I recently read an exchange on Twitter where a mother lamented that her daughter plays almost exclusively with pink, princess things. Basically, this mom said that she and her husband had tried to hard to avoid that, and yet it happened.
This mom pissed me off.
I support the idea of offering any child a variety of toys, and I’d like to think my wife and I have done that for our kids. We have a girl and a boy, and both have seen dolls and trucks, pirates and princesses, soccer and dance from the very beginning.
Our girl ended up being very girly. She loves mermaids and jewelry. When we let her pick out a backpack for school she chose one because it was pink.
(The boy’s not even a year old—too soon to tell.)
So, it seems to me that my daughter and this disappointed mom’s daughter ended up with a lot of the same interests.
It also seems to me that our daughters made legitimate choices based on the kind of kids they are. They had all kinds of toys and gravitated to the more typically girly ones all by themselves. I can’t see why anyone would be disappointed in that. I’m extrapolating a little bit here, but it seems to me like this mother wanted her daughter to not be the normal kind of girl, wanted her to be more masculine or a tomboy or something along those lines. And the kid wasn’t.
Wanting your kid to not fall into the gender stereotype is as bad, to me, as wanting your kid to be exactly in line with the stereotype. As parents, our job isn’t to make our kids one way or the other in this respect, it’s to let our kids just be themselves.
And I can’t help but think about what’d happen if this woman’s daughter ever saw her tweets. It’s unlikely, sure, but a kid would almost certainly take them as a signal that her parent was disappointed in her for just being the kind of person she is. And that is exactly the kind of thing we rightly criticize parents for when they don’t accept their children being gay or bi or otherwise not fitting in with society’s established norms.
My guess is that this mother had a preconceived notion of what she wanted her daughter to be. Probably we all do when we have kids, but I think it’s incumbent upon us as parents to let those notions go. The best thing we can do as parents, and sometimes the most difficult thing, is to let our kids be whoever they are, along normal gender lines or not—which is one of the most important ways to help them be happy.
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