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Not a princess, not a tomboy

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

My in-between daughter

There's that scene in the movie "Juno" where the lead character replies to a comment of her father's, "I don't really know what kind of girl I am." While I certainly hope my daughter never makes that kind of comment to me in the context of that movie's plot lines, I appreciated the sentiment. I didn't really know who I was at 16, much less at 4.

My in-between daughter
So I'm alternately annoyed and perplexed why people seem to want to label my daughter. Is she a princess? Is she a tomboy? Is she this or that? She's a little bit of everything, I say. She's pink and purple twirly dresses and baseball and soccer. She's a mother to her stuffed animals and she gets right in there when her brothers wrestle. She's shy. She's assertive. She's opinionated. She's often perplexed. She's Sunshine. That should be enough.

Going to the extreme

Sunshine was at a classmate's birthday party over the weekend. It was a princess party, and to Sunshine's eyes, it was too much. (Mine, too, to be honest.) As much as she likes the birthday girl and the other girls at the party and they play often at school, Sunshine wanted nothing to do with the costumes and the nail polish and eye shadow being passed around like a drug and runways walks that were a part of the events. She wanted the swing set. The super-princess thing scared her. Other mothers kept asking me about her (in her pink dress): Is she a real tomboy? Because there could be no in between to their eyes. Tomboy or princess, and never the twain shall meet.

You could say that I've steered Sunshine away from the super girly stuff, and I suppose you are right. I haven't intentionally introduced it (nor have I intentionally avoided it), and she hasn't asked for it, even though she does see some serious princess stuff at school and at friend's houses. I have given her a dollhouse and pink dress-up dance clothes and the like, but she seems to self-moderate with it. She enjoys it, but it isn't her whole world.

Nor have I given her only sports stuff or dress her only in pants or gender-neutral clothing. She most definitely likes and asks for dresses, but even then she doesn't like ruffly, foufy stuff. It's all her, really.

It's too soon for labels

So what is with all the labeling? Can't she be bit of both? Is it really necessary to label her so soon? Can't she just be herself? If we do insist on labeling her, how will that affect her in years to come? If she keeps hearing that she is a princess or a tomboy, will she then reject something out of the comfort zones of those labels because that's what she thinks she's supposed to do? I think she has plenty of time to figure out who she is, to try on different hats. Plenty. Decades, even. There is no need to apply a label now.

Near the end of the party on Saturday, Sunshine tried to get in with the dressed up and made up princesses for dancing, but it still felt off for her. She came to me (seeking balance?) and said, "Mommy, I just want to go play with some boys."

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