Monday, November 9, 2009

Girls Who Are Boys

I take Westley to one of our local toy stores often, just to look around. It's a great not-so-little, family-operated place, and it just happens to be on our way to other errands. I find it difficult to resist stopping there when Westley is in the backseat, calling the store by name and asking to play.

Westley always knows exactly what he wants to play with. While he loves the cars and trains (and anything that makes noise when you press a button), his favorite toy in the store is the Calico Critters dollhouse. He would play with it for hours if I let him. Sometimes I'm tempted to let him, because it's just so much fun to see him having fun.

Getting to watch Westley play is one of the best things about spending most of my time with him, but the toy store makes it especially great. The dollhouse Westley loves like crazy is set up on a little table surrounded by the girliest of girly things: princess wands, fairy wings, sparkly plastic jewelry, ruffle-and-lace-clad baby dolls, flower-covered locking diaries, and pretend make-up. And there's my little son, oblivious to all the gender-specificity around him, just having a blast.

Gender neutrality in children's clothing is often difficult to find; gender neutrality in toys seems like it would be easier to come by. But suddenly, looking around most toy stores, it's clear that even blocks and soccer balls and scooters are being produced in both a "boy" color scheme and a "girl" color scheme.

Westley's favorite color at the moment is pink. His heart broke a little when his pink diaper cover moved so far into the "too small" category that it wouldn't fasten at all anymore. Westley picked out my pants yesterday, based (I'm sure) on the color alone. They were pajama pants and it was the middle of the afternoon, but I put them on for him. I was powerless to when he toddled into the kitchen with arm outstretched, clutching the garment tightly and holding it up for me to take. "Wear!" he instructed me (it sounded more like "way-uh"). And then, pointing to the fabric, "Pink!"

Westley likes a number of "girl" things right now. I don't really think about it: toys are toys, as far as I'm concerned. But I do notice that other little boys aren't hauling baby dolls around the grocery store with them.

Watching Westley play with the dollhouse, surrounded by "girl" toys, I wonder how long it will be before color scheme matters to him. Someday he will understand that many people think certain things aren't supposed to interest him...because he's a boy. And that if he continues to like pink, and baby dolls, and tiny French country furniture after learning what he's "supposed to" prefer, those people will take it to mean that he's wrong, or bad, or less of a boy.

I hope Westley can just continue liking whatever he likes, regardless of what other people think, for the rest of his life.

"Dah-house!" he says, bubbling over with excitement, moving rabbits and kittens in and out of the front door, moving the bathtub into the kitchen, carefully inspecting the dresser with its tiny working drawers...all the things I remember doing with my dollhouse. And then I desperately want to buy it for him, tiny furniture and animals and all--for Christmas, for his birthday, for any occasion where I can justify putting a big, big bow it. Because every kid who wants a dollhouse should totally have one!

And when the woman behind the counter who does gift-wrapping asks me if it's for a girl or a boy, I'll tell her, "It's for a boy. And he'd like the pink, floral paper, please."



Rob said...

You go, boy.

Allison the Meep said...

Yes! I think it's so important to let boys play with "girl" toys and not make a big deal of it. Julian has a Littlest Petshop that he plays with and loves, as well as all my Cabbage Patch babies from when I was little.

For his 4th birthday, he wanted a Disney Princess themed party. I didn't really care so much that he liked the princesses, but the idea of telling the parents of all his preschool classmates that he is just fine, and please don't make rude remarks about him being gay or something like that, just bummed me out. So he opted for Batman instead. And it made me sad to pull the plug on his princess party dream just because I didn't want to deal with other people's hangups.

Jennifer said...

My son likes dolls- and I'm glad! :) I love the way he hugs them, kisses them and pretends to feed them. It sounds like a lot of fun watching your son play so happily at the toy store!

Jessica said...

I'm all about the gender neutral stuff, so that makes me even more confused as to why Hollis gravitates to all things with motors, steel, and wheels. I bought him a baby doll a year ago and he's hardly looked at it. Just goes to show that to a certain extent tastes are hardwired in all of us.

lisa said...

Hi there! My name is Lisa and I thought that I would just let you know how much I enjoy your blog. I live in Sydney, Australia, have a 14 month old boy and came across your blog through the PPK forums. Your writing is engaging and your honesty is admirable. Love your work :-)