For reasons that I will not get into, Husband and I promised Toddler a new toy. That if she ate sufficient quantities of hot dog and fries at lunch, she would be able to pick whatever toy she wanted. This seemed like a pretty good deal to me. A few hurried bites later, the four of us strolled the filthy carpeted aisle of a local toy/everything else store. Toddler skipped about, studying her options. Shelves and shelves of every toy and book and puzzle imaginable. I wrestled Baby, feisty Baby, who reached for these shelves too. I stood back and watched Toddler make her selection, excited to see what she would pick. Last time we did this, she selected a plastic power saw, an item which baffled me and made me inexplicably proud.
But this time. This time, things were different. She chose a pink plastic mirror. A talking pink plastic mirror. One that came with a headband and comb. This was what she wanted. So we paid for it and bought Baby a tiny, vibrating Elmo because that seemed logical and raced home because it was starting to rain.
Husband pushed the stroller. The vast stroller stuffed with two smiling girls. Toddler wore a straw cowboy hat that made passersby grin. Yes, even New Yorkers smile. Sometimes. I jogged alongside my family, clutching Toddler's new toy. "She's suddenly going the girly route, huh?" I said to Husband. And he nodded.
And, immediately, I felt bad about saying this. There is nothing wrong with pink or princesses or tea parties or tutus or all of those quintessentially girly items, many of which we have in our home. It was not that this toy was girly. No. It was that it was a mirror. One of the best things about childhood? That lack of self-consciousness, that lack of obsession with appearance and physical perfection.
At home, we helped Toddler take her toy out of the box. She put that headband on and looked in the little mirror and pressed the button. A cartoon voice said: "Looking good!" and then "Check us out!" and then "We've got style" and then "I feel pretty" and then "We are fabulous!" At these words, Toddler giggled. She squinted her eyes and peered into the mirror. Kept pressing that button. Running that tiny plastic comb through her tangled hair.
And I watched this and felt my blood boil. She is two. She is perfect. She is a kid. She does not need a mirror. She does not need words like style or pretty or fabulous.
And then I told myself over and over that I was overreacting. That it was just a piece of plastic. That it was just a toy. One that we bought for her. One that we didn't have to buy. Just a toy.
Because it is, right?