Monday, June 11, 2012

On Having Girls

My two older sisters and some of my friends have only boy children, and I imagine that if I had only boys, I might be jealous one of the things you get to do with girls - brushing their long hair and putting it up in braids, ponytails and other styles.
I too had this dream. When I had G I thought that I'd soon learn how to french braid and had visions of cute little pigtails.
There is a lovely vision I had and maybe moms of boys have it - sitting in the sunlight, calmly brushing your daughters hair, laughing together as you braid it, her bouncing away looking adorable.

The reality (for me at least) is this: G wakes up in the morning with a rat's nest on her head. She dips the ends of it in her cereal bowl because she cannot handle tucking it behind her ears. After she gets dressed, I attempt to brush it. The moment she sees the hairbrush she says "OW!". I haven't touched her. I beg her to come sit on my lap. She runs to the other side of the apartment. I finally wrestle her into my lap and run my fingers along her neck to move her hair. "YOU'RE HURTING ME!!" she screams.
The rat nest (always in the exact same location on her head) is the first plan of attack and I attempt to hold her on my lap with one hand, brush with the other and use my third and fourth hands to hold the hair while I brush it.
She wiggles free.
"Stop it Mommy! I don't want my hair brushed!"
"Look at these fancy barrettes (bobbles, headband, etc.)? Don't you want them in your hair?"
"When the wind blows  your hair in your face, you'll be sad, G."
"I don't care about the wind!"
At this point she runs away. I have three options. I can either put the messiest ponytail ever in her hair (and suffer the consequences when it's time for it to come out), I can leave it and suffer the consequences when we go outside and the wind blows her hair in her face and she can't see, or I can turn on the TV and usually she'll hold still long enough to get a nice enough hairstyle in (never a braid, never, ever a braid).
Or, I suppose, there is a fourth option. I could shave her head. Some days I want to do exactly that.

A footnote to this all is that M finally has long enough hair that I can put it in pigtails, but she has learned from her sister that the proper word to use while Mommy is doing your hair is "Ow!" She says it now with a smile on her face, but give her time.

Secondary footnote: My mom is reading this and laughing at me. Probably laughing quite hard. I was exactly like this as a kid. In fact, to be honest, I still don't love people touching my head. I completely deserve to be treated like this.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fatherly Advice

Paul here.

Sometimes I look at my children and I suddenly see them as adults.  It's an imperfect vision: adult G is still obsessed with aminals* in my imagination, and I have trouble picturing adult M with much hair.  But the degree to which both have grown and changed already sometimes strikes me and I think about how they're actual people who will grow up into actual grown ups and face ... the world. I don't have life figured out; not by a long shot.  And I don't know what it's like to be a girl, let alone a girl in the 21st century.  But there are things I hope my daughters can learn from me, beyond how to hold a spoon and which shoe goes on which foot. Advice is both a form of nostalgia, and a form of narcissism, but here I go anyway.  In no particular order, in what might become a recurring feature here but might not:

A Father's Advice to his Daughters:

1. Don't let anyone else tell you who you are allowed to be.  Not even me.  But don't buy into the idea of being true to yourself either.  There isn't a true self buried deep at your core.  You are made by your experiences, your community, your choices, your tastes. The best thing about this is that it never ends and you can decide what kind of person you want to be. Your everyday choices can slowly make you into that person. When I say "don't let anyone else tell you who you are allowed to be" I mean don't let anyone else decide for you who you want to turn yourself into.

2. A sister is a friend for life. Your grammy had (and probably still has) a cross-stitch with that on it in her house when I was growing up. It isn't limited to sisters.  The same idea goes for cousins, parents, aunts, uncles; it's true about brothers, but you don't have any. But I especially want to focus on sisters: on your relationship with each other. A sister is a friend for life doesn't mean that you will always like each other or that you don't have to be good to each other. It means that your family is with you forever.  If you make your sister into your friend, you will always have a friend.  And it means that even if you make your sister into a stranger or into an enemy you don't have to lose her forever.

3. Don't overwater your plants. You're more likely to drown them then to dry them out.  Don't stress out too much over them either. Plants want to live. Just let them. It took me so very long to figure this out.

4. Read. This advice shouldn't be surprising coming from me, but I really can't overstate it. Read history and read science, read the news and read theology, read the Bible, read comic books, read challenging modernist fiction and pulpy adventure stories. Many things you read will make you a happier person, and everything you read will make you a bigger person. Read.

5. You are not in charge of anyone else's feelings. Be kind and courteous, be loving and gracious; but do those things for your own sake.  Know that you can't make someone else happy, you can't make someone else better, and you can't make someone else love you.  Don't be kind to people so that they will be happy, be kind to them so that you will be. Love the people around you because love makes you better. But don't worry too much about what other people are feeling. That is up to them, in the end.

And finally: This isn't advice, but you have parents who despite their inevitable screw-ups, love you both so very very much. I hope you always know that.

*=not a typo, that's how she pronounces it