outliers like myself, but that does not change the patterns that exist. There is a reason those words are part of the English language. They represent a reality that cannot be denied.

We look for patterns and define them. It is how our brain works. There are girls, there are boys. Most come with a general preconfigured tendency, specific to what biology defines them as. It is okay and good to accept the behaviors as they are. For the sake of the next generation, let’s end the nonsense that is being pushed on us. The next generation deserve the sense of belonging and normalcy that are defined in those words.


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