What was so memorable about the 8th year that made it a “bad year” in my recollection? Well, as I said before, nothing really stood out in my mind until now, when the pieces started coming together.
Robin was 8 years old when she became so wary of wearing a dress that she would literally come to tears. She insisted she felt “uncomfortable” and wanted to wear shorts underneath any time I made her wear them. At the time, I’m thinking to myself that she was overreacting and being dramatic. I could not understand why the child was so opposed to wearing a dress when I only really insisted for church or special occasions. I mean, I had stopped buying her skirts and dresses for school by the first grade because they were never worn! Any time Robin wore a dress she seemed absolutely miserable. I was frustrated and embarrassed. I didn’t want to go anywhere with a sad and dejected child, with everyone asking, “what’s wrong with Robin,” when the only answer I could give was, “she’s wearing a dress”. I didn’t want to force her to wear what I wanted her to wear and stifle her expression. I always told her that she didn’t have to be like everybody else; just be you. So, how could I then force her into clothing that I and society deemed suitable.
Then came the hair. Every day that seemed to be a battle. I loved combing Robin’s hair into cute little styles. But all of a sudden she didn’t like ponytails. She only wanted to wear one puff and it couldn’t be too high on her head. So, I got it braided. Robin didn’t like any styles but the most simple, cornrows going back. But I relented on that, too; as long as the child’s hair was combed.
Then there was school. It seemed like Robin was always having bad days at school with the other kids. The only thing she was say is that they called her a tomboy. I had no idea why that would make her so upset. But I told her if she didn’t want them to call her a tomboy then she shouldn’t play with only the boys. This was mainly because she was also coming home telling a story about some boy hitting her or pushing her; but it was okay because they were just playing. I didn’t want her to get hurt. Robin would say that the girls didn’t like her and wouldn’t let them play with her. But, she had friends who were girls and were always coming over or going somewhere with us. Robin would say that in school those girls would play with their other friends. I just didn’t understand.
Now I realize that when she was 8 years old I began to see that my little girl was different than other little girls. And I didn’t like it. That was the year that my child began to express her identity. And I didn’t like it one bit.