When I was expecting a girl, I laid a few rules (for her) I was determined not to break.
She is to wear no makeup before she turns 16; she will not be allowed in high heels until her growth is complete; and there must be no nail polish found on her nails – both toes and fingers – at least before 16 years of age.
Why so strict, you ask.
Because there’s a saying in Chinese 早熟早烂.
In English, loosely translated: soon to ripen, soon to rot.
I’ve always believed that the moment a girl takes her first step towards vanity is that moment she begins to grow up.
I don’t want my little girl to grow up so fast, and I wish to bubble wrap her at least till she’s 12. Can I at least do that? She’s my only girl.
I don’t want my little girl to grow up so fast. I think I did – a little too early, in my opinion – and I lost time. Time to explore in complete childhood innocence the fun to be had and the purity in being totally girl-like. I lived every day as a child wanting to grow up and be like my mom, and now with the bi**h of hindsight, I so wished I had totally enjoyed myself running around barefoot, playing rough with my cousins and learning a sport instead of rummaging my mother’s wardrobe to apply lipstick and blush, wearing her clothes and high heels and hoping for a miracle that I would be a woman tomorrow.
I know it’s a journey for every girl, but as a mother, it is my deepest wish to delay that as much as possible.
I don’t do my fingernails at all (only my toenails when I need help with ingrown) and I don’t put on makeup in front of Becks. Still, my little girl sees her friends going to kindergarten in lipstick (some of them perpetually take out lip gloss to apply) and colourfully varnished nails. And since then, every day, she’s been longing for painted nails.
To the point that she takes my markers and paints them herself, and adds stickers for some good nail art measure.
No matter how I’ve encouraged her to play with her brothers, get involved with learning board games and play pretend to imagine a whole new world, she would naturally gravitate towards the path of vanity. I lost my blusher brush for months and found it hidden in her closet. She wanted to keep long hair and would badger me to buy her hair accessories. She also took my pearl strings and bracelets from my jewellery box and declared them hers. She started wanting to wear dresses and pretty shoes (she hasn’t asked for heels yet, thank God) and braided hair.
And this is the same girl, who at two years of age, refuses to put on anything that’s remotely a dress or skirt.
I have been saying no for many months to nail polish now, but today I decided to make her feel special, and to make her realise that Mama’s not that big an a**. And so I painted her nails, much to her surprise, delight and elation.
Why the sudden change of mind, you ask.
Because I understand that in motherhood I must be flexible. Because it is better me than anyone else to gratify that desire. Because it is more about the relationship I build with my daughter that will withstand the challenges down the road of vanity than the rules that I’ve made.
Because I intend to keep my daughter close to me for as long as I can, and to only let go when she is ready, and I need to do that with her feeling loved and not controlled.
And so she gets purple nails today.