I’ve mentioned this a few times in the past, but growing up, I was never a girly-girl. I imagine that this has less to do with my inclination to “girly” things, as it does with the fact that I didn’t really have the means/relationships/security to develop that aspect of myself. I spent a great deal of time by myself, and my volatile family situation made it hard to make friends, or meet people outside of my immediate family. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I brushed this off as an inconsequential fact of my childhood. Would I really ever care that I didn’t get the “typical” girl experience? And wasn’t I better off for not having that whole gender-identity thing shoved down my throat? Yes…and no.
Here I am now, inching towards my twenty-ninth birthday (which is about a decade longer than I expected to live), married, and with a daughter of my very own. And it wasn’t until I was married and had a child that I started to get the feeling that I was missing something.
I remember several instances when we were planning our wedding that my husband (then fiancé) would ask me for my opinion (music, food, etc), and I didn’t have a preference one way or another. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it’s just that I had never put much thought into it, and in the end, we were going to be married regardless of which band played, or whether we had a wedding cake or wedding cupcakes. I’m not trying to say that being ambivalent with regards to one’s wedding preparations makes one “less of a woman,” but I am using that as an example of how little preparation or comprehension I had for what “normal” women are like. Most women (certainly not all), have, you know, some clue as to what they’d like their wedding to be like. What their dream house looks like. What they might name their children. Whether or not they’d even like to have children. Those sorts of things. And I had nothin’. (Which, in many ways, made my wedding totally awesome. Lowest maintenance bride ever, this one.)
But here’s the thing: growing up with so little attention paid to my gender, and yes, my gender identity (as much as people seem to hate the very idea of “gender identity”) and having so many negative examples of femininity ingrained in me from such a young age, made my young adulthood ridiculously difficult to navigate, and has left me totally unprepared for many aspects of my life as a wife, mother and maker of my home. Don’t get me wrong: I make up for it. I read a LOT. A LOT a lot. And I discuss. And I argue both sides of things to myself to discover how I actually feel about *breastfeeding/cloth diapering/vaccinations/preschools/etc. But none of this comes naturally, the way it seems to for women who were raised to be women (whatever that means). Sure, it’s not “easy” for anyone, really (life as a mostly stay-at-home-mom has been the toughest “job” of my life), but some women just seem so…natural, you know? I chalk it up to all those years they spent pushing their dolls around in strollers and playing house. OF COURSE their houses are beautifully decorated, they’ve been planning it since they were five years old! 🙂
I could go on and on about my perceived deficiencies, but that’s not the point here. The point (yes, there is one!) is that I don’t know what books to make my kid read. Can you believe it? Four paragraphs of background, just to solicit book recommendations? Before you yell at me, hear me out: My Friend Flippa? (Flicka?), American Girl? Something about a Prairie? Anne of Green Gables? Something about a black horse? These all sound vaguely like book titles to me, and if I reach for it, I feel like they’re typically associated with little girls. Am I right? I know there’s a whole sea of wholesome, little-girl books out there, but I have no clue–not a clue–where to start. I figure, if you all can give me some recommendations, I can begin reading through the list, and have them ready for Ellie when she’s five or so.
For context (as if you need more context…), the first book I remember reading was an oooold Webster’s Dictionary. It was the biggest book we had in the house, and I feel in love with it. In the back it had charts of the solar system, and the periodic table of elements, and a field-guide to rocks and minerals (not sure who’s going to carry a dictionary with them out in the field, but okay) AND a section with old-timey slang. I went into kindergarten calling boys “fella” and my favorite game was “making a list of words that mean the same thing” (evidently I skipped the entry on the word “Synonym”). And as if you didn’t see this coming: I ended up marrying an AP English teacher whose favorite book is Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” and who sends me hand-made postcards from work quoting e e cummings. *SWOON*
So, if you’d like to help a sister out, please leave your favorite little-girl book recommendations below. I’m partial to stories about courageous women who make huge sacrifices for the betterment of others, and stories about girls who overcome adversity and make an impact those around them. I like stories about hard work, and struggle, and when the characters get excited about things like “going into town” or “playing in the crick,” but I’ll read whatever. 🙂 Thanks for your help! And I’ll let you know what I think as I read through them.
*Yes, as long as possible/Love the idea, will do it with the next one/Regular vaccination schedule/Montessori, I hope