Long silence - yes I know.
It was around the time of my last post that I received fairly momentous news with mixed feelings - we were moving to the US and I was leaving behind my life of four decades.
So while I worked on psyching myself up for the move (it'll be great, a change is good and all the other usual platitudes) I worked on K too. But there was (from her perspective) a far more exciting event looming on the horizon - her maasi's (my sister's) wedding.
And all the excitement revolved around what she was going to wear, the possibility (entirely in her head) of her wearing "lispistick", nail paint and sundry other items of makeup all of which made me shudder.
For the months leading up to the wedding, my entire conversation (read exasperated monologue) was something like this:
"No, you cannot wear your lehnga to sleep" (a lehnga is a rather dressy Indian skirt and top for girls and women - lots of brides wear lehngas)
"Put that sari down!"
"Do NOT touch that necklace - you've already broken four!"
(Trying to keep my tone calm and failing miserably) "Sweetheart, you do not wear lipstick all over your face AND YOU'VE GOT MY KOHL ALL OVER YOUR LEGS. *&^&%$#&^%^*& (I was hissing expletives under my breath by now)
Of course, the fond grandmas on both sides of the family insisted on ordering custom-made lehngas for her. PP and I had already bought a gorgeous one for her in addition to the sweetest little ready-to-wear sari. K had far more clothes for the wedding, than, I suspect, the bride herself. Four lehngas, one sari, and a whole new lot of winter togs which she sneered at. (They weren't skirts, you see).
All of this left me seething inside. There I was, doing my damndest best to try and give her a gender neutral upbringing and what does my two-and-a-half-year old do? Grind my principles into the dust.
This was particularly galling because I remember clearly an incident where a new officer who did not know our family well, commented to my Dad, "General Dubey, I saw your son at the sailing club - he was sailing quite well, for a young boy."
General Dubey, who was used to this by now, beamed through his luxuriant moustache and said in his best fauji accent, "I have no sons."
That was me in the distant past, getting a haircut from the army barber, hanging around in shorts, getting into fistfights. And here, in the present, was my daughter, the very antithesis of me. I was so upset.
However, some asking around friends who had daughters and a little bit of calm introspection led me to a few fundamental truths:
- Don't push it. The more you push any agenda - feminist or otherwise - the more your toddler will push back.
- Let them explore their own sexual / gender identity and develop it for themselves. It does not have to be what you identify with. It is possible to be a girly girl and still be a badass feminist.
- It does not matter if she does not become a feminist. She will still be her own person - not yours - and that's more important. Yes, she should make an informed choice and providing that information is your job.
- And the best one: it's just a phase.
So bring on the hyper-sexualised, hyper-gendered little kids and society. We will love you and try and hang on to a few of our own principles at the same time.