Contrary to popular belief, I was ecstatic when my doctor announced in the delivery room that a third little girl would be joining our family. I grew up with two sisters, and couldn’t wait for my three daughters to experience the same excitement and volatility of being trapped in an emotionally unstable, explosively melodramatic, all-female shitshow.
Plus we already had all of the girl stuff, which made things easier because I place an inordinate amount of importance on logistical household efficiencies. Our boy name was Jessica, and Jessica was going to look just precious coming home from the hospital in his little pink gingham Lilly Pulitzer classic shift dress.
But I’m tired of talking about our fake son Jessica. Let me tell you what I know about raising little girls:
1. Be warned – girls can be every bit as gross as boys. When hanging out with my nephews, I am surrounded by a cornucopia of bodily excretions. Farts. Burps. Dropping trou and peeing in the front yard. Poop talk. Boogers flying to and fro. Unidentified matter wiped on my pants. It all seems very organic, normal and expected. Because they are boys. And boys are disgusting.
But there is just something straight up haunting when a little girl with ribbons tied around her pig tails lifts her leg at the dinner table and rips off a seven-second fart like it’s her job. My eldest daughter has even gone so far as to teach herself how to fart on command, once taking it too far. And by too far I mean a change of underwear was involved.
My husband paused his standing ovation long enough to wipe a tear of pride from his eye as she screamed, “Whoopsie! Guess I gambled and lost!” and ran upstairs.
So sorry if I’m not racing in for a front row seat when my 3-year-old walks penguin-style out of the bathroom with her ruffled bloomers around her ankles and screams, “Hey everybody! Get in here quick and check out my monster turd!”
I just still believe in maintaining a certain level of mystery in our home.
2. Speaking of wardrobe changes, outfitting three little girls every day is like trying to solve the same riddle that has a different answer from minute to minute, all with a clock ticking in your ear.
I have long since abandoned the idea of giving any sort of input on daily clothing selections. I don’t comment, speak, breathe or make eye contact as they are weighing their options. My job is to simply make sure everything is covered that needs to be covered and no one smells like urine.
“Listen, sister,” I’ll say. “YOU picked out this adorable little dress in the store. And I bought it. With money. Because you said you liked it. Now wear it.”
“But it’s so itchy!” She’ll say, poking at the soft, 100% cotton fabric like it’s a vest of thorns.
Once a selection is made I slowly tiptoe down the stairs because I don’t want to upset whatever balance the universe has achieved when they find something they like. And it can be anything. Really – I don’t care. The cutest little dresses hang lonely in their closet still bearing store tags, but duds like this get worn to the threads:
Of course they usually change again before breakfast, after breakfast, as I am tearfully begging them to put on their shoes and get in the van, after they are in the van, before naps, after naps, before bed and sometimes in the middle of the night if they have a concept they want to test drive for school the next morning.
We are never on time. For anything. Like, ever.
“This shirt raises up when I lift my arms!”
“I guess I just feel more like something in a lighter shade of pink today.”
“I was just kidding when I put on this shirt.”
“But there’s spaghetti sauce all over this dress!”
In their defense on that last one… I am a bit of a slacker when it comes to housework.
*licks mac and cheese off dirty fork and thoughtfully places it back in silverware drawer*
3. Glitter is the devil. Glitter should be treated with the same respect you would give someone standing in your living room with the Ebola virus. It is infectious. If allowed into your home it will multiply exponentially until it defiles every available surface.
It all seems innocent enough. “Oh but this headband is super cute,” you’ll say, putting it away in the vanity.
Then two days later you catch a glimpse of yourself in the bathroom mirror and realize you’ve just sat through a one-hour PTO meeting with a bedazzled mustache. The more you wipe, the longer and more lush said mustache becomes. Oh look, now you have matching sideburns.
Don’t be a sucker. Any toy, article of clothing or human being who enters your home brandishing glitter should be burned and discarded immediately. The end.
4. Hair. Prepare yourself to accept failure. Hair is a big deal. It’s super hard to remember to take my Valium in enough time that it kicks in by the post bath de-tangle. And that hour of blood curdling screams is nothing compared to every morning when I have to figure out what to do with it that won’t make them look like rabid wild animals.
I had just mastered the art of the ponytail when one day my so-called “friend” sent me a link to a YouTube channel called Cute Girls Hairstyles. They have simple little ‘dos any parent could easily bang out in no time:
Any parent except me, apparently. Unless step #1 was, “Go into the linen closet where we have placed an expert to do it all for you,” this was not going to happen.
And I know this because once I tried to French braid my daughter’s hair. I would have had better luck gluing feathers to my arms and jumping off my roof. Which has crossed my mind more than one time as someone stood before me on the hairstyle stool screaming balls.
It was three minutes of pure hell that ended with her flailing around on her bedroom floor like I had stabbed her in the kidneys and me nursing a case of arthritis. Mid-way through she decided she had enough and took off running down the hall, dragging me behind with my fingers still intertwined in her hair. I had invested too much time and I refused to let go and not finish the job.
And that was a just a simple French braid. There was no way this cascade-flower-knotted-twist extravaganza is happening. Not now, not while she is conscious. But now, seeing how adorable it was on the other little girls, I know what I have to do.
5. The future of another woman’s inherently fragile body image rests squarely on your shoulders. No pressure, though. A few days ago my daughter asked me if I thought, “The kids would think she was beautiful and like her” if she wore a certain dress to a birthday party.
Well crap. We’re here already? I’d already expertly dodged her image-related questions such as, “Mommy, why do you wear makeup?”, “Why do you put that foamy stuff in your hair?”, and “Why do those underwear make you cry (Spanx)?”
I couldn’t think of a single answer to her dress question that wouldn’t turn me into a flaming hypocrite. So I told her the truth.
“Honey, the people who matter in your life don’t like you based on what you look like or what you wear. They like you if you pull all of the weeds out of the flower beds and scrub the baseboards.” Then, stroking her hair and giving her a big hug I said, “So let’s go ahead and get you started.”
6. Boys let them flop around on the outside, girls keep them tucked away deep, deep inside. Then use them as a weapon when the time is right.
I’m talking about emotions.
When angry with one another, my nephews will punch each other in the head and move on. (Side note – they will also punch each other when happy, sad, or to indicate that dinner is ready.) But girls tend to be a little more imaginative/sadistic. “Oh, you stole my favorite outfit and wore it to the party? No big d… I’ll probably just cut your hair off at the ponytail while you sleep.”
A long time ago my sister and I got into a HUGE fight. I’m not sure exactly what started it or why she was mad, but it may have had something to do with the fact that I smeared a huge handful of whipped cream across her face and into her hair for no reason at all while her back was turned. I knew from the moment she spun around she meant business. Even though she was three years younger she had about twenty pounds on me so I high tailed it to my room and locked the door. A half hour without any action, I timidly peeked my head out only to discover she was back in the kitchen like nothing ever happened.
“Let’s just call a truce, okay?” She yelled over her shoulder. “I’m tired of fighting.”
Satisfied she had recognized my position as the dominant female, I sat down to enjoy the piece of banana cream pie I had abandoned on the table when she gave chase. The minute I shoved an enormous mouthful into my face I realized something was very, very wrong. That something was that she had dumped an entire container of salt and garlic powder on said slice of pie. After vomiting in the sink for ten minutes, I truly appreciated the power of the female mind.
A punch in the head – unkind. Mess with another woman’s pie – well that’s just fucked up.
7. They’re so fancy. No really… inappropriately so. One night after dinner, the girls informed my husband and me that they wanted to put on a “dance show”. All three excitedly ran upstairs to change into what we presumed was their dance leotards, tutus, tights and tap shoes while my husband and I turned on some top 40 music and settled in on the couch.
What came downstairs was illegal in 34 states.
They had put on every piece of sequined clothing and jewelry they could find, smeared lip gloss from their chins to their nostrils and proceeded to own the song Fancy while strutting around the living room in my stilettos. There was pouty lips and hair tosses and prancing around and at one point my innocent little baby bent over exposing her Pull-Up, grabbed her ankles and instructed us to “smack her booty”. My husband and I just stared at her open mouthed, too stunned to even say a word.
“What the hell?” He murmured under his breath. “Did you teach them how to dance like that?”
“God no!” I said.
It was not the first time I’d lied to my husband. I totally taught them how to do that. In my defense, though, it wasn’t on purpose; I had no idea they ever watched me cook dinner. I was probably going to have to dial it back a tad.
8. It is really, really fun.
Because – well – doing girly stuff is awesome. Nails. Facials. Dance recitals. Dresses. Princesses. Building fairy houses. Bring it.
And you may be thinking, “Well, boys can do all that stuff too.” And you’re exactly right. In fact, I highly encourage everyone to stage a stuffed animal wedding complete with ’80s-themed rehearsal dinner in their playroom immediately. We all come to the reception dressed in our best old prom dress, retired recital tutu, or just butt naked with a big blue wig and drink Ginger Ale out of my Great-Grandma’s depression teacups.
I know the day will come soon enough that they’d rather drink anti-freeze than be seen in public with me. If my calculations are accurate that will be happening by about first grade. Instead of enchanted evenings I’ll get eye rolls, instead of play weddings I’ll get “whatever, Mom” in my face when I make the tyrannic request to please sift the hair out of the shower. Soon they’ll be too busy with their friends and boys other things and in their minds I’ll be relegated to my rightful role of cook, maid, or chauffeur.
A chauffeur with a very good memory who happens to be an excellent storyteller. Especially stories involving pretty young women who used to have an above-average aptitude for sharting their pants at the dinner table.
Because, well, I’m a girl too, after all.