In all that perfect parenting I did before I was an actual parent, I'd resolved to be an open-minded (if Smug) mommy when it came to creating a gender-neutral learning and play environment at home. The Pretty Parents had encouraged me to play with a number of toys, both traditionally female ("Cabbage Patch Dolls", naturally) and male (I served as chatelaine to both HeMan's Castle of Greyskull *and* an entire Darth Vader head of Star Wars figurines). Who knows if it's related, but I did grow up feeling entirely at home playing with the boys, both on the playground and in the classroom, and eventually in the often chauvinistic field of law.
Let me hasten to add: I'm not at all saying that men & women are the same - there's unlikely to be any sending my boy child to school in tutus, for the love of Nordstrom - but I am concerned about raising an independent, empathetic thinker of a man who respects women. Before Master P was born, I resolved to allow for whatever form of play would best build a foundation for that, thinking that might include both stereotypically male & female toys and books, from dolls to dump-trucks.
And then, of course, came my actual child - the boy who toddled straight over to the toy cars and tractors just as soon as he was mobile, no cultural gender pressure necessary. When left near a stereotypically female toy like a play kitchen, he immediately mans the grill. I mean, he's even hogging the remote controls already.
None of this is a problem, of course, but it did get me to thinking about the age-old "nature or nurture?" question when it comes to raising our wee CEOs, and the role we play in encouraging any stereotypically gendered play. That question is well above my pay grade here, of course, but this article got me chewing on the issue again & sums it up well - to a certain extent, toy selection is one of the biggest displays of differences between the sexes, with boys generally (not *always*, but generally) gravitating towards the sports and mechanics and girls preferring things like dolls.
An equally important note it makes - boys and girls exposed to a variety of toys and opposite gender friends at an early age tend to do better when it comes to things like empathy and even romantic relationships later on. Even my icy, cold heart can get on board with that.
All of this is easier said than done, of course; here in the US, my *highly scientific* experience has been that it's more controversial to have boys playing with traditionally female toys than vice versa. I recall a mom I ran into a few weeks ago with her 3-year-old boy; her son was pushing a bright pink toy stroller with (bright pink, natch) doll in tow, and she rushed to explain the situation, seemingly embarrassed.
Whatever our cultural double standard, if my boy wants a Barbie one day, he might well get one. In the meantime, amidst all the footballs and trains currently filling Pretty HQ, we'll continue to attend our boys-and-girls-welcome playgroup, and reading books written for all children, not just the boys-and-trucks stuff (though we have plenty of that too, I should add). Naturally, he'll be
Most importantly, I'll continue to try and sit back and learn from the remarkable, actual, trains-and-trucks-loving little boy I've been given, stupid pre-child parenting imaginings be hanged.
How does it work in your household - does your toddler's toy preferences fall along stereotypical gender lines so far? If they don't, would you be comfortable buying your kid a more "male" or "female" toy?