Our son, Little Inkslinger, recently celebrated his 2nd birthday amid a flurry of wrapping paper and toy horns. He is easy to please, our little guy. Just make sure there is a book, or maybe two, and he is happy. He is enthusiastic about learning things, and he loves words. He tells stories to his stuffed animals, improvising some and repeating others. Among his presents this year is a sequel to the very sweet children's book Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff. Mr. Inkslinger is particularly partial to these books as Danny and the Dinosaur was one of his childhood favourites. So he brought home Happy Birthday, Danny and the Dinosaur . . . which seems quite fitting.
When we think about books for our children, I have to admit gender does play a part in our choosing . . . we try NOT to consider it. Despite warnings that we'll never succeed, Mr. Inkslinger and I are determined to raise our boy and girl as people, not prescribed gender roles. This means trying to ignore colour coding for gender designated items. It means, in fact, ignoring gender designations as often as possible. For example, Mr. Inkslinger's uncle and aunt gave Baby Inkslinger a deliciously soft, but very decidedly pink blanket. Little Inkslinger is the one who loves it and we think that's just fine. He also loves his blue blanket that a family friend gave him when he was Baby Inkslinger's age. We think that's just fine, too.
Baby Inkslinger is a little young still to make her own decisions about what colours she likes best and which toys she prefers to play with, but we're trying our best to keep it all rather open . . . not steering either of our little ones in any one particular direction when it comes to what might be considered 'normal' (ugh) for a boy or girl.
We had considered this a reasonably respectable approach to parenting, but we recently discovered how alone we are in this assumption after reading the comments to the story about the British couple (see here) who allow their son to wear whatever he wants (including pink tutus), play with typically girl toys if he likes, and experiment with nail polish if the mood strikes him. The comments seemed quite overwhelmingly negative in response last time I checked (here's hoping that changes, though). And this gives me pause. When did we come up with this notion of boy clothes or girl clothes for toddlers? It wasn't so long ago they all wore pretty much the same thing. And girl toys? What on earth is a girl toy? I know there are gender coded products we're expected to see as girl toys (usually coloured pink for our buying convenience), but I'm just not convinced.
When I was growing up, I played with dolls and action figures (surprisingly similar, are they not?), trucks and toy ovens, Matchbox cars and Play-doh. Toys are toys. Imaginative play is imaginative play. Why limit the roles you try on as a child? And books . . . oh, don't get me started on books. I mean, are we expected to believe that little boys only like to read books about trucks and ferocious beasts and other little boys? And girls only like to read books about dresses and kitties and other little girls? Nonsense. Sheer, utter, absolute nonsense. Bring on the dragons, the kitties, the girls and the boys. Bring on the knights, the Robin Hoods, the Nancy Drews. I read them all as a child and found great delight in the imaginary worlds that came to life through the words of good writers. Why would any child want to miss out on any fun just because of someone else's ultimately limiting notions about gender roles?