As I’ve mentioned before, I walked into parenting thinking most gender norms were social constructs.
Not wanting to cram my daughter into a pink box from the get-go, I painted her room green, bought her gender-neutral toys, and avoided onesies that said crap like “I’m so pretty” like the plague.
And… I still ended up with the girliest girl that ever walked the planet.
Since she was two years old, Brontë would beeline for the pinkest, fluffiest dress she could get her tiny hands on before sneaking my lipstick to smear all over her face so she’d look fetching enough to host the stuffed animal tea parties she was constantly throwing in her room.
I didn’t think she’d even heard about tea parties, yet there she was… constantly debating the relative merits of various Disney princesses with the giant bears and dinosaurs sipping imaginary flower tea and helping themselves to the pink hors d’oeuvres she’d pretended to lay out on plates.
It was a real head-scratcher.
After she shoved enough trucks aside in favor of dolls, or screamed in enough agony when asked to put on pants, I had to start wondering if… maybe… gender norms weren’t entirely a pack of lies.
And then, her sister Bridget came along.
Whereas Brontë would throw Hollywood-worthy scenes whenever she scraped her knee, Bridget would punch the trees and walls around her like a miniature Hulk.
While Brontë would run away sobbing whenever one of the playground girls were mean to her, Bridget would literally roll her eyes, fart at them and laugh.
The hilarious thing is, while Bridget absolutely loves her sister, sometimes Brontë’s super-dramatic, hyper-feminine antics get on her last nerve. Like the time Brontë was acting out some romantic fantasy car date between a prince and princess and the moment her back was turned, Bridget replaced the prince with a giant dinosaur then laughed herself stupid after Brontë shrieked in outrage:
Or the way Bridget loves grossing out her sister. We had this dialogue the other day…
John: What should be eat for dinner?
John: We’ve had pasta for the past three nights. What else would you like?
Bridget: Popcorn and salt!
John: That’s just a snack. What do you want for dinner?
Bridget: Fish cones and bone sauce!
Bridget (miming swimming fish with her hands): FISH CONES and BONE SAUCE.
Brontë: That’s DISGUSTING.
Bridget: Fish cones, NOW!
Brontë: EWW, GROSS!
Bridget rolls on the floor laughing.
Or the other day, when the girls and I were walking home from the library when Brontë notices a dandelion in the grass…
Twirling, she says, “A candy-lion! My favorite! I want to make a wish!”
Holding her skirt with one hand, she bends over to pick it with the other. Like a Disney princess, she prances around with it for several minutes, striking poses and saying, “I wish I wish I wish in my deepest heart, the greatest wish that ever…”
And in the middle of her soliloquy, Bridget rolls her eyes, stomps over and blows all the dandelion petals away.
“MY WISH!” she says, stomping away like Finally, we can go home in peace.
I’m not sure whether she was commandeering Brontë’s wish flower or if getting Brontë to stop prancing around was actually her wish, but it was pretty funny, either way.
But it just goes to show that this gender question isn’t quite that simple. Some girls roll out into a glittery cupcake universe from the start, while others are more… sarcastic.
And we don’t fall entirely into either camp. Brontë loves Legos, Outer Space and superheroes, for example. whereas Bridget also loves smelling perfume and having me paint her nails.
It shall be interesting to see how this develops…