I was walking around Costco in yoga pants and messy hair with my two little girls sitting in the cart (sound familiar?). They had a cracker sample in one hand and a fruit sample in the other, happy as can be.
“Oh wow, two girls? You have your hands full.” the older lady wearing a hair net, handing out samples of coffee.
“Actually, they’re pretty good.” I told her as I smiled and pushed the cart past the crowd of people who anxiously awaited a dixie cup full of coffee as if they’ve never seen coffee before.
This scene wasn’t unusual.
A few days ago, I was at an event that required valet. I was waiting for my car along with a few other women when we started making small talk. We talked about the event. We talked about how her son goes to the all boys school where my parents teach. She really couldn’t have been any sweeter.
“So you have two little ones?” she asked.
“Yes. Two little girls.”
“Oh, you need to have one more! A boy…for your dad.”
(I get this a lot. In case you aren’t from Cleveland, my dad coaches a successful high school football team. Thousands of young men have played for him and been taught by him.)
I smiled and told her about how much my dad loves his little granddaughters. She smiled back and said how wonderful that is.
I wasn’t offended. She didn’t mean anything to come across as rude or insulting in any way. In fact, comments like these are made every day to every family. It’s a throw away conversation piece.
But I think there’s an overreaching issue at hand.
First, let me explain what everyone else doesn’t see: the sisterhood.
Just hours before, as I was getting ready for the event, my oldest, Scarlett, who is 4, took 2 year old Millie into the bathroom and sat her down on the stool.
“Millie, I’ll help you get your boots on,” she explained in her best big sister tone that the zippers go on the inside, “We need to hurry while mommy does her fancy stuff.”
Scarlett is quiet and sweet, and like a typical oldest, loves to be the second mother to her baby sister. She gets in Millie’s face and kisses her cheeks and says “You are such a little cutie pie.” She doesn’t remember life without her sister.
Millie, my little tornado wild child, won’t go anywhere without Scarlett. If she wakes up from nap first, she runs to Scarlett’s room and yells “wake up, sis!” She’ll wait at the top of the stairs until Scarlett is ready to walk down with her. If I try to put Scarlett’s sweater on Millie, she says “No! Dats Scarlett’s”.
I’m lucky. Sure, they have their moments of being difficult just like any child. But overall, they are pretty easy because they are so good to each other. Most of the time they are an unstoppable twosome.
I have sisters of my own. We fought over clothes, toys and babysitting jobs. I don’t remember taking care of each other the way my daughters do.
And here’s what I’ve come to realize: God (or whatever entity you believe in) didn’t give me girls. God gave Scarlett and Millie each other. The universe’s plan wasn’t for just for me to have these two little people. The plan was for these little babes to have a bond, a soulmate and a partner in crime for life.
Yes, I have two kids, therefore I have my hands full. Just like if I had two boys or a boy and a girl.
And will they be emotional as teens? Probably. But show me a teenage boy who also doesn’t experience angst and then we can start a real debate.
What’s my point? Did you notice something about these comments from strangers?
They were both women.
In fact, it’s usually women who make comments like these. And I’ve heard it from generations up and my own. I can’t even remember a time when a man told me I needed to give birth to a boy or that I’m going to be in trouble when my girls are teens because of the emotions I’ll have to bear.
It’s typically women. Talking about the future generation of women.
If we talk about how toddler girls are going to grow up to be overly emotional, how can you expect them to break that stereotype in the board room later in life? How will they get to the position of CEO, if everyone thinks PMS will make them “hard to handle.”
I’m surprised at how much I have to defend that having two girls is my own “perfect.”
If you tell someone their family needs a boy – for any reason – how do you expect society to achieve gender equality?
I’ve heard people tell fathers (including my husband): “I hope you get a boy, you know, to pass traditions along.” Or in my case, to have a football player in the family.
At that point, you’re already stereotyping my hypothetical son. What if my future (and probably nonexistent) son would rather be in the marching band? Or maybe he would excel academically, not athletically.
And what’s to say that my husband can’t teach my daughters to fish? Or fix a car? Or mow the lawn? I expect him to do that. My daughters better know how to change a tire on the side of the road.
Women: we need to stop talking down about our babies.
We owe ourselves this chance to teach the future generation that they are individuals. They are not defined by their gender. They are not held back by their gender. They are loved by their mothers and fathers no matter who they are or who they become.
Let’s start with our youngest little ladies. Let’s teach them that sisterhood is their biggest strength, not something their mother “has to handle”.
My 4 year old and my 2 year old get it.