Tuesday, June 8, 2010

When Superman Wants A Fairy Wand

Our son is sweet and funny and charming. He is currently obsessed with dressing like his soccer coach, builds jails for his dinosaurs and is often, as I once saw a boy described, "noise with some dirt on it". I don't quite know where this boy came from because as recently as 3 months ago he threw a tantrum over the fact that he did not receive "Fancy Nancy" dress up clothes like his twin sister did at birthday time. Poor boy.

Some well-meaning mother had bought him "boring" doctor and train conductor outfits while our daughter was decked out in ribbons and pearls and high heeled princess shoes. Anyone would be jealous! I handled this one by rushing off to Target to buy Tinkerbell and Ariel costumes so he wouldn't feel left out. This meltdown wasn't really a surprise since he had coveted her silver, sparkly princess slippers at Christmas time (again, I bought him a matching pair)

At Halloween, he had thrown an enormous tantrum when she was a fairy princess and he was Superman. This one I managed to figure out, was actually about the fabulous fairy wand that she had and luckily I happened to have a spare, although different, wand in the closet.  When he was really young, he was obsessed with bracelets and rings. He wore them all the time, even to sleep. 

I think everyone who has a daughter expects her to go through a princess stage. I didn't really expect my son to be quite as enamored of them as he was. Part of it, I think, is because he really likes his sister. And he wants what she has. Plus, girl's stuff is just so much more festive/sparkly/pretty! At age 3, this is all developmentally appropriate. Most children don't differentiate between "boy's things" and "girl's things" until they are a bit older. It's often hard for the parents to deal with because, as I said, we have our expectations about what our children will be like and we usually expect the standard: boys play with trucks and trains. Girls like dolls and dress up and if your child is "different" you don't know what to do!

For us, it actually seemed harder for strangers to handle our son's predilection for being fancy. We didn't really care that he liked this "girly" stuff or that pink was his favorite color. But strangers would comment or older children would say things, and I would begin to wonder if my comfort with his self-expression was going to end up having him feel bad about himself.

I ended up allowing him to do whatever he wanted at home or at play dates. We didn't bring tutus or bracelets to the park and I told him pink UGG boots would get too dirty, so we bought brown ones (for both of them). I never made him feel as though he "shouldn't" like those things or that he "should" play with other toys. But I found myself secretly thinking these things. Before the kids were born I always felt that I wasn't sexist and that I held no rigid stereotypes when it came to boys and girls, but once our son's love of all things pink and girly began to take hold, I realized this wasn't entirely true! 

I recently read a review in Newsweek Magazine of a book called Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps -- And What We Can Do About It". This book, by Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, works hard to show that our accepted thinking that male and female brains are different from birth is actually false. 

We, as adults, no matter how liberal thinking we may be, have notions of how boys act (aggressive, less able to express emotions) and how girls act (emotional, less physical). From the Newsweek review of Eliot's book:

"how we perceive children—sociable or remote, physically bold or reticent—shapes how we treat them and therefore what experiences we give them. Since life leaves footprints on the very structure and function of the brain, these various experiences produce sex differences in adult behavior and brains—the result not of innate and inborn nature but of nurture...The belief in blue brains and pink brains has real-world consequences, which is why Eliot goes after them with such vigor (and rigor). It encourages parents to treat children in ways that make the claims come true, denying boys and girls their full potential."

I notice how much more at ease I am with my son's love of his basketball shorts than I was with his tutu wearing. And that makes me sad. In very little time I am sure my son will no longer be asking for my daughter's hair clips or for me to paint his nails. I'm glad I indulged him while the love of color and sparkle lasted. Now that it's almost passed, I already miss it.

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about my blog. You can leave them by clicking on "comments" at the end of every post, and can do so anonymously without being a subscriber or follower (although I would love if you were)! 
Share it!
Tweet it!
"Like" The Twin Coach on Facebook!

4 Great Comments Made By Clicking Here!:

joy said...

i have b/g twins and my daughter is a tomboy and my son is quite fancy.
i wouldn't trade it for the world.
great post gina!

Ruckus Media said...

My son was really into pink when he was little, and holding purses and dressing up in Olivia's princess clothes. He's been conformed to like blue and play sports but I always feel a tinge of jealousy when Olivia's doing girly things. I don't put any gender pressure on him, but he gets it from society, peers, media. Yesterday I was pretty happy when he got on the floor to play dolls with my daughter. She invited him, he accepted.

Aunt Annie said...

What a beautifully honest, and important, post.

You might enjoy my thoughts on the subject- this is one of my earliest blog posts, about this very subject:

The Twin Coach said...

Thank you all for your comments! Joy, I am so glad you embrace your children's interests, no matter what they are!

Ruckus Media, I love that your son will still play "girly" games with his sister. My son does the same. In many ways I wish he would stop worrying about what's "cool" and what's not, but I do understand it as well.

Aunt Annie, I loved your post! Thank you so much for sharing it. It is so important to help parents see how multifaceted their children's personalities and interests are. Thank you for your note. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...