In 1997 when I had my fourth child, I was thrilled to have a girl. I was ready for bows and dresses, dollies and ponytails, and pink. And that’s what I got…for about three years. But slowly my little girl changed. She was still a girl on the outside, but was fast becoming a boy on the inside. She loved cars, and swords, and getting dirty. She wore boy clothes (even boy cartoon-character undies, although mortified when I gave them to her as a present at her fifth birthday party – ooops!). She even played on a boys’ baseball team until she was about eight, and cried when her coach told her it was time to switch over to a girls’ team. She dressed in boy’s Halloween costumes (usually with dripping blood included) every year since she’d worn her princess outfit at the age of three.
My little girl barely survived a make-over party that one of her best friends had for her birthday one year. Make-up, and hair-do’s, and fingernail polish made her almost crawl out of her skin. But she went anyway, because she loved being with her friend. But the girly-stores are still a source of funny jokes for us.
My little girl was rough, and tough as nails. She didn’t mind beating the crap out of a boy. She didn’t cry much. Actually, she was much tougher than my real boy was at her age. She is my tomboy, and even though I missed out on the girly things that I love so much, it’s totally OK. I want her to be exactly who she is; she doesn’t have to fit into the mold of what others think a girl should be.
My little girl willingly submitted herself to humiliation last year by dressing as a fairy princess for Halloween, complete with rhinestone crown and magic wand, as a dare given to her by her older sister. The payoff was $30, if she wore it trick-or-treating, then let herself be photographed (in The Incredible Hulk pose, I might add). Her desire to earn money outweighed the shame of her attire.
My little girl is now not so little any more. She’ll be thirteen in a few months. Yesterday, we went shopping, which she never much liked to do before. I let her go to the juniors section, while I shopped in the women’s department. After about twenty minutes, she came to find me, and had a funny grin on her face when I asked her if she’d found anything.
“Mom. I know you’re not going to believe this, but…” she began, with a look of mischief on her face. I had a weird sense that I knew where this was going. “I found a dress. It just caught my eye,” she admitted.
Wow. The only other time a dress ever caught my daughter’s eye was when she was looking through her closet for things that needed to be donated to charity. “I really like it,” she said, “but it might be too expensive,” she added tentatively.
For this girl, I would have paid double. Not only was this the first dress she’d agreed to wear when having to dress up for a special event, there wasn’t even a special occasion this time. She just loved it and wanted to buy it. Not pink, but an elegant black. And even more surprising: it has sparkles – glitter and rhinestones. She loves it, and looks so beautiful in it.
I think this is a hint to her parents that their tomboy is growing up.
So a dress isn’t always just a dress – to me this dress is a milestone in my little girl’s life, and in mine. The continuum has once again shifted.