I have two nieces:
Hayden and Anabel,
Ages 3.5 years and 17 months,
As a young woman who grew up in a household of only boys,
Living with them is remarkable.
As an active feminist who likes to see change in the world,
Watching these girls grow is humbling.
One day Hayden ran crying into my arms
Because I wouldn’t let her watch TV
(Her parents wouldn’t let me let her),
And I told her
That she was strong, and she was smart, and she was incredible,
And I wanted her to do a million things,
But right now watching TV just wasn’t one of them.
I never call her “pretty”.
She is pretty—
She has loose strawberry blonde curls
And the brightest smile in the world.
But she will realize one day that she is pretty,
Or perhaps someone else will inform her,
So I don’t want that to come from me.
I want to tell her all the things that girls struggle to realize
I need to make sure that she will understand
That she is a million more things
Behind her pretty face.
Because I didn’t.
Little Anabel is the definition of energy;
Having just learned to walk,
She makes it her mission to be everywhere
And see everything,
Even if it will terrify her.
When Hayden decided to be a Mega Force Power Ranger for Halloween,
We thought for sure that Anabel would be scared
Of her sister’s shiny masked costume.
But Anabel loved it,
And my heart swelled.
Anabel probably won’t remember Hayden’s costume
When she’s older,
But she already thinks it’s cool,
And to me that’s progress.
I want Anabel to grow up thinking that it’s normal
For her older sister
To love Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles.
Because it is.
I want Anabel to see her cool big sister
Playing with dolls and action figures simultaneously,
And never think that there is a limit
To what she can enjoy.
I don’t want Anabel to look at the pink aisle
In the store
And think that this is where she is
“Meant to be”.
She can sure as hell be there if she wants,
But I will never force her to be there
If she doesn’t.
I was forced into that aisle myself,
And I have been struggling
With who I am
I don’t want to force my nieces
Into what I want them to be,
But I do want to give them countless options
So they have choices.
While I was rarely given options myself,
It makes me swell with pride
To watch these girls grow in a world
Where they can have no limits.