When I found out I was having a daughter after two sons, everyone around me was very excited. My husband, my mother, the babysitter, and even friends and acquaintances cheered, “You’re finally getting your little girl!”
I was a bit more ambivalent and, honestly, kind of afraid of the whole the little girl… thing. I’m not into fashion or clothes (in fact, if you see me and I’m wearing something new and nice, the correct response is, “Oh, your mother’s in town!”). I’ve written about my failure to play Barbie, which, more or less, extends to My Little Anything. And that whole shrieking with glee and hugging someone when you haven’t seen them for less than 24 hours? What’s up with that?
The one thing that did get me pumped was books. Finally, I could share my love of “Ramona” and “All of a Kind Family” and “Little House” and “Caddie Woodlawn” and “Anastasia Krupnik” and “Betsy and Tacy” and oooh, now I was excited, bring on the girl! (I’d tried introducing my boys to those titles, as well—no sexism here—but they never really stuck. My oldest loved “The Magic Treehouse Series” when he was very young, then moved onto historical fiction like “Roots” as soon as he could handle more mature fare. His brother hit Michael Crichton by second grade, which actually infuriated my husband, who felt I shouldn’t have let him skip over the wealth of great children’s literature in his rush to read adult books. So I redirected him towards YA, where he ended up with “The Hunger Games.” Sigh.)
With my daughter, I figured I’d lay the groundwork early. I read all the “Little House” books out loud to her while she was still in preschool. We got “Ramona” audio CDs that she was allowed to listen to at night before bed. She listened to all of them very politely.
And then she went out and developed her own tastes and preferences.
Forget the Quimbys and the Ingalls and the…uh… does the “All of a Kind Family” have a last name? I don’t think it’s Uptown or Downtown, but that’s all I’ve got to work with. Let’s assume it was Berkowitz.
My daughter wants to read the adventures of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and the Mysterious Benedict Society. She’s a hard-core fantasy girl! Meanwhile, that’s probably my least favorite genre.
Even when she does read what she calls “realistic fiction,” our tastes diverge. She’s into “Anne of Green Gables” (I side more with my son, who summarized the books as, “Poetry, poetry, poetry. I’m Canadian.”) Heck, even when we agree on an author, we don’t agree on a book. With Frances Hodgson Burnett, she’s “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” I’m “Secret Garden.” (We’re both meh on “A Little Princess.”)
Yes, yes, yes, I see the irony. My socially skilled, always smiling and cheerful, everybody-in-school-is-my-friend daughter gravitates towards the little lord who melted a crotchety old Earl’s heart and all but saved the English monarchy through the power of his optimistic winsomeness, while I go for the smart-mouthed girl whose gloomy countenance matches the damp English moors she’s been exiled to. There was a reason I spent most of my childhood reading, while I need a separate calendar just to keep track of my daughter’s after-school playdates.
I’ve tried to appreciate her reading choices. I certainly encourage them. I bring home titles I think she might like (just last week, it was something about mermaids; my daughter’s other passion is marine biology). Whenever we go to the library she’s allowed to pick anything she wants (even if her teachers tell her it’s above her level; let her try, what the heck?). But I just can’t get genuinely enthused.
And she can tell.
I’ve already written about how, as my third child, my daughter doesn’t get the same fervor from me when it comes to her milestones. Goodness knows, I try, but there’s a sense of been there, done that. (The other day, she asked me what her first word was, and I had to admit I can’t remember. I remember my oldest son’s!)
So, what’s a mother to do? Obviously, I’m going to let her read whatever she feels like. But what are we supposed to bond over now? Suggestions welcome!
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