It started on a rainy day many months ago. Disallowed from their preferred activity of stomping through puddles and rolling in nature’s mud baths, Search and Destroy’s teachers directed our favorite whirling dervishes toward the classroom dress-up corner.
They went straight for the sparkling tutu costumes. (They clearly take after their mother – oooh, shiny object distraction…)
In the days of Dick and Jane primers, the stereotype was classrooms filled with children reading aloud to one another. Those days were followed by split groups – the lower level “Blue Jays” and the more advanced “Blackbirds.” In addition to a breakdown of academic skills, elementary school children begin to differentiate among themselves regarding gender. The children were assigned the roles that they then performed.
Today, they discover princesses in preschool.
The other day I arrived home from work – still wearing “real clothes.” Destroy decided he needed to follow me upstairs to watch me change. (Rumor has it someday I’ll get to pee alone again…) He looked at me thoughtfully.
“Mommy you have long hair. You’re wearing a dress,” he observed.
Then, after a thoughtful pause, “…Are you a princess?!”
Every time we watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (which is a lot), we get to see a preview of Disney’s Sophia the First.
“MOMMY! PRINCESS!” the inevitably shriek. “Come snuggle with me. I need to brush your hair.”
Yet when asked if they’d rather watch the princess show over their precious mouse, I am met with blank stares. “Mickey. We watch Mickey, mommy,” they explain slowly and deliberately.
See, toddlers view gender differently. They don’t grasp the concept of boys vs. girls. They just want to play. Or watch the cartoon they’ve seen 873 times already. Because they know that one (Goofy has a ball!) or part of their diabolical plan to drive their parents just to the edge of insanity – at which point they will be bribed with a graham cracker. (Well played, small peoples. Well played.)
When last taken to pick out their new kicks (dear god toddlers feet grow fast), Destroy was immediately drawn to pink glitter high top sneakers. That was an easy parenting decision. If you can’t tie your own shoes, you don’t get shoes with laces. Period.
Search ran toward pink Chuck Taylors. Hmm, I wondered – is it the shoe he likes, or the color? He’d just as swiftly grabbed the navy blue and black versions of the same shoe so he could have one on each foot. I was in the crossroads of questioning whether we were pushing our children toward their expected social class.
At what age should the boys be allowed to truly make their own fashion decisions? When they are old enough to realize the potential stigma associated, or now, when no one cares – but then we will be doing the precise opposite, forcing them against their developing preferences to make a social statement?
They’re just kids who want to play. In the shoes that will fit them for about three months. And after all, Uncle Paul seriously rocked his red shoes with style in the first grade.
I may have been overthinking things. My gender and parenting crisis ended abruptly when cool car shoes caught his eyes. All thoughts of the converse – of any color – were promptly abandoned. (To be fair, the cool car shoes light up.)
We headed home, where the boys cuddled with their stuffed lovies while smashing newly built Lego cities into oblivion. Destroy tip-toed over and plopped down in my lap.
Destroy: My doggie is lying down. She’s sleeping.
Me: Is your doggie a girl?
Me: Is your doggie a boy?
Me: Then what is your doggie?
Destroy: Mommy…my doggie is a D O G.
So here, little boyhood continues.
As I write this, the muppets are supposed to be resting. Instead I am listening to two little monkeys jumping the bed. (BOUNCE! BOUNCE!)
“You’re a poo-poo head!”
“No! You’re a poo-poo butt!”
How regal. Perhaps we should watch a couple Disney princess flicks to introduce them to chivalry.