Thursday

 It's a funny thing about branding, isn't it? 
The first time that Q saw the Sephora logo - that big stylized "s" on a slick black background, she loved it. Same with the Target bullseye. 
I won't lie, that kind of early-onset branding scares me. 

I was raised on the earth-mother end of the spectrum (though you could never take my mother for a hippie), no refined sugars, no junk food, no Barbies, no pink clothes, no toys that weren't wooden, handmade, or Steiff. And yes, I am a product of that upbringing to an extent. For instance, I loath the whole Disney Princess cartel and everything that goes with it. I abhor the mass-merchandising that goes along with every film made for children (how can you make your fortune by unscrupulously manipulating toddlers, and still sleep at night?). And yet, I harbor a curious lifelong fascination with Barbie dolls and suburbia (bred of complete and deliberate isolation from these things in childhood),  and I eat an entire 3.5 oz chocolate bar every morning for breakfast. Every single morning. So much for no refined sugar.

So when my husband advised me that denying her things like pink clothes, potato chips and princess paraphenalia would only make her crave them more, I decided to give his viewpoint a chance. 
Why not? After all, I'm still me. Q knows exactly how I feel about things  ("Oh, Mommy doesn't like Barney!" she'll say. "No, mommy doesn't like Chuck E Cheese!"), and she will be influenced by me in whatever ways she chooses. My husband has as much of a chance of being right as I do. We're both smart, well-read, well-educated people. 

So when Q entered her pink phase, I counted myself lucky that she didn't want Disney Princess dresses, and let her have the pink rollerskates, pink soccer ball, pink briefcase, pink bike, pink crash helmet, etc etc etc...

 And when, upon passing by a Sephora shop, a sales rep (mistaking her, as so many do, for a much older child) offered to apply a flavored lipgloss sample for her, I vacillated, hummed and hawed, and then shrugged, sighed, and said, "Sure, why not. If she so chooses."
 I have to say that the look on Q's face was priceless.
She was so entranced that she stood absolutely still, and I swear that she did not move her lips for the next half an hour for fear of messing up her "makeover".
 Here she is looking in the mirror. Oh, the gravity of it all! She felt so grown-up. 
Since it was my birthday, she also got a free Birthday Cake scented bubble bath when we left, courtesy of Philosophy. All wrapped up in a big, shiny black bag with that oh-so-seductive "S" on it.
My girl. My half-grown, half-baby. My basketball-wielding, pink briefcase-carrying, torch song-belting, rock-climbing, satin bow-wearing girl. If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she will say "A writer", or "a doctor", depending on the day. She could as easily grow up to play pro ice hockey or join the circus. That's my kid. We're both winging it.

21 comments:

Marie cdp said...

I love this story of mother who knows what is best for her child. Mom also knows that this so to please her child!

Yoli said...

Those images of her serious face beholding the make up transformation are adorable. I could picture her older, being very discriminate with her choices and staring at herself in the mirror with the exact same look.

Yanyan said...

I was smiling when I read your post. I have said I will never buy barbies for my daughter, I can't stand those tacky looking plastic dolls . Disney is one of the company I have said I don't want to work for. BUT...Landon has shown much interests to the plastic toys than those wooden, organic, design focused toys I tried to introduce. Maybe one day Nea will rather play with Barbies than those dolls I sewed by hand. I guess I need to be prepared to give their viewpoints a chance too! Or should I show them the 'tiger mom' side of me :) (Just kidding) Q looks so precious in every pic...

ChantaleP said...

I love this post. I think you've hit it right on the nail. At one point, you've got to let them make and form their opinions while still making sure to keep an eye on things on the outer edge. It's hard though isn't it? I love the look on Q's face when she's staring at her face in the mirror. Magic!

FDChief said...

We all are, Maia.

The hardest thing as a parent I have to accept is that I cannot force my children to make the choices I would make. And that sometimes those choices will lead to sorrow, or regret, and that I cannot prevent them, just be there with love, and perhaps a lollipop.

Your post made me think of this:

What You Cannot Remember, What You Cannot Know
-for Abigail

When you were two you used to say
I can do it all by myself, then when you were three
You had tantrums, essentially
Because you wanted to go back and be a baby like before,
And also to be a grownup.
It was perplexing,
It was a mini-rehearsal
For adolescence, which lurks inside your body
Now that you are almost nine,
Like a duplicate baby, an angel
Or alien, we don't know which,
Forceful and intelligent and weird,
Playing with the controls.
Fetal eyes blinking, non-negotiable demands
Like Coke bubbles overflowing a glass,
It strengthens and grows.
When you read it stares through your eyes,
It vibrates when you practice piano,
The cotton dresses hang in your closet
Like conspirators, wavering in its breeze.
We watch you turn inward, your hair
Falls over your face like a veil that hides whatever
You would rather others don't know,
You lean your head listening
For its keen highstrung melancholy voice.
Here comes the gypsy caravan,
Ding-a-ling, the icecream man,
Plenty of glee and woe up the road.
We would do anything for you,
Sweetie, but we can do nothing—
You have to do it all by yourself.

by Alicia Suskin Astriker

Natalie Thiele said...

I remember friends who didn't have TVs in the 50s (when I was growing up) because their parents didn't approve of them. Those kids spent every waking moment at friends' houses watching TV.
You are giving Q every opportunity to make choices and be her own person while modeling the behavior you want her to accept. It seems like the best of both worlds to me.
By the way, I'm not a big pink fan, but when Q mixes hot pink with black, that works!

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

John, as I wrote this, I had a feeling you would get it. I was listening again to Joanne Harris' The Girl with No Shadow. In the book, the daughter is 11, and just distancing from her mother. Feeling disillusion, and feeling herself on the edge of feral adolescence. There is something she says about the child having this dangerous thing inside her, brooding like an animal that, once released, can never be restrained again. My child is not yet on that brink, and yet I can already imagine it in her. I know it's there, that dangerous animal that will be unleashed. That point at which I will no longer have any control, and I'll have to let her go into the unknown with that hungry, dangerous animal on her heels.

Tamara said...

First thing I bought when I was given money at age 5 was a tube of lipstick. Go QQ!

My big fear is (if I am ever a parent) my kid will just want to eat summer sausage, really bad cheese food, and won't touch anything I like. I'll be huge and I won't even get to enjoy what made me that way.

They are too cute with the serious-ness of it all, right?

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

Yanyan, I am thankful that at very least I don't have to worry about the Barbies, since Q has always disliked dolls. She also dislikes dresses. We pick our battles, and those are not mine. But I know there will be other battles to fight, battles I can't yet imagine. To go back to the book I was quoting (loosely) for John, the author says that to be a mother is to live in fear. I never knew about living in fear before becoming a parent, but now I live in fear every day. I also live in joy every day, a joy I never imagined before becoming a parent.

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

Natalie, THAT WAS ME!!! Well, not in the 50s, but in the 60s and 70s. My parents did not have TV, and I spent every possible playdate at a friend's house watching TV into the early hours. Mission Impossible, The Twilight Zone, The Six Million Dollar Man. When I wasn't on a playdate, I would sometimes climb out onto the ledge of my second story bedroom, clamber down the drainpipe, and sneak across the damp grass to watch TV through a neighbor's window. So yes, I am very aware of the pitfalls of denying your child some aspect of modern society.

Jeanne-ming said...

This post touched a nerve. As a Quaker Missionary kid, let me tell you, the list of no no's was long. We didn't have TV,weren't allowed to see movies, no makeup or jewelry. We lived "plain."

I often snuck out of my house and spent any chance I could at our Taiwanese neighbors watching TV. They couldn't understand why we were so odd. They just thought we were poor.

Once on my own, oh boy, did I ever make up for lost glam and missed entertainment!

But I agree about what you said about fear. It is terrifying and so wonderful.

Love the photos of Q, so still. Hilarious.

FDChief said...

I should add this, though, since I'm thinking about the coming of the 1st of March;

When we choose to become parents we give hostages to fate and fate, callous bastard, often uses them to rend our hearts in two.

But there's something human, something deeper than a well and wider than a church door, that overcomes most of us when these small people enter our lives and makes us willing victims for all that we know that there will be grief and regret to go with the joy and satisfaction ahead.

And part of that is the letting-go. Perhaps the hardest part, because you never CAN let go.

In my feckless youth I once asked my own mother something to the effect of "When were you able to stop worrying about me?" and I can't really duplicate the look I received in reply.

I think it stops when we do.

lightning in a bottle said...

lovely post! and happy birthday! looks like you had a great girls day.

Mom-Friday said...

Happy birthday Maia!
What a lovely day of bonding for both of you! Q was really loving her gloss :)))

susanna said...

*grin* I don't have children but I can imagine the dilemmas parents must have when figuring out what and which popular products to let into their child's life...and when. What.to.do.

Having followed your blog for a while now, I know that you encourage Q's individuality and take her to places where I think many youngsters don't go - like art galleries or museums. You and your husband are good parents.

And yes, the expression on your daughter's face after the lip gloss moment is priceless!

susanna said...

PS: The Girl with No Shadow is one of my most favourite books. It's interesting to read your thoughts on it. What struck me in that book is how the daughter admired, loved and missed the creative, magical, original woman who was her mother. She was so frustrated seeing her mother trying to be someone else.

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

Susanna - yes, that's a particularly poignant element of that book, because now, after these recession years, and in my second year of parenthood, I can understand what might have driver that mother to try to change the essence of herself for the sake of her children's security. It's a terrible burden to carry, that responsibility, that fear. One might very well know one was jeopardizing the relationship with ones child, but the fear of losing that solid footing might be too great to overcome. We as parents haven't ever been pushed that far - but I can imagine how it could happen.

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

ps - one of my very favorite books as well. And in fact, Q was named (her American name) after a character in Joanne Harris' book Coastliners. I feel a deep connection to her writing, and specifically to her writing about motherhood.

Guusje said...

LOL,
my first child did not eat any sugar the first two yeas of his life,
the second had his first real bad cookie at one.
My third eats whatever the rest is having.
And you know what?
I'm fine with it.
I thought I would be really unhappy with Disney's Princesses and Knights. But to be honest, I love Tinkerbell (me, loves Tinkerbell!)
There is enough balance in this household, I guess. It comforts me when our children say: Mom, Dad, can you make me a..... ?
We are so much enjoying the 'my parents can make me everything but plastics' phase.
(PS. we still haven't barbies in the house, Poppy is too young, but we do have an Transformer!)

kenza said...

Lovely! And happy birthday sweet Maia! Q is priceless! Love the look, the seriousness of it all... yes... a writer... or the circus! As long as she is happy! We are ALL winging it and that is the fun of it. Muchos besos para todos con mucho cariño!

Merisi said...

My parents would not allow TV in the house, they wanted the eight of us to play or read for leisure. I enjoyed a wonderful childhood in the countryside. To this day, I rather read than watch TV.