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My original plan for this post headed in a different direction than we’re going today. The longer I mentally composed it, the more things occurred to me to force me to realize what it really was I wanted to say. In the beginning I wanted it to be a story of what it’s like to grow up without a female presence. in the end perhaps it’s what it’s like to grow up with a strong male presence instead. The moment it changed the most drastically was when, at our Easter family gathering my sister-cousin told me to close my eyes and then commented, “You don’t even wear makeup and you know how to put it on. I always feel like mine is the scrawling of a 4 year old.”

That’s one of those things I had to teach myself because I had no one to do it. But I realize that the other deficiencies are minor and few. but the benefit of a fatherly run household are immense. This I realized because of Barbie.

I cannot align myself with the women’s groups who throw a huge fit over the fact that Barbie sets unrealistic standards for little girls. I wonder, does she really? or is it we adults who want to be Barbie and we project our wants on our daughters? Because I never wanted to be Barbie. Did I know subconsciously even as a child that Barbie is not a real representation of a woman? I don’t know. I do know who I wanted to be. Samantha Parkington, my American Girl Doll. I wanted to be her, with her round arms, chubby hands with dimpled knuckles, her soft and squishy middle and charming back story.

I do not have unreal expectations about my body or appearance. Yes, I am currently in the middle of a weight loss event; 16 pounds down 24 to go. But this is croc weight and my goal is neither unattainable nor set in stone. If I find comfort and happiness 10 or 15 or 20 pounds from now, fine. I only want to be at a healthy weight before I start my next pregnancy and have a healthy lifestyle that means I won’t gain as much as last time. I only want to feel good and not uncomfortable, constrained in my clothes. That’s really not actually a hard thing to do; yoga pants and stretchy tank tops are my very best friends.

I think I gained this ability to accept myself as-is because I did not have an example of a woman questing for the unattainable when I was young and impressionable. instead I had my dad; long hair, tattoos, ear piercings, wearing whatever tshirt was on top of the pile; looking the way he looked and not taking shit for it. yes, I wear make up, but it’s eye shadow and mascara, when I feel like it. Yes, I like to dress nicely in bright colors and newer styles, but it’s Old Navy that’s the store eating up all of my clothing budget. And it may be headed in the wrong direction to say this, feminism-wise, but I like causing my husband to think i’m attractive. I don’t want him to think of me as the frumpy hobo who watches his kid.

In the end I hope most that this is what the croc learns from me when she’s looking for a role model in loving of self and finding of beauty in flaws and the confidence to take it all in stride. I hope her eyes land on me and not some silly piece of plastic. I can be her good example and I don’t even have to temper my own actions; watch what I do or say. this is already the way I am; who my dad raised me to be.

And so, as a mom with a daughter, I stand behind Barbie. She is a vet and a doctor, a teacher and a flight attendant, a homemaker, best friend, big sister and mom. And if you can find nothing else positive about that silly piece of plastic, she teaches hella fine motor skills; those tiny velcroed outfits are a bitch to get on and off!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. First it took some time to find the courage to do so and then after that simply finding the time and the words i needed to use.

I was a tantrumy kid and i think in the end it will make it easier for me to cope with and comfort my tantrumy croc. my parents did not do well in handling my tantrums, in my opinion at least. maybe it was because they did not have the experience to draw from of being unaccountably upset by something that you can’t control your reaction to; of passing that point of upset into a realm where you can neither stop crying without some comfort nor comfort yourself. a vicious catch-22 for a child who’s decades from discovering Joseph Heller.

I feel i was deprived pretty consistently of that comfort i didn’t know how to express i needed. hell, i still don’t exactly know how to express what it was i needed back then or the emotions or events that led to the tantrums in the first place. maybe that’s why i’m so diligent about listening for the change in the croc’s cries from tantrumy to just needing comfort to settle down. when i hear it i hug her and talk to her and maybe when she’s older we’ll talk to each other about what set her off and how to avoid it next time.

I needed that, i know that much. it would have made it easier over the years. it would have improved me over the years. but instead i feel i got worse and worse until i grew to an age old enough to understand myself. old enough to exert the amount of restraint and control that was required… which is a lot. I have always said i am a ball of chaos covered in a thin layer of sanity. That thin layer has only been in existence since my early teens but it could have been there earlier and been a thicker coat of that calm sanity that i so desire.

But as it was i was a wild terror when things weren’t exactly the way i wanted. I guess i can undertand how, out of frustration, my mother hit me the way she did that ended with me living with dad. (though if we’re being completely honest, dad spanked me too. Though i still have not figured out the logic of inflicting pain as a means to get a child to stop crying) but that’s all on them, not me. I didn’t fully understand what was out of tune with me, and i never was given a chance to find out.

But there is one thing that lands on me. because just a few weeks ago i hit the croc. it was a slap to the belly with just my fingers and no harder than the bottom spanks i gave her a few months previous when she was in her biting stage. but the look of confusion on her face, because unlike the biting episodes she hadn’t been doing anything wrong. she was so surprised; her laughing, bouncing, goofing around-ness ceased abruptly and i was finally able to finish changing the severely dirty diaper which had been in danger of getting everywhere the way she was acting.

She would not stop no matter how i raised my voice, but i shouldn’t have hit her for laughing. even though the precise image of the expression on her face has faded, i remember how shocked i was at her shock. she forgave me; was chattering and laughing a few moments later, and has probably forgotten. But luckily for her, i have not. i cannot and i should not.