um, YEAH!

I remember reading some articles when the girls were smaller about how not only should we not tell our daughters that they are pretty, but we shouldn’t tell them they are smart either. I think I made some crack about how in the dystopian future, in which we are all required to have perfectly neutral conversations with our kids, we’ll be saying things like “It’s morning, small human. You are neither acceptable nor unacceptable, just another human like everyone else. Have a day.” Here’s the thing: I tell my children they are beautiful because they ARE. They are just BURSTING with beauty. It radiates out of their every pore. I look at them and it’s like the first time I straight up blurted to my husband that I loved him, a full three months before he ever felt ready to say it back, because I literally couldn’t hold it in anymore.

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I also think they’re smart. When they solve a problem, when they complete a puzzle, when they make a connection or comparison that surprises me, I notice how smart they are. I know that I’m supposed to focus on the efforts they’ve made, rather than the outcome, and I do try to do that, but I also tell them that they’re smart, sometimes. Because they are. The sky is blue, and these girls are smart.

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Another thing they are is HILARIOUS. Claire in particular is a natural comedian, actually testing out material on us and asking “is that funny, mom?” before sharing those jokes or bits with others. I have every confidence that my small white-blond child is the next Amy Poeheler. They crack us up all the time, and when they ask, the answer to “is that funny?” is almost always yes, unless they’re just being wildly inappropriate, though I also appreciate the person who is wildly inappropriate on occasion, especially for the sake of a good laugh.

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To me, the key is to make sure they know that I’m not defining or valuing them by any one thing, but because of their amazing, miraculous wholes. They are beautiful, smart, hilarious, determined, and most of all, kind, and I want them to know all of those things.

But I’ve noticed something crazy: they actually came into the world basically knowing all of that already. Their default assumption is that they are valuable and loveable, and it seems like that must be the way we start out, and then that gets chipped at by the world as we grow, and before we know it, we’re needing to hear it from others before we believe it. And so more than telling my girls what they are, I am realizing that it’s my job to protect the knowledge they already have about who they are, how fabulous, worthy, and wonderful they are.

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We must be doing something right, because as Claire walked her sassy little walk through a waiting room today– her innate confidence combined with her slightly altered gait thanks to spina bifida means she sort of stomp-struts through life, curls bouncing–an older, mustachioed man looked at her and said, “You sure are pretty!” And she didn’t miss a beat, that girl, she just looked up at him and said, “um, YEAH!” “Good answer!” I said. And she kept on walking. She doesn’t need that man or anyone to tell her who she is. And she doesn’t need anyone to tell her that she’s more than just her looks– she knows it. It’s my job to help make sure it stays that way.

sorry, not sorry: my girls are beautiful

I love it when a friend blogs the thing I wanted to say, so I mostly don’t have to. In this case, my friend Sarah of Wifeytini (when I mentioned friends I made via the #spinabifida hashtag, she’s one of them) took on the ridiculousness of the latest in a long line of fearmongering about how we’re all ruining our children by praising/not praising them. Apparently, calling my daughters “pretty girls” is going to make them bad at math and science, and by golly, Verizon is out to save them from me and my destructive compliments.

UGH.  Continue reading “sorry, not sorry: my girls are beautiful”

but which one’s older?

IMG_3204Last night I was reading a New York Times profile of Megan Rapinoe, a soccer star I really admire. The piece mentioned that she has a twin sister, and went out of it’s way to let readers know that her sister is “older by 11 minutes.” Cue the sound of a record scratching in my mind.

I have twin daughters. People love to ask us questions in public, and one of their favorites is “Which one is older?”

Let me stop right here. Say you meet someone. Say it comes up that you were both born on March 28. Would you ask that stranger what precise hour and minute he or she was born? Or would you just say, “Wow, we have the same birthday! We’re the same age!”

I think people ask this question because, like most of our first-meeting questions, we’re trying to “place” people and figure them out. Asking about birth order lets us know which one is supposed to be the bossy older sibling, and which one is supposed to be the attention-seeking youngest. People even seem to believe that the “older” twin should also be the bigger one, as if the 6 lb. size difference that currently exists between Etta and Claire could be attributed to a head start gained by a few extra minutes out in the world. These things are stereotypes at best, and they’re simply not useful in the case of twins, and, I believe, can be harmful. It attempts to impose a hierarchy where none exists.

I have heard about “older” twins lording it over younger twins, and about parents who truly treat their twins as if there is some sort of inborn difference that results from what is essentially the luck of the draw. Wherever an egg implants in the uterus, the twin closest to the “exit” is born first. And in the case of a c-section, isn’t it just whom the surgeon grabs first?

In a society that loves to label people and to lump twins together, I want my girls to feel loved and supported for the individuals they are, not shoehorned into some sort of role, be it birth order, or gender, or religion, or whatever. I don’t want strangers deciding that one is “the bossy one” because she’s “older” or something. I’m even thinking I may just keep mum on the whole thing if asked. Because really, from the moment of conception, their cells have been dividing the same. The entire time I was pregnant, they were the same gestational age. They still are. Who was first pulled out into the sterile brightness of the operating room really doesn’t matter much to me.

mindblowing realization

The other night, I had to run to Walgreens to pick up a prescription for Etta. I grabbed some C batteries for the baby swing and headed to the pickup window.

“I’m here to pick up a prescription for my daughter.”

Outwardly, I continued to have a typical interaction with the pharmacist, but the minute the words “my daughter” left my lips, my internal conversation went something like this: “Holy crap, I have a daughter. I have a DAUGHTER. I have TWO DAUGHTERS. Daughter, daughter, daughter daughter.” The word sort of ceased to have any meaning and began to sound sort of foreign in my head.

I mean, somehow, that phrase, “my daughter” just blows my mind. I had already kind of processed that I have babies, but realizing that they’re my daughters? Well, it gives me all kinds of visions of who these little people will grow up to be.

My DAUGHTERS. Photo by Christen Byrd.

the wrestler and the dollhouse: a smackdown

I was just clicking through a friend’s Facebook photos of his three daughters and it got me thinking about my own daddy, who also has three daughters, and couldn’t be happier.  It reminded me of a funny story about something my dad used to loooooove to do when we were kids.  Mind if I tell you a story about when I was a kid?

See, my sister and I (at the time there were only two of us, our third sister was adopted later), had an elaborate Victorian dollhouse that my parents had built for us one Christmas.  More than we played with any other toy, we spent hours playing with that dollhouse.  All the people and furniture were Playmobil.  So they were sorta like overgrown Legos.  Like this: We didn’t just have the traditional dollhouse figures, either.  There was an entire “school” set up in the “attic,” a hospital complete with surgery unit on the lower porch, a police station on the upper porch, an ambulance, and EVEN A HOT DOG STAND:My dad, of course, loved more than anything to make us giggle and squeal.  Usually this was related to telling us that the Belle, a riverboat in the town where we lived, had sunk, which was a guaranteed way to elicit squeals; or good old fashioned “tickle torture.”  But when it came to the dollhouse, he had a secret weapon.  Macho Man Randy Savage: Macho Man would regularly show up to “visit” the dollhouse and basically wreck the place, while my sister and I howled “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO MACHO MAN! NOOOOOOOOOO!” In our little minds, we could SEE this wreslter man, stomping his feet, kicking over furniture, punching the dollhouse people.  My dad would just laugh an evil laugh as we tried to pull Macho Man out of his hands and push Dad away from the dollhouse.  I have a feeling it was the only way this “boy” knew to play dollhouse with us.  And really, we secretly loved it.  We’d exact our revenge by finding Macho Man around the house and hiding him, so dad couldn’t find him and make him “come visit.”  Of course, this all ended the day we “hid” Macho Man in the trash and forgot about him until after trash day.  Whoops!

happy father’s day

First of all, since it’s Father’s Day, I thought I’d take the opportunity to plug one of my favorite blogs, which happens

Image via Googles LIFE photo archive.
Image via Google's LIFE photo archive.

to be written by a dad, and which I think will be turning into a book at some point in the near future: 1001 Rules for my Unborn Son.  Though I will say that I think most of the rules are equally appropriate for girls as well.  Which brings me to MY dad.

My dad has 3 girls.  Sometimes when a guy will mention that he has three daughters, other men will express sympathy that this poor man did not get to have a son.  And while my dad has, at times, loved to crack jokes about being surrounded by women, noting that even all of our pets have been girls, he truly loves it.  I know this, because my parents adopted their third daughter only a couple of years ago, so I’ve had the benefit of watching him with her, and seeing him as a dad with his daughter through the lenses of my adult eyes, filtered by my 24 years of experience as his daughter.  He loves being our daddy.  Every giggle or squeal that he can get out of us warms his heart.  He truly lives to make us smile.

Now perhaps it’s because my dad’s mostly a cerebral guy, not into male jock stuff, but we weren’t particularly raised with ideas of “boy stuff” and “girl stuff” or the idea that my dad would have any more fun with us if we had been boys.  He took us on car trips to dig up crystals and gave us long lectures on rock types and geological formations, and the way mountains are made.  It would not at all be unusual for him to  pull the car over to look at the strata of a particularly interesting sedimentary rock formation.  He forced us to dig in the garden and pull weeds and harvest tomatoes, chores I often hated, but appreciate now that I’m an adult, trying to grow some of my own food.  He created elaborate treasure hunts for us to follow, riddled clue by clue, until we got to the big treasure at the end.  He also created elaborate Halloween parties, with dry ice in cauldrons and his entire bug collection on display on a kitchen table, and all sorts of other delights that scared me so bad I wouldn’t go in our basement for several years without trepidation, but which were the talk of our friends well into high school. Continue reading “happy father’s day”