When it comes to toys, I think the gender-neutral argument is tricky. I learned in my Women’s Studies classes in college how the marketing of products towards women often reinforced negative stereotypes. Part of that I agree with. But part of that class I kind of want to call bullshit on, now that I have a boy and a girl and see what they naturally gravitate towards.
I’m not saying just because my boy likes trucks and my daughter likes to bake is proof that gender neutrality doesn’t exist. I’m just saying I think it’s hard to take a rigid stance, because kids are ultimately human beings and each of us comes into the world with natural, inherent differences. I think kids show what they are interested in from an early age, regardless of how much you try to keep their toys, surroundings, etc. “neutral.”
Having said that, I think as parents we have a lot of control on how to guide those interests. Companies market the princess crap and kitchen stuff to a heinous level for girls, and trucks and building sets to an unapologetic level for boys. It’s exciting to see Easy Bake Ovens coming out for boys and a Barbie Construction Set for girls. As many articles point out, it’s not a black and white issue. My guest blogger, Joe Depropero, wants his sons to play with dolls.
For me, I’ve noticed core differences in having a boy versus a girl. Emmett has always gravitated towards cars, trucks and more masculine things, like fire hydrants (his current obsession). Of course now Fia loves hydrants too because she likes anything he likes and vice versa–at least for the split second before they start fighting over it. When Fia was carrying around her baby doll, I got him one too because he kept taking hers. Now, at nearly 22 months, I don’t even know where his doll is.
On garbage mornings, we run out when we hear the truck. He screams in delight. If we are driving and he sees a cement mixer, he freaks out like I would if I saw Madonna. He also loves to sit quietly (up to 30 minutes) and page through his books, looking closely at each picture or trying to figure out how a toy works.
Fia was–and is– different. She honestly never cared about trucks, construction sites or hydrants. It’s not for lack of exposure. Her best friend from birth is a boy. She was exposed just as many cars and trucks. She will play with them for awhile, but she just isn’t interested in the same way. However, because she wasn’t around girls who were obsessed with princesses (thank god), so far, she hasn’t shown much interest (at least I think that’s why). Generally speaking, she’s not a girly-girl and she’s pretty content to play with whatever is in front of her.
I have a mom friend who said her 4-year old boy loves pink and purple. He also loves construction and trucks. She said most of his friends were girls. So again, I think inherent nature along with who they hang out with and what they are exposed to, is what makes the most difference.
Where parenting comes in: I wouldn’t push the princess thing on your girl or make your boy car-crazy. I think there’s a lot of danger when you push hard one way or another and I’m very wary of the marketing. Especially towards girls. I proudly posted last week how relieved I was that Fia wanted to be a pig– not a princess–for Halloween. I hope she never gets into that stuff. She is though, a born nurturer. Whether it’s with the cat or her stuffed animals, she has this maternal way about her. So why not nurture what she likes in moderation?
I guess that’s the key. Moderation and choice. What do you all think? Is there such a thing as really and truly raising gender-neutral kids? And if so, is that even right? I feel like this is sounding like a term paper so I’m signing off. Will look forward to your thoughts!
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Barbie, boys, dolls, Easy Bake Oven, fairytales, gender neutral toys, girls, girly-girl, Princess, sexist stereotypes, sterotypes, trucks, Women's Studies | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
It’s just so…uncomfortable. Your child is being uncharacteristically docile when random kid at the playground steals his Matchbox car, shows no remorse whatseoever, and continues with his day as if he didn’t just do something worth being punished for. And you’ll probably notice that random kid at the playground will continue to do these selfish things because, frankly, no one at home is telling him he can’t. Until you came along. You’re going to show this kid that his behavior won’t be tolerated, that the world doesn’t work the way he’s been led to believe. Right? Right? Well, not so fast.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found yourself letting the vast majority of these things go, since it’s easier and less awkward to remain silent. And really, who wants to start a debate with a stranger in the park, or worse, a family member you find irresponsible? Clearly, we don’t want to come across as preachy, but we also don’t want our own kids believing that this type of behavior is acceptable.
So what do we do? How do we handle it when someone else’s kid does something either to your kid or around your kid that you find completely reprehensible? The answer, naturally, isn’t so easily determined (or else I wouldn’t be asking it). Here are some options I’ve found most successful.
Shout in the general direction of all the kids, “What is going on here?!”
It’s safe to say that every kid there had something to do with that lamp being broken, so don’t single anyone out. Chances are another authority figure will piggy-back on your anger and blame the entire thing on their own kid. The downside of this method is it also frequently results in the awkwardness of the respective parent half-heartedly disciplining their kid because they’ll look like a tool if they say nothing. But at least you did something. Most people don’t.
Give ‘em the Danny Tanner treatment
You remember the scene. Full House’s MVP Dad would pull one of his daughters aside (when he felt especially saucy, he’d reel in Kimmy Gibbler, too) for a heart-to-heart about how badly they screwed up. It was brilliant if you think about it. Instead of raising his voice (and his blood pressure), he sent them to their room, made them think about what they did, then calmly explained what terrible human beings they were. Naturally, if you’re doing this with a child other than your own, you’ll need to tread lightly. But as long as you say what you’re saying with a soothing tone (and a string section accompaniment), you lessen the risk of a fist fight with the other supposed adult in the room.
Falsely blame everything on your own kid
It sounds counterproductive, but I assure you it works most of the time. Most of us are decent enough to try to avoid the uncomfortableness of yelling at other people’s children, so we instinctively place the blame on our own, even if they aren’t the main culprit. It happens to me all the time. Antonio wants to play with his friend’s ride-on car, said friend doesn’t want to give Antonio a turn. Antonio then sulks and insists he wants nothing to do with him. At that point, I step in and remind Antonio that the car isn’t his and he has to respect friend’s decision (even though deep down I agreed that it was time to share). Almost every time, the parent steps in and yanks the kid out of the car, giving Antonio what he wants as his friend wails in his rear view mirror. Half the time you’re the one yanking your kid out of the car kicking and screaming. It’s never pleasant and almost every time, you think your kid’s being slightly less of a jerk than the other one.
Naturally, we all live under the guise that our child is better behaved than others. After all, they’re a reflection of us and our disciplinary actions. If they suck then that means we suck. And frankly, a lot of us suck. And the rest have to simply deal with it. The sad fact is that, as parents, we’re almost certain to lose at least one friend over the way we choose (or don’t choose) to manage our kids’ behavior when they’re socializing. Ultimately, you’ll end up spending more time with the parents of children who have similar disciplinary mindsets as you do, distancing yourself from the Mom who lets her daughter pour White Out all over your leather couch. But if said Mom is part of your family, you’re screwed. And if that’s the case, you better have a strong lip, because you’ll be biting it more than you’d like!
Have you ever been in a situation where you held back how you felt for the sake of not starting a battle with another parent? Did you speak up eventually? How did that go? Tell me about it in the comments section below!
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* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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I was never into the “princess thing” growing up. That’s not to say I was a total tomboy. Just partially. I loved running free outside. My mom owned a plant store and we’d get these giant shipments of plants in huge boxes. My siblings and I would use them to make forts in the yard, begging our parents to let us sleep in them. Back then, we lived in the country on an acre of land. Now that old house is surrounded by a subdivision. Whenever I’m in State College I avoid going to it. It’s too depressing.
But back to the doll thing: Fia prefers pets to princesses, bugs over Barbies. So far, I’m breathing a big sigh of relief. I hope it stays that way. Regardless, if she goes the princess route, it won’t be because I pushed it on her. But I’m kind of hoping she doesn’t get into it. I don’t really want all that crap, err, clothes and wands all over the place. Plus the whole connotation of a princess is a damsel in distress; a girl who needs rescuing. Granted there are more modern–and positive–takes on princesses now than when I grew up (thank god) but it’s just not something I want to embrace head-on.
When it came time for Halloween, thankfully “princess” was never mentioned. Instead, she wanted to be a pig. Specifically Olivia, who does have some princess outfits. But generally speaking, Olivia is a minimalist so even her princess get-up would be cool. Fia wanted to look just like the stuffed animal version we have.
Now, I’m not saying anything is wrong with being a princess. She’s been Abby (from Sesame) and a butterfly in years past, both of which have princess elements. But what if when she gets older, I present her with an even better idea of what a girl could be? I wish I could pull these pictures and post them, but they are embedded in the link below.
Here’s the gist:
Photographer and mother Jaime Moore wanted something to find something creative and inspiring when taking pictures of her 5-year-old daughter. She searched around but only came up with things like how to be a Disney Princess. So she started thinking about what she could do on her own. Here is what she came up with.
Wait at the end to see the 6th picture…
Helen Keller and Laura Ingalls were my childhood heroes. Who were yours? Do you like the ideas from Jaime for costumes? I think when Fia is a little older and could understand what it meant, it could be really amazing to dress like women who changed the world. Who knows, maybe all our girls will change the world. Mine is a Sagittarius so she’s off to a good start.
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costumes, damsel in distress, Disney Princess, dressing up, Halloween Olivia, Helen Keller, Olivia, pig, Princess, princess connotation, Susan B Anthony | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Moving to Los Angeles, Must Read
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Growing up, I wasn’t a very popular kid. And like any prepubescent boy, that stuck in my craw. Looking back, it seems absurd. Why would I long to be idolized by people who willingly wore Z. Cavaricci pants and gained God-like status merely for having rich parents? But anyway, it was due in large part to my lack of rank and general absence of confidence that I anticipated one holiday a year more than any other- Halloween. It was the one day out of 365 that allowed me the luxury of being somebody else for 24 hours.
I know it sounds like a bad thing, but trust me, it wasn’t. Halloween served as a reprieve from an adolescence marked by mediocre grades, a modest group of friends, and an astonishingly dreadful track record with the ladies. None of that mattered on October 31st.
I took Halloween seriously, and still do to this day. I always scoffed at classmates who’d show up at my door wearing a football jersey, or worse, no costume at all. In my mind, Halloween wasn’t just a suggestion to embrace the mysterious creep within, it was an obligation to. I always took this time of year as a chance to allow myself to be scared, made to feel a little uncomfortable even. But most of all, have the time of my life doing it. And believe it or not, I think instilling the same tradition in my children will actually benefit them as they grow up.
I also think there’s a great deal that our children can learn from Halloween. Here are just a few of the learning points:
Of all days, Halloween is a day that rewards creative thinking. Since I was so into Halloween as a kid, my parents hosted parties at the house. One year, we even held a costume contest. Try as I might to remember what everybody wore that night, I only remember one costume. Jessica Dickson dressed as a giant Oreo cookie. She took home a prize. I was always partial to spooky costumes, but that one still sticks with me. Years later, I see people dressed in innovative, mind-blowing costumes like this and I’d bet good money that, as kids they were encouraged to put thought into their costume. Fuel a creative mind and you’re more likely to raise an inventive adult that harnesses individuality.
Know How to Have Fun
It sounds simple, but there are plenty of people who need to be taught how to enjoy themselves. Halloween practically forces you to have fun. And you’ll find that the majority of people who claim to “hate” Halloween aren’t people you’d want at your party anyway. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my son lick his proverbial chops in eager anticipation of All Hallow’s Eve. I intend to stoke that fire.
Go All the Way
Halloween not only gives children a public stage to show off their creativity, but it also tests their ability to follow through on something that isn’t an ice cream cone. So if your kid is attempting to put together a homemade Jack Sparrow costume but gives up halfway through, offer some encouragement to get back on the horse. It’s a fantastic opportunity to teach our children determination, while showing them the tangible fruits of their labor at the same time.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
This might be the greatest lesson that Halloween teaches our kids (and adults too, quite frankly). It reminds us that, at the end of the day, we’re all kids yearning to play dress-up, if even for one day a year. However, those of you with daughters dressing like sexy devils or kittens likely don’t embrace this whole dress-up concept. Can’t blame you.
So, next Thursday, when you’re trying to keep up with your proud son rocking the homemade Jack Sparrow costume, know that by embracing Halloween, you’re enabling their individuality, and that’s the best treat of all.
My son, Antonio, at age 2 1/2, standing in front of the first door at which he “trick-or-treated” on his own
What are your memories of Halloween, as a kid or an adult? Join the conversation by adding a comment below!
Not sure what you’ll be yet? Use our Halloween Costume Finder, and then buy your favorite Halloween costumes at Shop Parents.
* Halloween photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Here’s a good question: when do you stop getting in the bathtub or shower with your kids? Fia will be 4 in a couple months. Em will be 2. I find it fun to jump in with them if I need a quick wash or if they’re begging me to get in. They love it when I do because then they try and torture me like they perceive I do with them, ie: pouring water on my hair that gets into my eyes. Except I don’t cry.
We play with bubbles, they pour nice warm water down my back, and then I wash their hair at an angle that causes less agony than when I do it tub side. (Fia hates water on her face so if I can lean her up against me and tilt her head, we have less chance of getting water in her eyes than if I’m outside the tub with a cup.)
So when is the statute of limitations for this sort of thing? Granted I know some moms breastfeed their babies until they’re 6, so I’m sure the range of response to this question will be vast. For me, I’d want to err on the conservative side of this question. I wouldn’t want to traumatize my kids with the memory of, “My mom took a shower with us when we were 12.”
So generally speaking, do you stop before the age of 6? 8? Earlier? Is it different for a mom-daughter equation and a dad-boy equation than it is for mom-son and dad-daughter scenario?
Why do I feel creepy writing this? Why do I feel like I need to shower right now…by myself? Perhaps it’s because I simply can’t imagine them growing up past this perfect and innocent stage and going through puberty. Or wanting privacy. It all seems so foreign. Right now they are my babies and none of this “age-appropriate” stuff comes into play. But it will. So I’m asking….
Plus: Are you an attachment parent or positive parent? Then, check out our free growth charts to see if your toddler or preschooler is on the right track.
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