I Feel Like A Bad Role Model For My Daughter Because I’m Not A Tomboy
I have a low pain tolerance. It’s something I hadn’t really noticed until my enthusiastic and physical daughter started attempting to use my body like a punching bag/jungle gym. Without warning, she think it’s completely hysterical to leap on top of your head. She will crawl herself from the floor all the way to the ceiling, moving your hands to hold a foot here, an elbow there. I like to blame it on her multitude of male cousins who wrestle frequently, but the truth is that my daughter is just a really physical little girl. And all of it causes me to yelp, scream and get a little frustrated. Having a 40 lb. child barrel into my stomach hurts! Unfortunately, my aversion to wrestling with my daughter has led to some gender stereotypes in my household that make me a little uncomfortable.
In our house, Daddy is the strong one. He’s the physical one. He’s the one who will wrestle and tackle and throw our daughter around. Mom is the one who jumps up for dance parties, who helps practice gymnastics, and who demonstrates how to stretch your muscles. But just because our parent dynamic breaks down that way, I don’t want my daughter to feel like she shouldn’t be as physical and tough as she’d like. I don’t want her to think that girls only like the soft, rhythmic forms of physicality, because that happens to be where my focus is.
Recently, during one my daughter’s rowdier moments, I got caught in the fray and received a jab straight to the chest for my trouble. I squealed a little, and my husband said something that made me cringe even more than the boob shot, “You have to be careful with Momma. Mom is fragile.”
Fragile? Really? I mean, I guess I am fragile. I’m the one who constantly seems to be hurt while my husband can completely handle our 4-year-old pounding on him for a few hours. But there’s something about being referred to as the delicate little flower of the family that makes my feminist heart ache.
I realize that you can’t pretend to be something you’re not. I’ve never felt embarrassed or ashamed of my somewhat girly interests. But given the extreme pressure on young girls to conform to traditional gender roles, through pop culture and the very toys they see in all-pink aisle, I worry that I’m just loading on to the already established norms. I want my daughter, who is so independent and strong, to see that her interests don’t make her any less feminine. I don’t want anything I do to diminish her confidence or her idea of how a girl should act.
I feel this pressure to toughen up for my daughter, to get involved and physical because that’s what she needs. After all, isn’t parenting all about meeting the needs of your individual child. Unfortunately, I know that trying too hard to swing away from my natural inclinations probably won’t help her any.
That being said, it does make me want to introduce my daughter to examples of strong women. It encourages me to have discussions with her about strength and gender and how wonderful it is to be a tough girl who defies expectations. It makes me think about the image I project and how that can influence my little girl. I may not be the strongest, toughest mom on the block, but I can manage to be supportive of my rough and tumble little girl.