Little Girls and Big Cities

I am finding that raising a little girl is different than raising a little boy.  I am finding that raising kids in a city is different than raising kids in a small town.  And I am discovering both of these things fast and furiously as I venture into the realm of two school-aged children.

Let’s talk about the gender factor first.  My four-year-old daughter is now coming home from Junior Kindergarten using phrases like “best friend,” “she said she didn’t want to play with me,” and “hurt my feelings.”  These are all phrases that her brother, three years older, has never spoken.  She feels things deeply, she notices friendship nuances, she’s finding her way amongst her peers.

And the big-city versus small-town element, well, this is something that I’ve written about before.  I’m a small town girl, and I was raised in a town of 250 people until I was ten years old and we moved to a town of 2000 people.  Everyone knew everyone, for the good or the bad, so it seems unnatural to me to send my children into a classroom, knowing few other families, and having them talk about kids that I’ve never met.

Now, to be fair, we moved into this neighbourhood less than two years ago; we’re still finding our way and meeting people as we go.  But I suspect that this not-knowing-everyone is simply a side effect of city living, even though my kids attend a school of just 300 students, small by city standards.  So, while there are more and more familiar faces at pick-up and drop-off, and more and more hellos at the playground gate, the fact remains that I want to know my children’s friends and their families.

I was chatting about these things with a friend; this friend lives in a different neighbourhood and has children that are older than mine.  She’s been down this road before, and like the good friend she is, she sent her parenting wisdom down the motherhood pipeline: she suggested that I host a friend party for my daughter.  Now, why oh why, I hadn’t come up with this simple solution on my own accord is one of the reasons I often preach that “The World Needs More Girlfriends.”  Girlfriends help and support, and help and support she did.

A friend party it would be.

We printed off eleven invitations, one for each girl in her class, and asked her teacher to put them into the children’s backpacks.  “We’d like to get to know you,” the invites said, “please join us on Sunday afternoon.”  So, this past weekend I had six little girls running around my basement, laughing and playing and building their friendships.  And I had six families in my kitchen, meeting and talking and building their community.

This friend party was for her, but as it turned out, it was also for me.  You see, she’s nurturing relationships with girls that she’ll go to school with for the next decade and beyond (girls like this and this), and I’m nurturing relationships to build my small town within my big city.


Yes, I Paint my Son’s Fingernails

I had an eye-opening moment yesterday morning.

While his baby sister had her morning nap, my 4-year-old son asked me to paint his fingernails.  I thought nothing of it, and grabbed my bag of assorted nail polish and told him to choose some colours.  I have painted his fingernails a few times before, usually when I’m painting my own and he wants to be included.  But that’s not where the eye-opener happened.  It happened later, when we left the house, and his fingernails were on display in front of the public eye.

He was judged.  I could see it.  I could see it in the raised eyebrows, the questions, and the appeasing smiles and nods.  I hope he didn’t see it too.  But, then again, I know he didn’t see it.  He didn’t see it because he’s too young to understand it.  Children are born without negative judgement or criticism, and are filled instead with complete acceptance, pure innocence, and absolute naivety.

It makes me wonder: why is it such a big deal that a 4-year-old boy has painted fingernails?  Why is it even questioned?  Any parent can tell you that children model behaviours seen at home, including mundane things like fingernail painting.  He wanted his fingernails painted because he thought it would be fun.  Simple as that.  And if he wants to play with dolls and wear pink clothes, then I will let him, because it’s fun.  Just like I will let my daughter cut her hair short and play with trucks and wear blue clothes.  If she wants to.  If it’s fun.

But what about teasing?  I wouldn’t want him to be teased by other kids, would I?  Well, who would he be teased by?  By those who have not yet learned acceptance?  You teach them acceptance by accepting them.  It starts at home.  It starts with me painting his fingernails.  It continues with me asking him if anyone at his Nursery School mentioned his fingernails.  It ends with me explaining that different people like different things and it’s okay to be unique.

Celebrate differences, don’t judge them.


Here are the cute little hands in question.