Whenever anyone meets Mads for the first time there are a a list of phrases that I can almost guarantee that they will say, that generic ice breaker list that you generally say when you meet a young child, more specifically a girl for the first time.
'Wow don't you have the most beautiful long curls?'
'What's your favourite film- is it Frozen?'
'Don't you look beautiful in your outfit today?'
'Whose your favourite Princess- is it Elsa?'
'What's your name? Oh it's Mads- that's a beautiful name?'
I love people taking the time to talk to my daughter, strangers taking a moment to talk to her when we are paying for our groceries in the supermarket, or old ladies talking to her when we going about our day to day errands in the post office. It's well meaning, kind and a nice thing to do, and it's a shame it doesn't happen more nowadays. But unfortunately any one of those phrases doesn't guarantee the most welcoming response with my slightly shy four year old- you see she doesn't do the whole 'girly' thing. She doesn't want to be beautiful, she wants to be cool. She doesn't like princesses, she loves superheros. She doesn't really want to confirm to the typical stereotype that's been placed on her, she wants to find her own way.
For more than a year or so, Mads has shunned the traditional 'girly' things little people aged four are 'supposed' to like. It started with clothes- her declared hatred for pink which is still strong even now. 'Pink? Yuuuuuuck' she used to say when I pointed out clothes that were any shade of pink, instead she went for bright, bold primary colours and blues. Skirts and dresses that were laid out for her in the morning were often greeted with tears in the eyes and a wobbling lip 'I don't want to wear a skirt Mummy, I want to wear my 'boy jeans'- which quite simply weren't 'boy' jeans at all, but just a pair of bog standard blue denim skinny jeans.
I remember a while ago one of my closest friends got married and I was bridesmaid. I needed to be with the bride on her special day, but at one point Mr E rang me to say that Mads was absolutely hysterical about putting on her pink frilly dress and white pumps. Literally hysterical. We got cross with her for it, she was playing up on a day when we needed her to behave. But the reality is I wouldn't feel comfortable in something that wasn't 'me' so why should we have expected her to? Since then we have started letting her choose her outfits- slogan tee's were in, as were the odd outfit from the boys department, bright bold colours, and caps and hats, and all the pretty frilly stuff was out. Nowadays she will wear a skirt or a dress, sometimes even asking to wear one, but it really depends on what she deems suitable. Skirts and dresses are ok on her terms. And I am ok with that, I love her quirky sense of style, how she expresses herself through what she wears, and how she is learning to shine just by being herself.
After the clothes came the expressions. Beautiful was not a word that she wanted associated with her. 'I don't want to be beautiful Mummy, I am cool.' Or even sometimes 'My sister is beautiful, I am cool.' She turned her nose down at being called 'cute' and 'pretty'. Again as she has got a bit older she has started to understand a bit more. Sometimes I forget and I say 'Oh you look beautiful Mads'. Because she is. She's my beautiful daughter. I want her to grow up feeling secure and confident, just as my Mum and Dad did with me. I want to compliment her, make her believe that she is able to do anything. I want to make her feel confident about her appearance, her abilities, her skills and her achievements. But she will still turn to me and say 'I am beautiful AND cool.' And that's good enough for me.
She has boy friends and she has girl friends. Granted her friends are mainly boys, but that's more to circumstance than her choosing. She has a best friend at nursery who is a girl and I often hear of stories they have created in the play ground. She was most excited about her new school because she learnt the uniform was blue, and once she cried because she received a princess party invitation and didn't want to go to a princess party, she wanted to go to a superhero one. I used to think of this as perhaps 'just a phase' she was going through. But now we are learning to except that if that is the way our little girl wants to be, then that's just our Mads.
And now Mads oblivious fighting back of gender bias has spread through to almost every aspect of her young life. Princess toys, pink plastic rubbish and pretty, sparkly necklaces that have been bought for her by well meaning family or friends in the past have been tossed aside for Toy Story characters, Spiderman, cars and aliens. And we are just embracing it. My Mum will buy her slime, or Trash Packs or any other strange looking things in the supermarket when she buys her a little treat every now and again. Mads isn't hugely aware they are for boys and not girls, bar the advertising she sees on TV.
She just likes what she likes.
And I like that she is passionate. I like that she knows her own mind. She is my beautiful little girl, with her long unruly curls and her long eyelashes framing her big blue eyes. But she is my beautiful little girl who is unique, feisty and who is happier not conforming to the typical things that some aspects of society tell her to like at this point in time. And I LOVE her for that. One minute she's running around pretending to be Spiderman while telling her little sister she is Spiderbaby, and the next minute she's playing with my ear and telling me that she 'loves me so much and that I am her best friend forever.' She's truly one of the most affectionate little people I know, always wanting to be close to us, and always giving kisses and cuddles and sitting on our laps non stop.
I never went into parenting or motherhood thinking I needed to follow rules. If my daughter is happier being this way, then so be it. I never want her to grow up feeling like she can't be who she wants to be, that she has to conform. To me she's a perfect mix. That perfect mix that makes her who she is. So while she wants to be dress up as Woody instead of Elsa, I'll be right beside her being Buzz. I'll always respect, support and be proud of her choices.
And if you happen to see my little girl and say 'What's your favourite Princess?' and she pulls a funny face at you, she's not being rude.
She's just being her.
My beautiful AND cool daughter who just happens to really, really dislike pink.
I took this photo of her yesterday and I just adore it. I love that you can see the freckles starting to appear on her nose.