To be fair, I texted them, but still.
She’d asked for some measurements for something she was having made for Miss E, and I’d obliged until she asked for her head measurement. The first thing I imagined was a tiara, because they’re all too often seen adorning the brows of under-fives, especially, and almost exclusively, if they’re girls. Not only is Miss E not into princesses, I’m eager to protect her interests and her exposure to a culture that can, for some girls, be quite toxic.
While I had no idea what my sister-in-law had in mind, I fired back,
“Sure, if you promise it isn’t for a tiara.”
As soon as I sent it I thought that I probably shouldn’t have. Not only do I feel like it’s a fruitless endeavor to tell other people what they can give to my children, it’s also just not my call. I try to be very vocal about how we are choosing to parent, and while I always hope that our wishes will be taken into consideration when gifts are given or conversations with our daughters are had, I can’t control everything. And I don’t want to.
Still, every once in awhile, when a situation like this one arises, I push back. I can’t help it. Standing between Miss E and an endless stream of marketing attempting to aggressively shape her childhood into something we have to buy is exhausting. Not to mention something that I feel has the power to do real damage.
But it wasn’t for a tiara. And my assumption was hurtful.
We traded several more texts, me trying to explain myself, my sister-in-law feeling rightfully defensive. Ultimately, she said something that reshaped the entire conversation.
“I just have to remember that she is your child and not mine. I should have asked first.”
Miss E has been to the museum with her auntie, the aquarium, has spent the night with her and gobbled pancakes and had dance parties. My sister-in-law has brought out all of her childhood toys for Miss E to enjoy, some of which had been mint in their boxes since the eighties. She is so ardently loved and loves in return.
And that’s really what this is about. Yes, she’s my child. But I am far from the only person who loves her. Before she was born I always said that a child could never be loved enough, that even if I disagreed with how family or close friends spoke about her or chose to interact with her, what mattered about those interactions was that they were grounded in love. It is absolutely my job to protect her, but not from affection.
Even if it might be covered in glitter.