We are getting to the stage now that when we are out and about Charlee interacts with people either by crying at them because they talk to her...or smiling at them because they talk to her. These interactions usually go like this:
"Hi baby! Aren't you sweet!"
(Charlee either starts to cry or smile depending on how she feels about the person - ha!)
"What's your name baby?"
(I answer for her because duh).
"Charlee? Is that short for Charlotte?" (Note - first time strangers acknowledge that I even exist).
I answer, "Nope - not short for anything. Just Charlee!"
This is where people either tell me they love it, or put on a questioning face that reads, "What the heck...is this lady insane naming her girl a boy name?" or they come up with some obscure nickname that Charlee is going to be called one day. The best one I've heard so far is, "People will call her Chucky!"
Most of the time these days people can tell that Charlee is a girl baby. Back when she was only a few months old I was constantly asked if she was a boy or girl because that's just what people ask when they encounter tiny babies. I had a great conversation with a friend the other day who had her daughter last week. We both agreed that we feel victorious for having girl babies. Not that there is anything wrong with boy babies, because a baby is a baby and we are blessed to have them no matter what. But there are just so many places in the world where girl babies are unwanted and I feel like we did good to bring a girl who will be educated, brilliant, confident and well cared for into the world. A feisty girl. A strong girl. A smart girl. These are the things I tell Charlee every single day. I rarely tell her she is a pretty girl (although she is). I rarely tell her she is beautiful (although she is). I guess I am training myself to use the language I want her to grow up hearing...she is strong, she is smart, she is worthy of other things besides her appearance or her beauty. It's not that I don't think my child is good looking, I just want her to hear from me that I value her mind and emotions and the way she interacts with the world before her outward appearance. I think this is why I like to dress Charlee in boy clothes. It's like my dig I can get at society for thinking my girl needs to be pretty first and strong second.
"Boy clothes". Why do boy clothes have patterns of trucks and cars and diggers and dinosaurs and girl clothes have patterns of French poodles and bows and sparkles and phrases like "Je t'aime Paris"? I just bought Charlee some 12-18 month jammies the other day because she's outgrown her 9 month jammies already and every single pair of girl jammies had some form of pink, purple, flower, heart, sparkle thing going on. Out of curiosity I decided to check the boy clothes section of Joe Fresh (shopping online, the vice of every person who is at home with a baby) and I was like, "Hey...these boy jammies are way cooler than the girl jammies!" I ended up buying Charlee eight items from Joe Fresh, six of which were from the boy section.
I watched a documentary over the past two days during Charlee's nap. The film is called It's a Girl and it is currently available for viewing on Netflix. While the content is graphic in description, there are (thankfully) no photos or videos to put images to the script. It's a Girl profiles several families in both China and India who have struggled with the cultural challenge and dishonour of producing and raising girl babies. The film speaks at length about gendercide, the killing of the female gender, and the implications these deeply entrenched cultural practices are having on today's generation of both men and women. Surprisingly, I only cried once during this film. The part that hit me the hardest was about a little girl who was found roadside in a box, umbilical cord still attached. The old woman who found her brought her home and vowed to raise her as her own. Watching the old woman speak into the camera with such conviction that she was doing the right thing rocked my soul. The old woman's grown daughter ends up adopting and raising the baby girl as her own, even though it means that she will have a difficult time finding a husband (she was unmarried at the time of the adoption). Adopting the baby girl also meant that this woman would not be able to have her own child one day because of China's strict rules around child rearing. This woman decided to adopt the baby and raise her anyhow. What courage. The part where my tears began to overflow came next, when the camera showed the little girl, now around 7 years old, dancing and smiling and holding on to her adoptive mom's hand. She is happy, healthy and thriving because her adoptive mom decided to take her in. A life was saved.
Isn't it crazy that this goes on in the world? While I sit in my safe, cozy kitchen typing this post and worrying about whether some people might think my baby is right to wear boy clothes, girls all around the world are missing out on education, nutrition, sexual health information and their basic human rights. I'm sorry, but to me this is entirely messed up.
My girl will grow up wearing whatever she wants to wear. Maybe she will do ballet and wear pink bows and butterflies, like most in our society expect proper little girls to do. Maybe she will play with mud and wear trucks on her t-shirts, like my sister did when she was little. One thing I know for sure is that Joel and I will raise our girl to know that she is a girl and she is strong before she is pretty. She is brilliant before she is beautiful. And she will be capable because we will do our best to make sure she truly believes in these things about herself.