When I was a child, I never felt comfortable in a girly-girl role. I idolized my older brother and wanted to play his games. My Barbie and Skipper dolls were never my favorites, despite the outfits my grandmother sewed them to match the ones she made for me. I couldn't fix my hair -- or my friends' hair -- in fancy braids or up-dos. Partly from lack of confidence and partly from obstinate preference, I thought of myself as a tomboy, and took a perverse pride in hanging more comfortably in male circles than female ones.
So when I found out that my second child was a girl, I felt ill-prepared in a way that wasn't the case with my son. What would I do when she wanted complicated hair arrangements or flipped over pink and purple unicorns? Could I relate to her desires and obsessions, if she turned out to be more culturally typical than I thought I had been?
Six years later, those worries sound silly, despite how real they were at the time. My girl is a real girl, but not a girly-girl. She loves an eclectic variety of artifacts and activities, from Pokemon to comics to architecture to knitting. She likes to look pretty, but she thinks that just about any way we dress her or do her hair is fantastic. She's enthusiastic about almost everything that takes place around her, embracing the world with an enormous appetite for joy. The heap of things I thought I was too inexpert to lead her through, is dwarfed into insignificance by the enticing mountain of new adventures we face side by side.
In some ways, my gender-based trepidation prevented me from other eventualities that might have daunted me, had I thought of them. How to cope with intellectual brilliance. How to respond to blinding love. How to treasure astounding creativity.
We all want to raise happy, healthy kids. Sometimes, though, I think it's not up to us. Happiness and health is bestowed upon them, a grace so transformative that we tremble at the thought of it fading to merely normal luminescence. Every day I am roused to respond to Cady Gray's ebullient happiness with happiness of my own, reinforcing and reflecting back to her a world of delight and wonder. And so I am raised by her, happier, healthier, more welcoming to life, less in the grip of fear the less I want her to see fear in me.
Happy birthday, girl of sweetness. And thank you.