Raising a daughter in San Francisco is unlike raising a daughter anywhere else in the US maybe the world. I don’t know if it’s the amount of wealth here, but everyone wants their daughters to grow up to be a Hillary Clinton or an astrophysicist or the first woman to find the cure for cancer.
For new moms to daughters, there’s a kind of required reading from a mom in Berkeley called, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. In it, the author explains that girls who like princesses are something like 80% more likely to be promiscuous and have plastic surgery by age 8 or something. It scared the shit out of us. But the book said if you get her to play with science sets and have her play with trains she will not have sex until she’s married (I’m paraphrasing).
We knew we could control the gifts she receives and what she’s exposed to, but not what others bought her. You see, my daughter is the 7th granddaughter for my mother-in-law. So my husband’s family is used to feeding the monster that is the young girl wrought with emotions and a desire to test out make up, wear dresses, paint with glitter, and role play with kitchens, hair styling tools and the like.
For many Christmases, my husband and I sent around a blanket email to our family saying, no princess toys, nothing pink, no glitter, sparkle, no shirts with crappy sayings, etc. We warned that everyone who did not abide would risk having their toys returned.
My mom and mother-in-law generously asked what they could get Giuliana for Christmas when she was about 3. We told them she would like a Thomas the Train set and maybe wooden blocks. This was sort of a bold move because the Thomas the Train is not cheap and my family isn’t like rolling in it and Thomas the Train sets START at around $75.
Christmas Eve 2013
Christmas Eve at my mother-in-law’s is when the incident happened. After dinner, the 7 girls gathered in the living room to open presents. The living room looked like the girls were playing Minute to Win it as they ferociously unwrapped their treasures. We heard happy phrases like, “Thank you for the make-up, thank you for the beads to make jewelry, thank you for the sparkly whatever.”
And there was my daughter surrounded by girly girl heaven.
She was a ripping open her package like her life depended on it. When she saw that it was Thomas the Train. Her face dropped like we had wrapped up a plate of brocolli. At the same time, my 5 year old niece was ripping off the last piece of Christmas wrapping paper on her brand new Baby Alive doll. It was like time stood still. Giuliana saw it from the corner of her eye as though she had seen baby Jesus himself appear right there in the living room. She immediately threw her Thomas the Train set aside as though it had caught on fire and lunged at the doll.
My niece was trying to get my daughter, who was now hyper ventilating, off of her. But no avail, Giuliana was ripping open the Baby Alive box, like a true fighter. You could see through the plastic that this doll looked like Chucky from that Child’s Play movie. Each of her eyes were like the circumference of a silver dollar and way too large for the proportion of her head like something that the Big Eyes artist Margaret Keane would draw. What made it worse was that the eyes opened and closed both mechanically and on their own when she was tilted. The selling point of this doll is that you feed her synthetic food and she actually poops it out. The last thing I felt that I needed was a doll who pooped when I had a toddler and a new born.
In both English and Spanish, this doll says things like, “I don’t want to take a nap, I’m hungry, where’s my mommy,” “Uh-oh! I made a poo-poo” or “I made a stinky!” or “Surprise!” She talks, sucks her pacifier and sings a discordant version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
My niece Lucia so graciously let Giuliana play with the doll for a bit on the contingency that my daughter return the doll at Lucia’s request. My mother-in-law, whom I adore, looked at me knowingly as if to say, “I have 7 grand daughters and you ask me to get a Thomas the train? This isn’t my first rodeo.”
Meanwhile my brother-in-law was trying to assuage the situation by offering Lucia a $50 Toys R Us gift card as a sort of hush money to get Lucia to give up the doll.
Just then my mother stood up and put on her coat and whipped her scarf around her neck and said, “I’m going to Toys R Us to get her the doll!” It was storming out and my husband and I pleaded with my mom to stay in. We didn’t want Giuliana to think that she could act like this and get what she wanted.
My mom said, “Ok. I have decided I am going to go home now. Bye!”
My mom braved the snow storm and drove to Toys R Us. Like a lunatic was banging on the store window bundled in a scarf, hat, and down jacket. They opened the door and she explained that she needed to buy this Baby Alive doll for her granddaughter who is having a fit. Sadly, they wouldn’t let her buy it. The store was closed until after Christmas.
The next morning, my husband and I set up the Thomas the Train for my daughter. For the five minutes that she was into it, I took a bunch of photos of her playing with it to be like “See! She loves it!” It was really the one time she touched it. She screamed for the doll the whole rest of the trip.
We learned that as much as we associated being a girly girl with promiscuity, being promiscuous is really about several factors; one of them is having good parents. Deeply inside of her, Giuliana was a real girly girl. We finally gave in and let her be the person she really is and she couldn’t be happier– and that is really what matters, right? We learned that you just have to “let it go.” As long as we are good parents and provide her with a good foundation, she will most likely turn out alright (fingers crossed!).
Photo: Google images