My middle daughter loves dinosaurs. She loves cars and trucks and playing the boy parts in pretend play. She plays rough and growls to show what a big, scary dinosaur she can be. She also likes to wear ‘boy clothes’… shirts with bugs and cars and, of course, dinosaurs.
Not every day. Some days she is a fairy or a princess. Some days she likes to put on her frilliest, pinkest dress and be ‘girly’. Some days she absolutely won’t wear the bug shirt because she “doesn’t want to dress boyish!”. Some days she feels torn about what she likes and I would say, even feels bad about being a little different than some other girls she knows, or somehow thinks girls should be. I really don’t know where this comes from. I encourage my children (three girls) to try out any type of toy or style of clothing they may like, trying my hardest to ensure they aren’t getting any gender stereotypes from me. I suppose, though, try as I might, that these stereotypes are going to sooner or later leak in somewhere. Obviously they have, perhaps from playing with friends or her cousins who live just next door.
So, how do I protect my children from these stereotypes? How do I give them an environment where they can make up there own minds about who they are and what they like and who they want to be?
This is no easy question.. or, perhaps if it is you can fill me in. Our society is saturated with gender stereotypes (among many others). Girls like this and behave this way and dress that way, same for boys. We get uncomfortable when those lines are blurred. I know parents who are afraid to let their little boys play with baby dolls. What is this fear?! Who determines these roles? Well, I for one won’t. My little girl can play with dinosaurs and trucks and baby dolls and fairy wands til her heart’s content. It is not for me to decide who she is or what she likes or who she will be. When she becomes upset that someone might tease her if she wears her bug shirt, I remind her, it’s not ‘boy clothes’, it’s Zoe’s clothes.