the drift


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

daddies don't let your babies grow up to be princesses

well, recently, i had a surprising (to me anyway) reaction to the news that a friend is expecting his 5th child. He has just the one daughter now and they have yet to find out the sex of the baby on the way. i mention this really just to set the scenario -- i want this post to be more about me than him because his life is unique from the situation i grew up in. that said, my conclusive nature led me down some paths upon hearing the news. frankly, i was surprised that anyone with a respectable but average annual income for a family would do this on purpose. there was never enough of anything material or likewise in my childhood home. split 5, 6 or 7 ways, mattresses, little debbies, hugs or the attention of two parents sometimes both working two jobs only goes so far. which may have been fine were there a sense of shared struggle. but instead there was a distinct gender divide drawn. i had my own room while the 4 boys shared two rooms. the line divided my chores from theirs, my rules from theirs, and my activities from theirs. from their end, because they had no firsthand knowledge, all of those distinctions made my life easier. and they resented me, understandably. as my father built these castle walls around my identity, i grew in alienation. in fairness, i think he didn't know what else to do with me. He had no sisters. his mother was controlling and a bit bizarre. he really thought this is what every little girl wants: to be the princess. he couldn't have been more wrong. princesses aren't loved -- they're indulged, they're tolerated, they're dismissed and feared even, but they're never loved. my mom attempted to offset this by making me into a mini-mom and dumping her problems on me under the guise of being close to me. but that was no more authentic a relationship with me than the other. by overdetermining my role in the family, the animosity from my brothers just grew.

ultimately, they were parenting with their needs first. with their preconceptions and baggage riding shotgun. their ideologies, while admirably clearly defined, put them on auto-pilot all too often and allowed them to plow over the emotional needs of the little individuals they were raising. and, while maybe we all do this on some level, it's inexcusable to me to sacrifice the uniqueness of a child at the altar of our own parental ideologies -- or at the very least to be so oblivious, we can't even accept our limitations in this area.

maybe this is why i can only handle two kids. because i know firsthand that quality is never in proportion to quantity where the raising of children is concerned. and why i search for the distinctions in my kids and try to listen for the signals of their little blossoming personalities. because i was never just me -- i was a symbol of femininity, an emblem of the struggle with the feminine other, a carrier of their mother baggage, but i was never just their daughter or sister.

i pray to god this little gal gets a sis.


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