Our daughter Eva, who is about 21 months old now, is one tough cookie. The other night, while standing on a stool in the kitchen watching me cook dinner, she fell off the stool backward, landed on her bottom, fell back to hit her head, then rolled the rest of the way over. Her reaction was to stand up, look around, and say "Whoa!" like a little Keanu Reeves... Then climb right back up. This is frequently her reaction to this type of spill, which I'd estimate she takes several times per week.
Other people notice this as well; the other night we were at a gathering where another kid whacked her on the head with a plastic stick-like object a couple of times- and she didn't cry. A few minutes later she fell on some stairs and hit her head, only to get up and go right back to playing. One of the other parents at this event commented that she's like that Timex watch campaign- "takes a licking and keeps on ticking."
I think Eva's attitude makes her conveniently low-maintenance. My friend Madeline says it makes her the awesomest little girl ever. Assuming she makes it through childhood without some kind of major head trauma, maybe she could grow up to be a great boxer or distance-triathlete or something.
But that's only half of the story. This morning I had nursery duty at church, and it so happened that Eva was the only child present. The other worker went on to the service, and Eva and I were left alone to play during church. With full run of the nursery, Eva commandeered all the "babies" in the toy box. She was quite the little mommy, changing one baby's clothes, throwing another in the crib for a nap, all the while talking to them in her little toddler gibberish. She had me pour a bowl of Cheerios, then placed one baby facedown in the bowl for some breakfast. After attending to the other "infants," Eva returned to help this baby eat, cramming cereal pieces into the baby's little plastic lips and giving her drinks from her sippy cup of milk.
As I watched this, I started thinking about how great it is to be a girl. Though research suggests Eva's science teachers might subtly discriminate against her, and that she may someday make less than her male peers, there is something I've always appreciated about the way we allow girls to be both tough and sweet. She can play sports and wear a dress all in the same day, and nobody will bat an eye. Our son Daniel is more emotionally expressive than Eva, and cries a lot when he's hurt even a little bit. He will spend his childhood being encouraged to "toughen up" or discouraged by well-meaning men from playing with dolls or anything remotely pink at all. We just don't allow boys the freedom we allow girls in their gender roles. It makes me a little sad for Daniel, but hopeful that we can stay open-minded as parents and allow both our kids the freedom to be who they want to be, at least with us.