My daughter turned 6 in January. She’s been going to kindergarten since September, and three years of preschool before that. She can bathe herself and put on her own coat and set the table for dinner and literally shimmy up the front door to click the top lock. She’s learning to read and she takes ballet and she knows the lyrics to several Stephen Sondheim musicals (no, not “Sweeny Todd” or “Passion”).
And yet, despite all her big girl accomplishments, my 6-year-old daughter insists on talking like a baby.
I don’t mean the adorable, natural mistakes, like saying,”We love each others” instead of “We love each other” (anyone could mis-conjugate like that; English isn’t exactly known for its grammatical logic), or getting her two languages mixed up and, as we step outside, using the Russian word for snow (sneg) to tell me, “Mama, it’s sneg-ing!”
I’m talking about the whole Betty Boop megillah: The unnaturally high-pitched voice, the baby doll facial expression, the coy eye flutter, and the turning of perfectly normal words into something cutesy. Like pronouncing L’s and R’s as W’s (no, she does not have a speech impediment–she can articulate all her consonants just fine when she wants to), saying “bed” as”bedee,” “shoes” as “shoesies” and–I’m not exaggerating–“explosions” as “explosies.” (She has two older brothers. She sees a lot of movies with explosies.)
As indicated by the title of this piece, it’s driving me nuts.
I know the issue is purely mine. Her father certainly has no trouble with it. (But, then again, the minute the doctor announced, “It’s a girl,” I knew I’d be on my own as far as discipline was concerned with this one. My husband is a sucker for little girls. So is my dad. And don’t think our boys haven’t noticed it. But, that’s another story for another post.)
The fact is, baby-talking women, be they Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer Tilly, or someone I meet at a party (or worse, at work) have always annoyed me. It just seems so… undignified. You’re a grown woman, not a child–speak like an adult!
Now, naturally, I realize that my daughter is a child. I also just as blatantly realize that she tends to turn on the set-my-teeth-on-edge baby voice when she wants to get out of something–either a punishment or a chore. And that bugs me even more.
Again, the issue is purely mine. But, true confessions time: I have never been able to stand women who regress infantile and/or sprout waterworks in a professional setting. Probably because I’m someone who can be reduced to tears very, very easily. But, I make a point of not doing it in public. I expect the same commitment from others.
I have never used tears or played the “I’m just a girl, what can you expect?” card, or activated my so-called “feminine wiles” to get out of trouble. (Once, I swear to God, I ended up getting out of a parking ticket because I kept telling the cop, “I didn’t think I was speeding, but if you say I was, then I’m sure I was.” I wasn’t being devious, I was telling the truth!)
To be honest, I wouldn’t know how to use said wiles (or what they were precisely), even if I wanted to.
Bottom line: I am not what one would call a girlie-girl. I have no interest in clothes, shoes, fashion, home décor, hairstyling, or any kind of shopping (grocery included). I’m too lazy to be coy, to lie, to manipulate, or to play Mean Girl games with others. (I was, alas, a great disappointment to my late grandmother in that regard.) And I’ve always harbored disdain for those who do.
Maybe that’s why my daughter’s precocious talents in that particular area are so nails-on-a-blackboard to me. She isn’t acting the way I believe a girl (or woman) should.
But, then again, who am I to make that call?
Just because those traits don’t work for me (or I was merely born tragically missing them, along with the enzymes to digest dairy), who am I to forbid my daughter from acting the way she sees fit? The way that feels natural to her? After all, if she’d been a rough and tumble tomboy, I would be telling her to be true to herself and to hell with what other people think. So why can’t I do it the other way around?
For more on raising girls, read another post from Alina about her inability to play with Barbies, how an Orthodox college helped one mom face her fear of pink, and the crunchy mama and the princess-obsessed daughter.