She had a truly magical day, with two parties, a perfect looking and great tasting (yes… it passed the test) snowman cake and lots of presents.
As my first born became a year older I, naturally, started thinking about the person she is and the parent I am trying to be. There were certain things I was determined about when we started on this journey three years and nine months ago. I wanted to foster a sense of fairness, acceptance and kindness, one that was not overly materialistic, or restricted by gender. I am not so sure I am succeeding with all of these goals.
I would have loved her to greet the friends and family who came to celebrate without focusing on the presents in their hands, but perhaps this is beyond the capacity of a three year old. She was grateful and enthusiastic about all her gifts which is at least part way there.
Miss Three has many wonderful qualities, a great sense of fun and humour (she loves telling jokes and making up her own jokes), she sense of curiosity about nature (we have vast collections of leaves, stick, gumnuts, flowers, cocoons and anything else the catches her eye), her sensitivity of the world around her (sometimes a downfall and can cause her unnecessary concern at times however) and her ability to communicate, and communicate and communicate! But more than anything she is affectionate, in her eyes everyone needs a cuddle and usually a kiss on the cheek. She calls her sister her “little sweetie” or “my darling” and tells me dozens of times a day how gorgeous Baby Good is. I have made a point of telling her everyday just how loved she is and she does the same, to me, to Mr Good and to Baby Good.
But….. I have failed, wholly and undeniable failed when it comes to bringing her up without gender bias. Despite my best efforts to push for non-gendered toys, clothes/colours and activities she is drawn to anything ‘girly’. It pains me. She tells me constantly that “her very favourite” colour is pink, she adores dolls, dolls houses, domestic role playing in very much gender traditional roles. She told my Mum how she was going to wear make up when she’s older even though she has seen me wear make up on only a handful of occasions. She loves fairies, princesses and ballerinas. When it comes to gift giving most family members ask for ideas or guidance before buying anything for the girls and usually I suggest something neutral or at least not pink. I decided this year that perhaps I should actually take note of what SHE likes, so we now have a pink tricycle and helmet and a VERY pink dolls house.
I should say that there are some non-gender stereotypical or at least gender neutral activities and toys she likes, a couple of trucks and trains, a farm set. She loves crafty things, play dough, cooking, playing with water and dirt (preferably at the same time) and she’s going to make a great business woman if her love of her new cash register complete with eftpos machine and store loyalty card is anything to go by. She will read books for hours. But on the whole she is determinedly girly. Is this a push against what I have tried to encouraged? Is it so pervasive in our society, and especially advertising even though I try to shield her from that as much as I can, that it is unavoidable? Is it a nature vs nurture thing, or maybe just what she happens to like?
The whole princess world scares me. It is marketed so ruthlessly to our girls (thanks in large part to Disney) and focuses on traits I don’t want my daughters exposed to, the helpless princess being saved by her prince, the ‘good’ characters are the beautiful ones and the ‘bad’ ones are ugly. And as much as I have tried she now seems to be hurtling towards this world a great speed. Is there any way of stopping this? Or perhaps I’m over thinking things (much like Miss Three does at times, hmmmm….. I wonder where she gets that from). Maybe she will get into the princess thing, but will come out the other side still with her own thoughts in tact and without too much harm done? What do you think? Do you worry about this kind of thing with your daughters? Are there similar issues for boys?