Nora puts five headbands in her hair and when she looks at herself in the mirror, I want to say she is primping. But then I realize that’s a word I would never use to describe similar behavior from one of her brothers.
Sometimes Nora is moody and whiney for no good reason and I resort to placating her with fruit snacks or graham crackers. I find myself thinking—against my will—that she is bound for an eating disorder. Would I think this if she were a boy?
Nora looks great in purple. Why? Is it because we know she’s a girl and purple is the new pink?
When she refuses to wear a certain shirt and brings me a different one (more flashy, more flowery) and then spends 20 minutes trying on shoes in her closet, I call her a fashionista behind her back.
Nora turns to the old man behind us in line and bats her eyes (a gesture I would call blinking rapidly if it came from Gabie). The old man calls her a little sweetie. Then he says, “Watch out. She’s going to be a real flirt.” I find this offensive but I smile at him anyway. I’m a people pleaser. Will Nora be a people pleaser too? Do I wonder this because I see it as an intrinsically feminine trait—part of the set of nurturing genes I believe I have passed on from mother to daughter?
When I found out I was having a girl after three boys, people told me repeatedly that she would be different. They said, “Oh girls are so much more ______" (insert clichéd gender-specific adjective here). They said it was easier to raise a girl because girls are more docile and quiet. They said it was harder to raise a girl because girls are prone to emotional extremes. They offered what I saw as socially conditioned advice about the bringing up of girls and I felt superior with the knowledge that my daughter would be treated just like her brothers.
And then I discovered how fun it is to shop on the other side of the thrift store—the side where gingham and paisley and lace flow delicately across pastel-colored jumpers and pleated blouses. I discovered how liberating it is to watch my child’s curls grow longer and curlier around the nape of her neck and not think (for a change) that I have to trim them soon or risk someone mistaking her for a girl. I was delighted when both grandmothers bought Nora dolls for Christmas and she immediately took to rocking and feeding and changing the dolls like a natural mother would. I love having a little girl. The feminist in me is feeling somewhat conflicted, but I still love it.
I’m avoiding the whole Princess scene for now. And consider me hostile if anyone sends a Barbie our way. But I’m enjoying the shades of pink that have bloomed in our home. And I’m excited to see how different it might be to raise a girl.
That said, I have to show the photo I took 15 seconds after the above shot. Having fed her baby bunny, Nora dumped her rudely on the floor, picked up her brother’s World War II plane and took it on a bombing run around the living room. Maybe camouflage is the new purple.