Back in June I wrote a long piece about Tinson1 when he got his first part-time job. The following month I wrote one about Tinson2 when he headed off on his own to the Gaeltacht. The order they were born in dictates that Tingirl would be left till last, but that’s not the only reason. The fact is that she’s the hardest to write about, because she’s the one I know least. But she’s twelve today, so it’s time to try.
I know nothing about girls. Mrs Tin will back me up on this. Part of the reason is that I have one brother and no sisters. (Actually, that’s not strictly true anymore, since my dad got married again 3 years ago and the Wicked Stepmother brought four more sons into the family as her dowry). Having had no sisters in the house growing up has meant that I’ve found it almost imposssible to know what Tingirl is thinking at any stage in her life. All I know is that she thinks I’m wonderful, and I’ve no idea why.
The news that she was on the way came as, well, a surprise. When we first found out that Mrs Tin was pregnant Tinson2 was only about ten months old, and we were so mortified that we told nobody for months. My brother’s wife suspected, and kept asking him to grill me about it, which he wouldn’t. She also kept asking Mrs Tin pointed questions about whether she was still going to the gym, which she kept saying she was. In the end I said we’d better tell her before the gym sued us, since giving the impression that going there gave you a figure like the one Mrs Tin was developing was unlikely to do their business any good.
Part of the reason we were so concerned was that it was brother’s wife who minded the Tinsons while Mrs Tin was at work, and we were afraid that she’d say she couldn’t mind three along with her own three. Sure enough this happened, so Mrs Tin had to quit work for good. Not only that, but I needed the car in the job I had at the time, so we’d to fork out for a second one for her. While all of this seemed disastrous at the time, it changed our family life for the better, and oddly helped me get even busier, as I was no longer tied to child & wife -collecting.
We were old hands at birthing at this stage, and Tingirl was born at a respectable mid-afternoon time on the exact day she was due. The Tinsons adored her from the start, Tinson2 and she became like twins, and everything was good. I do remember one scary day when all three of them were crying at different things at the same time, and we realised for the first time that we were outnumbered, but generally everything was great.
When a girl has two older brothers she can either go the tomboy route, matching them in rough play and manly pursuits, or she can go the girly route, twisting them round her finger with her cuteness. This is the option Tingirl selected, though she could still hold her own if she needed to. When she was about one she was in her granny’s, and her similarly aged but bigger girl cousin tried to pull a toy she was holding away from her. “Now don’t hurt little Tingirl,” said my brother-in-law, kindly but also slightly condescendingly. “Don’t worry about her,” I said, “she’s well used to having an older brother at the other end of whatever toy she wants to play with, so your daughter’s WAY out of her league”. Sure enough, after thirty seconds the big cousin was pink in the face tugging two-handedly away at one end of the toy, while at the other end Tingirl was holding on with just her left hand, never taking her eyes off the TV. It might still be my proudest daddy moment ever.
In the same way that salmon are born instinctively knowing the route back home, I believe girls are born knowing all about princesses, ponies and Barbie. At the age of about three, Tingirl was in her baby-seat in the back of Mrs Tin’s car, and Mrs Tin scolded her about something. After about a minute she suddenly burst out sobbing “I’m..not..going.. to..be..Daddy’s…..princess”. It’s not an expression we’d ever used. Where do girls get this stuff from?
Anyway, she’s grown up sweet and funny, and her brothers would do anything for her. I’ve told the story of how Tinson2 stepped between her and a snarling dog in Kusadasi. Tinson1 and she give an impression of quiet indifference toward each other, but on another holiday in Malta she returned crying to our table at the pool because a bigger boy had knocked her down and broken her necklace. We comforted her and then realised Tinson1 had vanished, and I found him in the games room with the guy up against the wall by the neck (oh, I’ve just realised why he wants to join the FCA).
She has a generally terrific relationship with Mrs Tin, and the two of them revel in being the two girls in a house of three men. They had a Mamma Mia night last Saturday, where we were all ordered to sod-off to other rooms in the house. They watch Strictly Come Dancing together. They go off on shopping trips. Very occasionally though they quarrel, and I see a brief flash of very real anger in Tingirl’s eyes, which shows that the relationship will be as challenging as any other Mother/Daughter one in the years to come.
As I said, she’s twelve today, and I find her even more mysterious and scary as she starts to develop. She speaks in an Amonda Dort accent that, like, SO didn’t come from us. She’s got er, chest bumps now, and I don’t know where to look. Her wall is covered in pictures of young guys from bands & shows I’ve never heard of. She’ll be starting to “get off” with boys soon, & though I said in yesterday’s post that guns are bad, just typing that sentence has given me the sudden urge to buy one.
I said something about this in a comment on Jo’s blog about five months ago, and this was Jo’s reply:
“Tinman, you sound fraught! I must think of a good book for you to read. ‘Promiscuities’ by Naomi Wolfe is wonderful, but I don’t know if its reassuring for dads (it’s not what it sounds like, just a study of growing up a girl).
If I may, you are the man she gets to practice her femininity on. You’re the safe training wheel of masculinity, in an ideal world. So if you make her feel loved, cherished, safe and worthwhile, respected and important, she’ll probably feel those things about herself, and choose men who do the same. Listen to her. And give her insights into what it’s like to be a man!”
I can tell you straight out that if she ever practices her femininity on me, I’ll be in the pub within thirty seconds. It’s what I’ve always done when Mrs Tin practices hers, and I see no need to change a winning formula. It was good and helpful advice from Jo though, (who I hadn’t even met at that stage) and I have to admit I’m kind of looking forward to the teenage years to come. No matter what they might bring ->.
So Happy Birthday Tingirl. You are – of course – my Princess. And always will be.