Princesses, Pigtails and Pirate Ships

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Princesses, Pigtails and Pirate ShipsThe day after our second daughter was born, my husband admitted he really wanted a boy. He adored our girls, but felt like something was missing. While I wasn’t ready to commit to having a third child so soon, I did wonder what it was going to be like with so many girls in our house.

Playing house.

I was raised with two girls and two boys in our household, so it was equally wild and girly, but probably more boy-like. My mom would send us outdoors to play for hours while she cooked or cleaned the house. One year my parents gave me pastel colored Legos and I cried because they were different than the primary colored Legos my brothers played with. I wanted to be just as strong and confident as my brothers without losing my girly roots.

Now that my girls are getting older, I can see that God has a sense of humor. While they are genetically female, they act like boys most of the time. The volume in our house is constantly LOUD. My girls fight and wrestle like boys. My four-year-old has been to the ER three times for two sets of stitches and a traumatic fall down the stairs. They climb everywhere. I’m not sure if having boys could be more wild! That said, we do have our fair share of princess costumes, jewelry making kits and stuffed animals. My daughter’s favorite activity is playing pretend typically where she is in charge (think teacher, mommy, gymnastics instructor).

Girls wrestling.

I am relieved that my girls enjoy playing outside and getting dirty (usually without shoes). And I love when my husband comes home to invite them to wrestle upstairs while I have a moment of peace downstairs! I am equally happy when they see me applying makeup and ask for a touch of lipstick. I am glad they are interested in both feminine and masculine things.

While there is a lot of concern about girls’ appearance and how it can affect their body image as they develops, I am fine with letting my daughters put on a tiny bit of blush or lipstick at appropriate times. The reason is because I believe there is a healthy balance between allowing them to express themselves without concern for gender assigned activities until they are old enough to know the difference. Just as wrestling with their dad does not mean we are harnessing their aggression, allowing them to wear blush and lipstick occasionally will not harm their self-confidence.

On the flip side, I think if I were to deny them the opportunity to play dress up and watch princess movies, they may be wondering if these things are “bad.” I also think our conversations with them about their self-worth are much more important. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be guidelines or boundaries. I just think the behaviors we model for them and the discussion about their behavior is more important.

In a conversation with my four-year-old in the car the other day, she said to me, “Mommy, you’re cute no matter what you wear.” This was perfect timing because I already knew I wanted to write this post. I started asking her more questions about whether or not she was beautiful and what makes her pretty. With a little bit of help, she answered, “I’m beautiful because Jesus lives in my heart.” Bingo.

I realize have a long ways to go with our two girls. We will be through tougher times as they get older and are exposed to things like social media and peer pressure. But for now, I’m happy with their interest in all things: pirate ships, Elsa costumes, primary colored Legos, and nail polish, because there are good lessons to learn by allowing them to discover their identity through what the world classifies as “boy” and “girl.”

Superhero at school.

I realize this can be both a funny and touchy subject, and each parent is responsible for determining how their kids play. What things do your kids enjoy that defy their gender-specific identity?

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