Last week our fabulous new neighborhood had a community-wide garage sale. Pippin and I, being the frugal parents we are, set out early Saturday morning, sipping coffee and hopping from house to house; introducing ourselves to our new neighbors and taking advantage of things like $2 jeans and $40 flat screen TV’s for the teenage boys room as well as household items like a lawnmower and a cruiser bike.
Yes, the glory of saving so much by avoiding retail and scoring these goodies was great. But everything combined didn’t compare to the impact of amassing boxes of My Little Pony and pint-sized pink and purple condos with attached doggie daycare salons. For $6, I couldn’t resist getting the whole lot of it, in hopes that at least one of the girls would still be game to delve into such childish fantasies.
Well it took about ten seconds for all of them to disabuse me of that notion. I got sucked into a mom-organizing vortex, and when I came up for air, I realized my five year old boy had been unsupervised for upwards of three hours. Oops.
I found Leopold in his bedroom, with his inner little girl apparently awakened. My little violent boy-child had swapped out all of his dinosaurs, Nerf guns and space ships for these sweet little girl treasures: neatly lining his shelves were pink and purple plastic rooftops, manicured storefronts, poodle slides and lace trimmed tabletops with matching napkins. Now, granted, a zebra doesn’t lose it’s stripes (he was yelling Get into your cage or there is no dessert! while forcing a baby into a cage with a hairdryer, ) – but it was a softer, gentler Leopold than say, the one who shoots an arrow into your face.
To be entirely transparent, the first thing that came to mind was: That’s a lot of girlie for a boys room. Maybe It’s just a novelty thing. But then I caught myself; I wanted Leopold to have access and permission to play with whatever interested him. I’m embarrassed to admit those were my first thoughts, and actually now am relieved to see this softer side of him. You go, Leopold! Take this fancy world by storm!!
We often inadvertently steer our children towards a specific gender with toys, and clothes and even playmates. That’s so obvious it sounds almost trite, but because the gender- appropriate messages surround us, you really have to stay vigilant to not feed into it. I certainly fed into it: my boys had blue rooms; the girls got pink. Boys got trucks and girls got dolls. Pants and dresses. And then I wonder, how does this affect their nature? I mean, the direct opposite of what’s going on with Leopold has already happened with Pascal. Because she is KILLING it at the skate park where not just boys compete with her, but also grown men.
Anyway, there’s mountains of books and articles written about this stuff and has been for years. But I’m now seeing my own hoard of children in a new light, as little people who can teach me a thing or two about diluting the gender-specific dogma that constricts us.
I know I’ll be encouraging more choices from here on out. And, I’m calling that $6 bucks, some of the best money I’ve ever spent.