“He likes girl things” she said, and his face fell.
“What does she mean, Mummy?”
“I don’t know baby, I don’t even know if she knows what she means by that.”
But she did. It was said with an upward curl of the lip and a slight shiver, like she was trying to shake off the thought of, shock horror, a boy playing with something pink.
We were in TK Maxx looking for a birthday gift for a friend. Mushroom was looking at musical jewellery box at the time. He wanted to know how it worked. In fact, it didn’t work (possibly this is how such a beautiful box ended up in TK Maxx for less than a fiver) but he is aware of how these boxes work and wanted to see the doll dance… I’m not sure whether he was more interested in seeing the doll dance or working out how that happened but either way, he was just being a kid. Gender doesn’t even come into it.
Yes lady, by your definition, Mushroom does like girl things. Although he will vehemently deny that he likes pink (he doesn’t like pale pink. To be honest, neither do I. Maybe he’s noticing society’s recation to boys who like pink and maybe he’s copying me. I am still not sure about that), he has no qualms in picking up an Elsa hairband complete with plait and wearing it throughout our shopping trip. I didn’t buy it because he had just been gifted a hairband from a friend that he never wears. He likes what he likes. He’s four.
He liked the music box. That day, he also wanted me to buy: (in no particular order) A Robofish. A Sofia the First themed toy. A stuffed Henry Hugglemonster. A Gruffalo book and a Buzz lightyear backpack…. We bought the Gruffalo book (it has magnets to make up your own story, what’s not to love!).
You know what? Mushroom likes a lot of things. Barbie and Ben 10. Having his toenails painted. The Care Bears and the Power Rangers. Ballet and Karate. I could go on (and I know I’m rambling).
What’s my point? Well, by announcing loudly in a negative way, “He likes girl things” that lady made him question himself for a moment. Is it ok for boys to like pink things? Dolls? These messages are bombarded at our kids from an early age and they are not helpful, they reinforce an unnecessary gender divide. Yes, there is evidence that boys and girls tend to play with different things but how much of this is nature and how much of it is a societal construct…? Until we just let kids be kids, can we ever know..?
This rambling post was brought to you courtesy of a rude shop assistant (no reflection on TK Maxx as a store, I hasten to add). What are your thoughts? I’m not even sure mine are clear as yet but I do feel quite strongly about the need to let kids be kids and avoiding language that may teach shame at a young age… Please do comment below with your experiences and opinions!