I know there are a gazillion “experts” out there who would suggest that society makes sure boys like Tonka trucks and toy soldiers and convinces girls that their interests lie in baby dolls and princess gowns. Still, I wonder … what do they know?
I’m sure we do, in ways big and small, reinforce those stereotypes as kids grow up, but I can’t help but notice that some of the differences are obvious in my kids from birth.
Beans expressed a love of trucks and trains from the time he could point. He would humor me by hugging his plush puppy dogs on command, but he gravitated toward things with wheels of his own tiny accord, letting me know that those were his favorite things.
Tallulah, on the other hand, seeks out toys with faces. Be it a stuffed stegasaurus or a soft pink baby doll, she meets its gaze and tries to engage it in her burbling conversations. Unlike her brother, who often averted his gaze as a baby (and would still rather look at the floor or off into space than into someone’s eyes most of the time), she stares into the eyes of just about everyone who looks her way. (I notice this, in particular, because I read somewhere that male children are more likely to perceive direct eye contact as a challenge, a sign of confrontation.)
I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or a bad one to go along with these natural leanings, though I’ve chosen trucks and cars, trains, and superheroes as gifts for Beans, and this Christmas, Tallulah will be getting a baby doll. Those are, after all, the things I know they’ll like.
To be fair, though, one of Beans’ favorite games is “Restaurant,” which means he presents us with menus and prepares food in his play kitchen according to our orders. And each night, he chooses a stuffed animal (or five) that will get to sleep in his bed until morning.
Would he have loved those things as much if someone had said to him, “Those things are for girls”? I don’t know. I doubt it.
Matt is vehemently opposed to anyone’s referring to Tallulah as a princess. He is opposed, even, to clothes that have the word princess emblazoned on them, and he has vowed that she will have no princess dolls, dresses or paraphernalia.
What is a princess? he demands. What does a princess do? She waits for someone to do everything for her.
I’ve pointed out that there are probably princesses out there who are doing good things for the world around them, but to no avail. And to an extent, I know he’s right. I can’t say I want her to see herself as a princess either.
But by the same token, I can’t wait for the day she says gazes into his eyes and bats her long, dark eyelashes as she says, “Daddy, I want a princess doll.” She’ll do it, I have no doubt. She’s a girl. And there’s no way he’ll be able to resist.
Maybe he can just tell her that princess stuff is for boys.