Are you buying gender appropriate gifts this holiday season?
As the mother of three boys, whose husband travels for work, I spend A LOT of time with my little men. It would only make sense that they have a lot of feminine exposure. If I come home with a new pair of shoes, they want to see them and tell me how cool they are. When a commercial comes on for Barbie Dolls, I remark at how much I loved playing with them when I was little. When I polish my nails, they love to help me decide what color to get. If they walk in while I am putting on makeup, they try to grab my blush brush. My point is that I don’t act differently because I am a mom to boys vs. girls. Do I remark if I see a cool monster truck on the road or comment on a neat looking lizard in the backyard? Of course I do but I don’t stop to think, “Hmmm…is this something boy appropriate to be discussing, sharing with and exposing my children to, or should I not peak their interest because it should only appeal to girls?” NEVER! I love that my boys appreciate things that I enjoy and promote the fact that they should follow their curiosity, even though society may say they shouldn’t.
Over the years, I have experienced plenty of “boy things”, including hunting for bugs, backyard basketball, skateboarding, car races, watching my boys create guns out of anything and everything, and the list goes on and on. (On a side note, I am not saying girls cannot enjoy these activities as well). While raising my three boys, I have been exposed to more things in the past seven years that as a female, never peaked my interest growing up. I will say I have thoroughly enjoyed them all, even exploring the guts of a lizard I may or may not have driven over with my car. Okay, that was not my favorite moment, but seeing my kids explore, be so inquisitive and light up with excitement made it an activity I welcomed. (To clarify, no one was happy the lizard was killed-may he rest in peace). I have noticed that recently, the kids seem to have an interest in more feminine toys. When discussing holiday gifts, my middle child, who is five, said I should get his younger brother, who is 20 months, a baby doll and stroller. While it never would have crossed my mind, I thought it was a great idea, especially since my youngest loves babies and always wheels around a play shopping cart in the house. I did not mention anything about the fact that a baby doll and stroller are typically items girls would get. Why should I be the one to spoil his creativity and his innocence? The truth is, why is it only a girl gift?
Did you know that when doing a search for a baby doll/carriage set for boys online, I could not find anything? What if I had a daughter that wanted a boy baby doll and a stroller that was blue? When I posted my thoughts on Facebook, it was interesting to read the comments I received. Just as I thought, many moms had also been searching for a baby doll and stroller for their son at some point, and couldn’t find any products either. The conversation wasn’t about the fact that I was inquiring about a “girl toy” for my son, but rather the fact that no one could locate it. I was not surprised that some of the moms also made comments about their husbands not wanting a stroller in their house for their son. WHY NOT? Do we not see dads pushing strollers? Shouldn’t we teach our sons that taking care of a baby is special and encourage them to be gentle with a baby? Shouldn’t we educate them at a young age the importance of being a great dad who is involved? I have no problem purchasing a pink stroller (on another side note, pink is one of my seven year old’s favorite colors) for my son, but shouldn’t there be more options available out there?
A few weeks ago, we attended a birthday party for one of my five year old’s classmates, who is a girl. I bought her a Barbie Doll like item that came with a hairbrush. Knowing my son LOVES to brush my hair, I knew I would be hearing about this gift. “Mommy, can I have one of those? PLEASE?” Am I to tell him, “Sorry, you are a boy so no”? I went out the next day and got him a similar doll, which is hiding in my closet until the holidays approach. There is going to come a day when he realizes that society has set these limits for him and until then, I want him to enjoy being an innocent five year old.
My seven year old recently asked me if he could get his ear/s pierced? I thought before I answered and asked him why, instead of immediately spoiling his wishes by telling him typicaly only little girls get their ears pierced, not little boys, which is what society has taught us. He told me it looked cool and he had seen someone else, who was younger than him, with his ear pierced. I responded that I think he is too young but his answer back to me really made me question what I had just said to him. He remarked, “Most of the girls in my class have their ears pierced so why am I too young?”. What a great question!!! Why does society tell us that it’s okay for girls to get their ears pierced, in some cultures quite young actually, but for boys, it’s not socially acceptable? I didn’t have a good answer for him, told him everything he was telling me made sense and that I would discuss it with his dad. I love that he wants to express himself but is he too young for an earing? I don’t know? What is the correct answer? For a girl, it’s pretty and sort of a rite of passage. For a young boy, it shows a sign of toughness and perhaps a negative perception of the parent who allowed him to do this. If he wants an earing at seven, what will he ask me for when he is twelve? I do think seven is too young but I will admit, if he was a girl, I would probably not think twice about it. Thoughts?
Yes, I am the mom whose five year old goes to school with nail polish on his fingers and I don’t care what anyone has to say about it. He clearly sees me do it, so it’s natural for him to also want to paint his nails. He has remarked in the past that people will make fun of him and this is what I told him. “Someone will always have something to say about what you do in your life. If you believe in what you are doing, then it doesn’t matter what others think. I can certainly understand why you would be concerned because typically you only see nail polish on girls but if you like it, I like it, and that is all that matters! If anyone makes fun of you, they’re probably secretly jealous they don’t have nail polish on themselves”. I remember a few times in the past when I brought my son to the nail salon. Upon his request, he wanted to have some alone time with Mommy and thought it would be fun. I received a lot of stares and comments, as you can imagine, which really bothered me. Most moms smiled and thought it was adorable that my son wanted to get his big toe painted with what he called, “Superman Blue”. Others just looked at us as if we had three heads. I will never forget when one of the employees asked if my husband cared that my son was with me. Not only did I think her comment was inappropriate, but the fact that she asked me in front of my son made him question why Daddy would mind, and opened up a can of worms I tried so hard to contain. My son accompanying me to the nail salon is something my he enjoys and it is quality time spent together. I feel comfortable with it and he feels comfortable with it so that is all that matters.
Kids want to emulate their parents as it’s only natural to want to do what Mommy (and Daddy) are doing. Do I also take the boys to baseball practice every week, find ants to feed to the lizards they catch in the backyard with tweezers, and choose a Michael Jordan basketball flick for movie night? Yes. My boys are exposed to plenty of “gender appropriate” activities. When my husband is home, they spend hours playing football outside and love watching sports on Sundays together. I let my boys take the lead and inform me of what they would like to play, and what activity is of interest to them on a particular day. In fact just this morning, my seven year old told me he no longer wants to take Karate after school, but instead prefers to sign up for a cooking class. While I don’t encourage quitting something you have started, I love that he shows an interest in a cooking class. We cook at home together all the time so of course he would be interested in exploring cooking further.
My goals for my children are for them to be happy, safe and loved, and I feel that I am delivering all three and then some. I am raising them to be kind, loving, sensitive, generous, caring, smart and good people, and I don’t think as boys, playing with a Barbie Doll, pushing a baby doll stroller, painting a nail or piercing an ear is going to get in the way of that!
TOGETHER WE CAN MASTER MOTHERHOOD!™