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I was a bit of a tomboy growing up. I hated wearing skirts, and preferred to shop in the boys department for clothing. I played sports, and enjoyed spending afternoons riding bikes, climbing trees, and exploring the woods by our house. My favorite color was blue, and I hated pink. Sure, I liked playing with dolls, but I was not your typical girly girl (that came later).
Now that I have a girl of my own, I wonder what she’ll be like as she gets older. Right now, she wears a lot of pink and her closet is filled dresses. She has lots of dolls, and she spends an inordinate amount of time hugging and kissing them. But what if she’s a tomboy when she grows up? Here are 5 ways I plan to validate my daughter’s femininity if she grows up to be a tomboy.
1. Dresses and dolls don’t make you a woman. Femininity cannot be reduced to how you like to dress or spend your free time. If your daughter doesn’t like to wear dresses, you don’t need to force her except for very rare occasions (like weddings). Remind her often that her femininity is more than skin deep, and let her express herself as she sees fit (as long as it’s modest and reasonable).
2. It’s okay if your daughter doesn’t fully fit the “tomboy” mold. She might hate pink but love dolls. She might hate princesses but love dresses. Don’t force your daughter into a mold. She might have certain tendencies that could earn her the “tomboy” label, but you don’t want to pressure her to fit every facet of the stereotype. Stereotypes might have some basis in truth, but people are so much more complicated than any cookie cutter mold could be.
3. It’s fine for your daughter to have mostly guy friends, but encourage her to choose a few women to be role models of true femininity in her life. Your daughter might enjoy the company of guys over girls, but encourage her to choose a few girls or women to befriend. They don’t need to be the same age as her, but as your daughter gets older, having good female role models will be especially important!
4. Give her the space to change her mind. Or not. Some girls will grow out of their tomboy tendencies as they get older, while other habits will be here to stay. There’s no way to predict what will survive childhood and adolescence and carry into adulthood. Don’t make a big deal about changing preferences, and be sure to regularly remind your daughter that your love for her is unconditional.
5. Teach her that femininity comes from the inside, not the outside, and is rooted in relationship. Even tomboys will often be drawn to communion with others (think sisterhood) and will be more inclined to nurture and empathize with others (think motherhood). Even the most stereotypical tomboy is still a woman. She might enjoy playing rough and getting dirty with the boys, but she will still want to share herself with others. Let her share herself with you. Let your daughter be herself. As she grows up and figures out who she is, she’ll be in a better position to share herself with you.