This morning, Sophie managed to turn the plastic base to our blender into a bracelet for herself – then insisted on wearing it to daycare. She also turns her stacking circles into bracelets. Also, you know those loose plastic rings that hook together for fastening toys onto strollers? Those, too, are bracelets to Sophie. She turned our camping compass into her necklace (it’s on a lanyard). She can’t even talk yet, but she points to the clothes she wants to wear, and already shows a flair for interesting colors and varied accessories. 

I, on the other hand, went so long without wearing jewelery that the holes in my pierced ears closed up.

I’m not sure how to raise a girly-girl. 

I know that I’ll keep encouraging her to do all the things she likes doing: vrooming her toy cars around the floor, hurling her small balls in a game that loosely resembles catch, chasing the cats, exploring her legos, climbing on everything. Not all of her hobbies are ultra-feminine. But she does like to pretend to put on lipstick, and this is astounding, considering that she really has no model to emulate. The closest I get to wearing lipstick is chapstick. My friend S has already informed Sophie that S will be teaching her how to actually wear makeup, when the time comes — because it’s not a skill I have. 

My colleague C has prepared me with her own family’s strategy for dealing with the overabundance of pop-culture princess references that will soon start trying to influence little Sophie. In C’s family, a “princess” means someone who is strong. “Take a princess bite of that food” means to take a big bite. Instead of banning all froufrou princessness and turning it into tantalizing forbidden fruit, this family has simply worked with the princess tidal wave, gently pushing it into a deeper feminist model. 

I like this idea. I plan to use it myself.

But yesterday on our evening walk, we stopped to chat with a neighbor and Sophie managed to charm that neighbor into giving her a beaded bracelet.

Maybe I’m thinking about this a lot because, the day before yesterday, at a college alumni party, I had a typical conversation that took an unexpected turn:

“Your baby is adorable.”

“Thanks. I actually worry that she’s dangerously adorable. Soon she’ll discover that she can get anything she wants just by batting her eyelashes, you know? She recently persuaded me to buy her a plastic ball that I didn’t even want to buy, just by holding that stupid ball and giggling so adorably. It’s scary that she can already manipulate me, before she can even talk.”

“You know, that’s a real skill. You should help her develop it. The ability to make sales is going to help her later in life. Not just for salespeople, either. Your baby has management skills.”

“You think I should help my baby learn to manipulate me more?”

“Oh, yeah. Raise the stakes of what it takes to get you to buy a ball. Give her different challenges. Let her work on her sales and management skills. If she showed some unusual skill at throwing a ball, you would develop it. You’ve gotta do the same thing here.”

I don’t know. I’m not yet ready to give her eyelash-batting lessons. 

I think she’s going to figure it out on her own.


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