At some point we were only allowed to call our only daughter Mrs. Jumbo. This followed her obsession with the movie Dumbo and her compulsion to nurture a fictional elephant painted on a television screen. For Halloween she dressed as a newsboy, donning tweed boy pants, red suspenders, and a Scottish touring hat because “Elephants don’t dress up as elephants, silly,” she remarked.
While most girls in the 1st grade had their bedroom strewn with princesses, all things glitter and fluffy, and closets bulging with tutus, and dresses that twirl, our girl was swooning over animals, not cute animals, ugly ones. Her room was lined with posters and photos of varying sizes of bat species and her shelves were heaped with non-fiction books about Vampire bats, Fruit bats, and all types in between. Her jeans pocket was home to a stuffed bat with long brown wings and tiny ears and, if they were available, her comforter, sheets and pillowcase would have been printed with frightening flying creatures. There’s a reason why bat sheets aren’t available, anywhere.
While we secretly hoped that her bat fixation would pass, quickly, we always welcomed a new bat book, key chain, or plush into our home without hesitation. While talking about bats we withheld wincing and spoke positively about their behaviors keeping all bat opinions impartial. We celebrated national bat week, viewed bat videos on YouTube together, and visited museums which housed bats and their habitat. When her birthday arrived, we enthusiastically threw her a bat themed party complete with bat shaped cookies. We embraced bats. Figuratively speaking.
Our only girl hated Barbie and loved bats. Flying, blood sucking, creepy, fly-in-your-hair-and-get-stuck, bats. She has never owned a doll or Hello Kitty pillow, and was more interested in drawing dolphins on doodle pads than painting toes and fingernails.
After the bat stage passed our only girl went through a phase of pulling her hair into a ponytail and wearing boys’ basketball shorts and t-shirts every day. She never played basketball or any sport requiring the taming of unruly hair or baggy and breathable shorts. This wardrobe lasted 3 years.
Our. Only. Girl.
And while I thought that she would never wear a dress, they are now her favorite, and when a birthday warrants celebration, she opts for a manicure and shopping for shoes. Her Instagram account is strewn with elements in nature, mugs brimming with cappuccino, and adventures with friends, and she prefers yoga pants over shorts.
Every child in unique, with different interests and skills. Celebrate the individuality of your kids. Find the common thread no matter how different they are from you. Engage in conversations surrounding things about which they love to talk and activities they are interested in doing. Thankfully, stages pass, interests shift, and maturity happens. Sameness is dull and ordinary is boring. Cultivate your child’s distinctive personality. But be warned, you may have to learn how to discern between a Little Brown and Bumblebee Bat. My condolences.