It's Not the Batman Costume That Makes My Little Girl Amazing

Little Girl

When I got married, I became the stepmother to two awesome boys. A few years later, I gave birth to a son. When I found out I was pregnant for the second (and last!) time, I can't lie -- I was really hoping for a girl. And when Evelyn arrived in due course, I was instantly smitten with my curly-haired sweetie. I thought she was the most beautiful baby, which is perhaps why it is so hard now, four years later, to hear her tell me that she "hates pretty."

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It all started at the beginning of this past summer. My girl, who had never previously expressed an opinion about what she was wearing, suddenly started rejecting all of her dresses on the basis that they were "too pretty" and that she just wanted to "look regular." Occasionally I could talk her into a dress by promising her that it was a very ugly dress, but then someone would tell her she looks cute in it and my cover was blown. 

As a mom who grew up obsessed with Barbies and dresses that twirled, I have to admit Evelyn's outright rejection of anything pretty ... well, it kind of bothered me. I struggled for a while to figure out what it was. Did I care that she didn't want to play with dolls? No, not really. Did I yearn for her to become princess-obsessed like some of the other girls in her preschool class? Definitely not -- I'm kind of glad we dodged that particular bullet. Did I want her to feel free to be who she wanted to be and to express herself accordingly? Of course!

But still, something about her anger when she was told she was beautiful gnawed at me. Until one fateful trip to Costco. 

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I was cruising for samples with Evelyn and her brother Miles when we came across the giant display of Halloween costumes. Both kids jumped off the cart and bolted around the display, checking out the superhero, spaceman, kitty cat, and fairy princess costume options. Miles saw a Stormtrooper costume and settled on his choice right away.

Evelyn spotted a Batman costume one size too big for her and squealed with glee, "I'm BATMAN!"

Miles, oozing big-brother bossiness, pointed out that there were girl costumes she should get. Like Supergirl or a My Little Pony or even a "Batgirl" costume, complete with a tulle skirt and sequined bat design. 

Evelyn's disdain was instant. "Um, Miles? Batgirl isn't even real. She doesn't have a show. Batman is brave and Batgirl is just a ... a ... GIRL."

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And just like that, I figured out what was bugging me. It wasn't really about the clothes or being pretty. It was really about my fear that Evelyn doesn't think being a girl is awesome. Somehow, at the age of only 4, she has already started to internalize that boys can be brave and strong superheroes but that girls are supposed to be pretty above all. These aren't the values of our house, but it is clear she is getting that message somewhere. 

I bought her the Batman costume, because of course I had to. She couldn't wait to put it on so she could fight some bad guys. She'd wear it every day if I let her. Loving her means indulging the Batman phase, even when I have to talk her out of wearing her mask to school. 

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But now I have to figure out how to introduce some Wonder Woman into her life. I need to make sure she hears stories of girls having adventures and being brave and strong. I need for her to not think "girl" instantly means less tough, less exciting than "boy." 

I can make my peace with having Batman for a daughter, but I can't rest until I'm sure that she knows being a girl is so much more than being a pretty face. 

 

Image via Wendy Robinson 

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