Tiaras and Tears
It may not be politically correct, or feminist of me, but I like many of the socially constructed “girly” things that most of my contemporaries fight against and feverently hope their daughters will never buy into.
But as unpopular as my opinion might be in our social group, I like Disney movies, especially the “Princess” ones. I know all of them by name and can sing all the songs and describe all the dresses in detail. I like sparkly nail polish, big dresses with crinoline under them and makeovers. The colour pink does not offend me, and I don’t care if little girls want to play wedding, princess or popstar. I will happily play Barbie dress-up or My Little Pony with anyone, and in my spare time willingly watch copious amounts of Say Yes to The Dress and Four Weddings on TLC because I like weddings. Big, fluffy, white weddings with a cutting the cake, corny DJ music and bridesmaids. Oh yeah, and sorry feminist friends, I love you dearly, but I gotta shave.
I used to actively search out activities that I could take Stella to when she was older. I would look at an ad in the paper for the musical Pink-A-Licious and think, “Oooo, maybe when she’s 4 we can go to that”, and I had done research on kids spas in Toronto where you can have mother/daughter days. When Stella was sick last summer, I took Gracie to an event called “The Princess Party” at StageWest Hotel and Theatre in Mississauga. The event list would have sent chills of horror through most of my mommy-friends bodies. There was a Princess movie, princess dress-up, Princess live show, dancing (which included learning how to dance with a broom like Cinderella), a meet-and-greet with the princesses, and a chance for makeup and nail polish application. There were about 80 little girls all dressed in pink and purple dresses, wearing hotel-supplied tiaras just eating it up. And I loved it. I happily engaged in a serious conversation with Gracie regarding whether Sleeping Beauty’s ball gown looked better in blue or pink, and gamely referred to all the little girls by their “Princess” names (i.e. if they were dressed like Snow White, that’s what I called them).
This year, I begged Gracie’s politically-correct and socially-conscious parents to let me take her again, and even asked Stella’s friend Flora’s parents (who are equally politically and socially correct…even to the extent they are (gasp!) vegetarians!), for permission to take the girls to the Princess weekend. After setting aside their personal views in the name of their little girls happiness, both sets of parents agreed, and the planning commenced. I was so excited.
Then, due to some scheduling conflicts, suddenly it seemed that the girls weren’t able to do the weekend with me anymore. I was disappointed and sad, but it was more than that. I was absolutely devastated. Like, curl up in a ball and sob as though you were just told Santa doesn’t exist kind of sad. Now, after two years of really, really good therapy, I know enough that when I get an over-the-top reaction to something so small, it means something more. So I had to think about what it might be, and with Aimee’s help I realized something. Not only am I mourning Stella as my child, I am mourning Stella specifically as my daughter, as a girl that I no longer have.
From the moment that she was placed on my chest in the delivery room and I heard Aimee cry out, “It’s a girl!” I created fantasies about having a daughter. They weren’t necessarily around ballet recitals or anything, but I more dreamed about sharing my interests with my daughter. Who knows if Stella ever would have given me the time of day, but that’s not the point. The point is in my mind and imagination; I was going to have a daughter. This meant that we could have a Cinderella-themed birthday party, when she was older we would get dressed up and go to High Tea, we would spend hours with DeeDee at the American Doll Company in New York City looking at dolls and clothes, we would go prom dress shopping and Tutu would take her to Paris for her 16th birthday for the fashion shows. I would pass along my (mild) obsession with all things pioneer, and introduce her to the Little House on the Prairie book collection. We would play paper dolls and she would giggle and paint my toenails with glow in the dark nailpolish. Maybe she would follow in my footsteps and be a Girl Guide, or take tap dancing lessons and baton.
But now, along with my daughter being gone, so are all those fantasies. And for anyone out there who’s thinking it, I KNOW that boys can be into that kind of thing to, and I know that there is no logical reason I can’t take Sam and Hugo to High Tea or Pioneer Village, and they might be excellent baton throwers, except that due to social and genetic reasons beyond my control, chances are…they aren’t going to give a shit about Cinderella or My Little Pony. Already Sam is completely obsessed with trucks and planes and cars. If we’re walking along in the stroller and he sees something, he will wave at me excitedly, his jaw open and say, “Mama, Digger!”…”Mama, truck!”…”Mama, plane!”…”Mama, excavator!”. I have an entire children’s book at home that Sam likes me to read on a daily basis simply called “trucks” that goes into great (and boring, in my opinion) detail about the difference between an excavator, digger and bulldozer. My eyes glaze over around the part that says, “An excavator is a construction vehicle used to dig or move large objects. It is made up of two parts: a driving base and a powerful boom arm with an attachment designed for digging…”, while Sam leans forward, his eyes gleaming with excitement at the big yellow machine.
The reason I was so devastated at the thought of losing my Princess Weekend was because it is a stark, and very sad, reminder that I don’t have my own daughter to bring to things like this anymore. I’m pretty confident Stella would NOT have been into a Princess Weekend, so it’s likely I would have been bringing Flora and Gracie regardless, but it just stresses that it’s not really even an option for me because I don’t have my own little girl anymore.
I love my boys, and after losing a child, I don’t need to explain to anyone how much they mean to me. But I don’t know if I have as much to offer as a parent to boys as I would have to a girl. I don’t know anything about sports (the only team I was ever on in High School was archery), I don’t care about cars or buses or construction vehicles. I hate bugs, rodents and action hero movies. I don’t know the difference between Batman, Spiderman and Captain America. I can’t tell the difference between Yu-Gi-Oh and BeyBlades. Which of my passions will I be able to share with my sons and pass along to them? What will we have in common? And who will I share my love of Princesses with? I know I have a lifetime to grow and fall in love with my boys, and I know that more than likely we will surprise each other with just how much we have in common, but I also think I will always yearn for the little girl that might have put on her pioneer bonnet and run through a field of wheat with me while we pretended to scrub our clothes in the creek and learn counting on our slates.
Luckily, I will still get to attend the Princess weekend this year as one of the girls who was still able to make it, so I’ll get my fill for now. But what about next year and the year after? It makes me sad to contemplate. What if I’m no good at raising boys? What if they get mad at me because I don’t know the difference between hockey and ringette, and worse, I don’t care? Right now they are still little, but already I see the “boy” in them coming through. But, one of the promises I made to myself after Stella died was to try not to worry too much about the future and live one day at a time, so I’m trying not to picture too much at once. I know that no matter what though, when I don my tiara at the Princess Party in a few weeks, I will be thinking of Stella and wondering which of the cute little Princesses she would have smacked in the face first. My guess is Snow White, she’s a bit weird.
Boys on the Beach:
Roasting Hot Dogs with our friends the HayDraude’s:
Digging in the Dirt:
Ice Cream Break!
Sam eats ice cream in Picton with Tasha:
In July 2011, Stella ate ice cream with Tasha on the same bench: