My mother’s old horse got stuck, belly-deep, in wet adobe. On the farm alone, watching the horse flounder and panic in the heavy clay, she went to get a shovel, then a tractor, then a gun. She hated it, but she shot her horse as soon as she knew he was a goner. It was just getting worse for him, so she wasn’t going to let him wait until his guts stopped working, or wait until the next day when Dad got home. She’s kind, and she’s practical, and she’s tough.
My Dad is, too. So am I, although lately my toughness has more to do with opening a Tupperware container that I’m pretty sure has a three-day-old snail floating in it.
I want Frida to be tough. I tell her the Grandma-and-the-horse story when we talk about judging people on the way they act instead of the way they look. Grandma’s not just friendly, she’s strong, I explain. She does what’s right even when it’s hard for her.
It’s a good conversation, worthwhile, but sometimes I take these talks too far:
- I get shrill when I talk to Tobias about how important it is to reflect diversity in the media we feed our kids. “She always wants to be the blond girl in the story book! Every time! She’s internalizing the messages we give her, so stop saying ‘him’ when you talk about a potential engineer hire! Fuck!” (Even though I’m the one that let her watch Frozen.)
- I’m hard on Frida when she shows a preference for white characters instead of people of color in her picture books. This morning she reminded me that SHE’s white, that’s why she picks the white characters. I’m like DIDN’T WE ALREADY TALK ABOUT THE FLESH-TONED CRAYONS??!! STOP BEING SO NORMATIVE! (She’s five.)
- When we read a story that has no strong female characters, I go to great lengths to make some up. (Instead of, you know, reading her favorite stories and/or letting her go to sleep.)
Poor kid, she’s going to end up with a prince on bended knee and me behind her whispering, “But what about grad school? The civil service? Doctors without Borders?! You’ll have more power as an Ambassador than as a princess. Tell your prince to forget marriage – wait until you’ve earned it, then nominate you as his country’s U.N. rep.”
I think we need an Amal (Alamuddin) Clooney doll! If we’re going to play dress-up, at least we’ll put those tiny, sparkly velcro dresses on a human rights lawyer.
In case you were worried that this tendency to be an overbearing asshole about race and gender politics has ruined my chances to cement my legacy as a Super Fun Mom, here’s the veggie tray I made for Frida’s recent school sleepover. Yes, pre-schoolers in Germany are taken on multiple-day school trips. With no parents. Frida’s shown herself to be totally capable with this level of self-sufficiency. Maybe she’s a little tough after all.