I have some trepidation about raising a girl in today’s culture. How do I navigate the over-princessing and over-sexualization of the preschool years without becoming a militant mom and always saying “no”? So far I’ve tried to strike a good compromise. Minnow has plenty of pink in her wardrobe, but no princess themed outfits. She has flowery dresses but more blue jeans. She has a slide, blocks, lots of cars, and now a kitchen, a doll, and a purse.
I don’t want Minnow to feel forced into gender-stereotyped roles and it raises my hackles when people comment “Oh, she’s such a girl…” Whatever that means when referring to a one-year-old. On the other hand, I don’t want to deny my daughter toys that she enjoys because they do happen to fit feminine stereotypes.
So this weekend found us venturing into Toys R Us, the bastion of kid-centered commercialism, in search of a toy kitchen for Minnow. For months now, she’s loved to put things in and out of containers, empty cupboards and raid the pantry. Upon dropping her off at daycare, she invariably checks out the action in the play kitchen first thing. So we figured that this was a toy she could enjoy now, and would hopefully continue to use for the next couple of years, as her ability to pretend grows stronger. Plus, at home she sees a pretty good mixture of Daddy cooking and Mommy cooking, so I don’t think she’ll pick up on the stereotype of the woman (barefoot and pregnant) in the kitchen for a while.
Minnow also loves stuffed animals and has been observed covering them with blankets at naptime and even occasionally offering one a pacifier. (Also actions that have been observed relative to real babies at daycare.) Minnow covets the doll that our neighbor boy owns. (The dad keeps trying to give it to us, because “boys shouldn’t have dolls anyways, and Minnow is such a girl…”) So a doll seems like a reasonable toy for her to have (and should defuse the neighbor’s offers). I found one that is light enough for her to carry easily and has the realistic face and hand features that appeal to her. So far she’s picked it up and carried it around for a minute or two at a time before becoming distracted by more fun things, like the dog’s water bowl. If she never grows attached, that’s fine with me. If she does, that’s fine too.
Finally, the purse. Again, it goes back to Minnow’s love of putting things in and out. She’s always trying to empty my school bag and has absconded with the purse I occasionally carry, when my outfits stupidly don’t have sufficient pockets. She looks pretty funny traipsing around with a purse strung around her neck and dragging down to her ankles, and it’s rather inconvenient to have to hunt it down when I need it. So I got her a bright floral little purse, which she loved in the store, but has had absolutely no interest in since it arrived home. I’m good with that.
I refuse to feel guilty about giving her these things (well, except by the consumerism of it all). She’s a girl, she can play in the kitchen if she wants. But she can also race cars down her slide. And if we ever have a boy, he’ll be welcome to do the same.