29 Oct 2010

Role Play

15 Comments Toddler

Garrett is three-years-old and already he has ideas about girls and boys.

When we were potty training him, he picked out all of this super-hero-themed underwear. He got Ironman, Batman, Spiderman, and a little Spongebob and Diego thrown in. I never thought of it as a “boy” thing. It was just the underwear he wanted. A couple nights ago, we were both getting in our PJ’s, and I was standing there in my underwear and a t-shirt. “Are those Princess underwear?”, he asked. “Nope”, I said, “Just regular underwear.” “Oh”, he said, “Daddy should buy you some Princess underwear.”

Now, while I found the fact that my son thought I deserve Princess Panties to be insanely adorable, I also found it a tad puzzling and odd. Where had he even heard of princess underwear? Why does he think I need them? Why does he think Daddy is the one who should buy them for me? Doesn’t he know I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan (while wearing princess undies?) Side note: I’ve been asking my husband to buy me lingerie for 13 years. I will blog next week about the outcome of THAT!

Here’s the other part. Garrett and I were driving somewhere last week and I was “interviewing” him. “What’s your favorite color?” Green. “What’s your favorite animal?” T-Rex. “What’s your favorite food?” Pancakes.  Then he interviewed me. “What’s YOUR favorite color, Mom?” I said my favorite is orange. “No it’s NOT”, he says, “It’s PINK!” I told him I actually am not very fond of pink at all, and my favorite color is, in fact, orange. “It’s PINK!”, he said again.  I asked him if he thought every girl loves pink and he said, “Yep!”

Hmmmm…. Where is this coming from? Is this just an innate feeling that he has? Girls love pink and princesses and boys love superheroes, dinosaurs, and guns?  Am I only bothered by it because as a girl, I HATED dresses, barbies, and dolls with a PASSION?

I showed up at Garrett’s pot luck Halloween party at his preschool this morning.  (I brought along my homemade mac and cheese, but that’s not important. I just desperately want you to think I’m a very committed mom.) Guess what? All the friggin boys were superheroes, vampires, and Woody from Toy Story. The girls? Princesses, butterflies, and Jessie from Toy Story. Most of the girls were wearing some version of a pink tutu over their costumes. Do we put these labels on our kids? Or do they put them on themselves? We don’t make Garrett feel like he can’t like dolls, or watch Dora, or that he only has to drink out of blue cups. But I guess I do buy him shirts with footballs and dinosaurs all over them. And these girls are probably being bought pink shit all the time. Garrett just gravitates toward the more “rough and tumble” stuff.

So what does all this mean? Is it a bad thing? Is it normal? I like that Garrett is such a “boy”, but I don’t want him to ever feel like he can’t be sensitive, or caring, or that he can’t wear bright colors! (By the way, there’s NO SHORTAGE of him being sensitive and caring). And I don’t want him to pigeon-hole every girl into being a princess-loving damsel in distress. I guess we’ll work it out, one annoying stereotype at a time.

And I’m STILL wondering how he knows about princess underwear! It’s those preschool tramps, isn’t it? I knew it.

Tell me your gender-role stories. Are your kids falling into the typical boy/girl stereotypes? What were you like as a kid?

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written by
Lisa Arch likes being a working actress... but LOVES being a Mom!
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15 Responses to “Role Play”

  1. Reply Koch says:

    Honestly, I stopped processing your words after “I was standing there in my underwear and a t-shirt”, but, of course, I am NOT your preferred target audience, as loyal a follower as I am.

  2. Reply Robbie says:

    I’m not a mom but many of my friends are, and two in particular are not very “princessy” women on their own… and both have daughters who love pink, princesses, and the whole bit. None of the kids watch TV other than videos, but I think as soon as they go to school (including preschool) the gender stuff just HAPPENS. Almost all movies aimed at kids reinforce traditional gender roles… I can’t actually think of any that don’t! (I can’t speak to kids’ TV shows as the last one I watched was “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” and I was an adult at the time.)

    I think as long as you listen to Garrett and let him know if he ever says something that sounds TOO stereotypical, and explain that not every girl likes pink, and not every boy has to like trucks, and that boys can play with dolls or be nurses, and girls can work construction or be cops if they want, just so he gets the idea. But kids that age are just learning and noticing new stuff every day, and I’m sure things seem very black and white to them. The shades of gray will come as he grows up.

    • Reply Robbie says:

      Oh, and I forgot to read your whole post (or forgot what it said; my memory is terrible) and didn’t tell you that when I was a kid, my mom wanted me to be very girly and I just … wasn’t. I’d BEG her to NOT buy me dolls. I never liked baby dolls, I never liked Barbies… I liked baseball and “I Love Lucy” and playing board games and riding bikes. Looking back, I feel so sorry for my poor mom. I was all skinned knees. I hated wearing dresses and there are so many photos of me looking sullen and uncomfortable in some poor dress that didn’t do anything to deserve it. I’m not especially mannish now or anything — I love a nice pedicure now and then, and I love shopping, too. I never was confused about being a girl, never resented it, I just usually wasn’t the most feminine girl in the room. 🙂

    • Reply flawlessmom says:

      Yes. I’m not too concerned. I know he’ll branch out. I just find it so funny that those ideas start so early. I was shocked. Thanks for the comments!

  3. Reply Dana says:

    My two oldest daughters we NOT girly… They liked those things as well as the next girl but they always pulled bows and ponytails out of their hair and loved skateboarding. Now one is “emo” (??) and one is so lazy she would put on what she had on the previous day if it meant she didn’t need to look through the closet… My youngest, however (she will be three in January, and is ten years younger than her closest sibling) is a tutu wearing, princess panty, shoe obsessed girl! This toddler loves shopping for clothes as much as she loves toys… And other than a pink car seat, she was NOT pushed in that direction. I have been trying to figure out how she got so obsessed with pink, and princesses and sparkly shoes… I guess sometimes it just happens that way. Experts can write about gender roles all they would like but I think that sometimes, it’s just IN there.

    • Reply flawlessmom says:

      Yeah, it seems like it just “happens”. From your pic there, I see which of those daughters she is. All pink, eh?

  4. Reply Dana says:

    Actually, she does branch out at times in the name of fashion… God help me!

  5. Reply AL says:

    Agreeing with, girls will be girls and boys will be boys, as they are, in thier minds, if not thier bodies! Speaking as a 60ish grandmother of the ’60’s….and unapologetic 100% tomboy, I rejected almost all of my Mother’s attempts to “frill-a-tize” me from the earliest age. Pictures show a “Shirley Temple” toddler, pre-schooler, teenager and beyond, as a rumpled, wrinkled, girl with skinned knees uncomfortably posing for obligatory family shapshots. Circa 1950-1965.

    I simply loved everything about being a boy! In my generation, there didn’t seem to be much, if any, stigma about girls wanting to act like, play with or aspire to compete with guys. The way society limited (controlled by design) was, as we grew older, to simply NOT offer young women any opportunities in sports or other male-dominated activities. (I thought briefly about joining the military until I found out the “best” I could hope was to be a secretary to an officer!) No thank you.

    My family was into motorcycles and race cars,( actually, dirt track jalopies), we lived in a rural area, AND I was the ONLY girl in a virtual “sea” of uncles and cousins. I learned, at a very tender age, you either keep up or were left behind, no whining. My brother was WAY into cars; so I was his mechanic’s assistant, from childhood. Early on, I knew a fair amount about repairing and maintaining anything with wheels and a motor, as being normal. I never thought twice about the fact that other girls at school didn’t know how to change oil, swap out engine parts or know what a SAE( 7/16th) wrench was.

    Sure, I had dolls, tea sets, doll houses and ruffled under pants (itchy)….I played all the imaginary stuff that was gender appropriate, but never liked any of that better than a good afternoon of playing “cowboys and indians” complete with fort making, gun battles, and ambushes from treetop WITH bow and arrows…in my neighborhood, the Indians ALWAYS won because I was ALWAYS the INDIAN!

    As I grew taller and stayed skinny, I took up with horses (another thing that you either love or not)…my Tomboyishness was extended through high school and allowed me more time NOT to become someone’s idea of a teenage girl. Boys were interested in me long before I had any curiousity about them, sexually speaking. I think my Mother was secretly alarmed as I turned down invitation after invitation to ” social mixers”…boys, for me, had somehow turned into something unrecognizable…giggling, potty-mouthed, stupid beings, who apparently would, at a moment’s notice, risk death or dismemberment to get the attention of…..a girl!

    Proms were the worst invention of all the rites of passage for me…I was always asked, and my Mother always forced me to accept. The dresses were horrible, pastel, frothy, uncomfortable, “costumes”…the boys were worse… pimple-faced, greasy, slicked back, “Duck’s butt” hair, reeking of Aqua-Velva after-shave (no beards), sweating, nervous cartoons of what a year or so earlier, had been real people! WHY must I spend time being nice to them (I later recinded this observation) Mother, finally, began to find some acceptance at my resistance to her 50’s coifed hair, polished nails, perfect outfit existance, immaculate, doily adorned house…but I think I must have made her feel somehow a failure , and I’m sorry for that,…it was important to her.

    While in college, Twiggy became the IT girl…suddenly, at 5’8″, 103 lbs, I was in vogue! Modeling jobs came my way without any effort and fashion made some sense to me… I had some small degree of feeling what “celebrity” must feel like, (without the drugs and sex)….legs to my neck….I was “in”. It was funny to me…I didn’t take any of it seriously, but it did give me a peek into another lifestyle available to me, if I wanted it. Luckily, I never thought of it as a career path, so I avoided what could have been a life-changer.

    One of the best “revenge” memories came about as I found myself (mid-model worthy) in the company of a past high school “jock”, you know, the unobtainable type..a couple.years after high school. When he learned we attended the same high school..his look of disbelief was tangible as I said, “Oh yes, we were in the same biology class”..and his awnser, “No way, I would have remembered YOU!” (as his cheerleader, now frumpy, wife stood by as witness) In his defense…our high school numbered 4,000, but still,… I was in his class. I think that was the only time I secretly thought a little bit of vanity was ok.

    I hope I did a better job with my daughter, I think I did. She loved everything “girlie” from the start, but did a much better job, actually was more a “Tom Princess”… She is simply amazing and loved by all who know her…and, she is truly, beautiful, inside and out, without trying.

    Now you’ve done it…caused me to ramble again…but thank you for the opportunity to retro-vent!?

  6. Reply Sherry says:

    That’s how it is when they are that age. Boys in blue and girls in pink. I hate pink. It changes when they get older. I worked in a school and saw each kid grow into their own personality. Accepted for who they are and who they want to be. It’s awesome to see 🙂

    • Reply flawlessmom says:

      I’ve no doubt that Garrett will follow the beat of his own drum. I look forward to learning about his personality every single day!

  7. Reply Ange says:

    Pre school tramps hahaha….. That’s great!!!! They start early lol:)

  8. Reply Marilee says:

    Sorry, Lisa, but he will probably make guns out of fingers, sticks, hot dogs, etc. even if you never buy him a toy one. He will think it’s really cool to wonder what sound things make when they blow up (and you will wonder how he even knew about ANYTHING blowing up), he’ll think the louder anything is, the better it must be…..sigh. That testosterone flows from day one. My little boy is so loving and sensitive to me, but would choose pounding nails or destroying sand castles over me any day!

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