Monday, August 27, 2012

Girl Toys? Boy Toys?

Oliver enjoys a lot of so-called "boy" stuff. He loves firetrucks and airplanes. He has a thing for rocks and sticking his hands in mud. Oh, and let's not forget bugs. The boy loves bugs.

He also loves "girl" stuff. Oliver's most favorite thing in the world is to help me in the kitchen. His face lights up when I ask him if he could help me with the mixer. He quickly lays out a plan for us, "OK, first, you put it up on the counter. OK. I get the whisk. We'll turn it on one notch." He plays with small appliances all day, every day. They're his favorite toys.

He gets upset if he catches me cleaning without him. He wants to be the one to spray and wipe the windows. He wants to be the one to start the laundry or the dish machine. He wants to help sweep the floors.

He also loves dolls. He has his "Baby" doll, and he has Monkey (which has always been his favorite). He puts Baby in his toy shopping cart and pushes her around. When she falls out, he kisses her better. Sometimes, he tells me she needs a new diaper, and he grabs a baby wipe and wipes the doll's bum. He shares his food with all of his stuffed animals (Elmo's mouth is stained with yogurt). I think it's so sweet to watch him with his dolls. Currently, he has a checklist of five dolls that he has to sleep with: Monkey, Doggy, Baby, Elmo, and Nanas (another monkey).

Here Oliver is, wrapped up with Monkey in his monkey blanket:

It's too early to tell what Jo's passions really are, but, right now, her favorite activity is playing blocks. She sits and plays blocks with Andrew for half an hour at a time. That's a long time for a baby! Andrew builds towers, and she knocks them over. I'm pretty sure playing blocks with Dad is what makes her happiest.

The other day, I teased Andrew and asked, "So, you don't mind that your son likes dolls and your daughter likes blocks?" He smiled at me and told me he loves what they love.

Andrew swears up and down that he will get into whatever his kids get into. If he needs to buy a mitt or a tutu, if he needs to build a climbing wall or a doll house, he'll do it.

It's true that I love dolling Jo up in little dresses, and I look forward to the day when I can braid her hair and tie it in little piggies. But if the day ever comes that Jo tells me she doesn't want curls and bows, I'll listen. I want to support my children in whatever interests they choose for themselves instead of pushing them into activities that are seen as gender appropriate.

On the other hand, I want my children to be proud of who they are. I'm a woman, and I love being a woman. Not only do I want my son to know it's OK to be a boy, I want him to be proud that he's a boy. I want my daughter to be proud she's a girl. It does no one any good to be ashamed of who they are. It's just my opinion that liking dolls doesn't make my son any less of a boy. It just makes him a boy who likes dolls. I can be proud of that, and so can he.

What do you think? Should little kids be taught what activities and toys are "appropriate" for little girls and little boys, or do you think that holds them back? Would you worry about your child getting picked on if he/she wanted to play with toys typical for the opposite gender?


Anonymous said...

If the world were perfect, we would not have gender bias or gender "roles." Unfortunately, that is the world we live in. When our kids are young, it's one thing to express different interests, try new things and to do things like that. But as they get older, the world will naturally place them in the category they were born into. We have gender specific bathrooms and different options for boys and girls for playtime. Society will continue to define your child (at least in part) by a gender. I think as parents, we'd be remiss (and do our children a disservice) to ignore that as a potential issue.

I want to protect my kids. I want them to be accepted for who they are, but I also don't want to subject them to a life of potential pain because I haven't at least explained how the world views genders. I look at news stories like the parents who kept the gender a "secret" because they didn't want their child defined by gender. That wasn't the child making a decision, it was the parents.

I don't think girls need to stay at home and cook and clean. I don't think men need to be the sole breadwinners, but I do think we need to at least explain what the difference between boys and girls is when they can fully grasp and understand it.

whirledpeas1129 said...

I think that's a great point. My husband is a little more idealistic than me and said he wouldn't care at all if our son wanted to wear girly things to school. I told him I wouldn't care, but I would feel like a bad parent if I didn't warn him ahead of time about some of the expectations other kids will have from him as a boy. If he came home crying about being made fun of for dressing "like a girl," I would feel like a failure as a mom if I hadn't explained him those risks ahead of time.

You're right. The truth is, there are very real social expectations of boys and girls. I can't just wave a magic wand and change those. It could hurt my kids if I pretend they don't exist. Plus, I don't want to knowingly put either of my kids in a situation where they're going to get bullied or teased.

I wish the world was a little more perfect where kids didn't have to be forced to like one thing and dislike another simply because they're boys or girls. For now, I get to enjoy my son playing with his dolls, and when he kisses them, I tell him what a good daddy he'll be one day :)

Anonymous said...

I loved playing with cars when I was little! I also loved playing with my "doggies" they were little Dalmatian dogs off of 101/102 Dalmations. I was probably 4-5 when I first started getting them. For my birthday ad Christmas I would ask for different kinds of farm houses and things to play with them in. I also used my VHS movies to build onto the barn and make different rooms/buildings. I kept them all (I'm not sure why) but now that I have a daughter I'm hoping when she's old enough (she's only one) that she will want to play too! You might try introducing it to your son too! Also I lived in an elderly neighborhood growing up so the only other child in the area (besides my older sister but she was very "girly") as a boy my age. So we played in creeks catching crawfish and played with GI Joes. Later I grew out of being a "Tom boy" and I believe I turned out as "normal" as a person can be!