Sunday, April 26, 2009

Boys Will Be Boys and Girls Will Be Girls

They say parents should expose children to toys that are stereotypically meant for the opposite gender, ie let boys play with dolls and girls play with toolsets.  That way they can grow up more free of gender role stereotypes.  I say that's all fine and good in theory, but in practice, I have to admit that those gender stereotypes were based in some pretty solid fact.  

When Guinness was between 1 and 2 years old, I remember standing at Toys R Us in front of the Little Tikes toys trying to decide if I should buy him the play kitchen or the play workshop.  I only had space for one or the other, and it was a tough decision.  I knew he liked manipulating objects and thought he would really enjoy hammering plastic nails and screwing those chunky screws into the boards.  But I also wanted him to engage in creative play with a kitchen.  Plus the accessories!  We could get pots and pans and dishes and food!  Ice cream, sushi, pizza, fruits and vegetables held together by velcro.  Endless possibilities, but I digress.  I ended up choosing the kitchen and was not surprised to face Michael's complaints about me trying to girly up his son.  But I was determined that my future daughter-in-law would thank me for raising a boy who would be helpful around the kitchen.

Seven years and two additional children later, and I have long since given up the good battle. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force him to drink.  Regardless of the different toys we had around the house - and we had alot - the kids naturally gravitated to their own favorites.  Guinness played with the trains, Cayman played dress up, Ellington played violent make-believe games with his plastic animals.  

I was thinking about this today when I took the kids to the toy store to let them spend some of their hard-earned allowance.  It was so amusing to watch their respective decision-making process.  

Cayman gravitated to the doll section.  Thankfully she has no interest in Barbies, so I don't have to worry about body image issues yet.  She is fully in play mommy phase and sat in that aisle for no less than fifteen minutes trying to decide which baby doll to get.  I tried to work it out logically for her by breaking down the possible features and going from there.  Do you want one that speaks and moves?  One that actually drinks water and then pees?  One that you can wash in a bathtub?  How important are looks, accessories?  Tell me what is important to you and I will pinpoint the two best dolls for you to choose from.  Help me help you....  No, she couldn't articulate what she was looking for and just kept picking up box after box.  I suspect that she is like me and enjoys the shopping process as much playing with the actual purse, I mean doll, at home.  

Guinness really wanted to get a Star Wars light saber, but was taken aback by the hefty price tag.  At HK$390, that was going to take a pretty big chunk out of his savings and he knew it.  He went back and forth, back and forth.  Everything was about the money.  I wish it wasn't so expensive!  How could it cost more than that huge Nerf gun?  Maybe I should get the Nerf gun instead.  But no, I really want that light saber.  Do you think it's worth $390?

Ellington took one look at the same light saber and decided to get it.  And that was pretty much it.  $390?  Irrelevant.  If you asked how much money he has, he would tell you either infinity or googolplex.  When Guinness seemed to be deciding not to get the light saber, I suggested that maybe he shouldn't either because he wouldn't have anyone to play it with.  But no, that wasn't a problem.  I could tell he knew he was going to be able to play fight with someone at home regardless.  I just didn't know if he was anticipating that his siblings would use a cardboard wrapping paper roll, or if he was planning to sneak up on his unarmed victims from behind....  

In the end, Guinness decided to get that light saber.  We got home and Cayman fed and washed and dressed her doll over and over for two hours.  Guinness and Ellington battled with their light sabers for two hours.  Surprisingly, no one got hurt until Cayman joined in at the end and promptly got whacked in the nose. 

As far as getting accolades from my children's future spouses?  At this point, I can barely get any of my children - boys and girl alike - to bring their dishes to the sink, let alone wash them.  They probably wouldn't recognize a sponge if it hit them in the face.  And if it ever really comes down to their helping in the kitchen, I can almost guarantee that they will get him in the face by a sponge thrown by their future spouses.  What is this wet, spongy material you threw at me?  Oh, it actually is a sponge.  How 'bout that?