Last week I took my two youngest girls with me to Belk to look for an Easter dress. Lily wanted to come because she loves stores and fashion, and honestly the mall is magical to her. She gets to go maybe twice a year. She changed into a cute outfit, brushed her hair out,and grabbed her new purple purse. Grace wanted to come because Lily was going. She refused the hairbrush, dripped steak juice on her “Future Deacon” T-shirt, and was ready.
My mother will attest to the fact that I have never been much of a shopper. I like to see what’s in stores, I like to look at things, I love finding something beautiful…but I can do all of that in about forty-five minutes, and then I’m spent. Grace has my shopping attention span, but the six-year-old equivalent. So I knew I could try on about six things. MAX! Fortunately I found something I liked, it was on sale, and we were pretty quickly ready to head out.
A blond woman working at one of the registers asked if we were ready to check out and as she was helping me make my purchase she asked “Are they twins??” Now my girls are just shy of two years apart, and while they are both blondes, they don’t look any more alike than most sisters, at least not to me…but Lily is a little on the short side, and Grace may one day be called upon for a remake of Xena Warrior Princess. So despite the 2 year age gap, they are about the same size. They get asked this a lot. Grace loves when people ask if they are twins. Lily, not so much.
The kind and well-intentioned woman then pointed to Grace and asked “does she play ball?” I explained that, well, they both kind of do, but really Lily is the one on a softball team. The cashier was stunned. “I never would have thought she was a ball player!” I tried to head off the response from my spunky 8-year-old with a quick “yes, and she’s pretty good, too!”
Lily crossed her arms, threw some side-eye, and corrected “REAL good!”
I didn’t grow up in a house where I was expected to choose between being “girly” or an athlete. I wore dresses, and I played sports. I liked having long hair and working out. I played outside for hours and got dirty and sat on my pink bed spread and played with my American Girl doll. It never occurred to me that what I knew was unique.
Here’s the thing. There has been this huge push for it to be “okay” for girls to love dinosaurs and science and math, and that’s awesome! But it’s awesome for girls to love fashion and art, too! And when we make observations like “I never would have guessed she played ball” just because a little girl has long hair and a purple horse purse, we are doing the world a disservice. Not just girls. The world. When we attempt to put people, especially kids, into one box with one little label that only represents part of them, we teach them to ignore the other parts. Be a fashionista. Be an athlete. Be a poet. Be a scientist. You can be more than one thing. Even if you don’t look like what a lot of people picture when they think of that thing. Because when you are being yourself, your WHOLE self, you shine the brightest.
So was my girl excited that her softball team has hot pink zebra-striped socks? Yes! Does she love the sparkly hair band that matches her jersey? Yes! Does she practice in the backyard until she’s sweaty and her clothes are dirty? Absolutely. Did she belt out 2 singles and tag out the leading runner to win the game last night? (Funny you ask this specific question leading to my ability to mom-brag!) She sure did! Because it’s all a part of who she is: A Girl. An Athlete.