Thursday, 30 January 2014

PILLING THE TIGERS


As the King creeps up on 4 years old (fine, it’s not until Summer, but it feels like it’s fast approaching) I am fascinated at the moment by what is (and what we deem) intrinsically male and female and how it exhibits itself in the form of a preschooler. Whether one has influenced it or not (by buying dolls, cars, or insisting their child never wears pink etc.) watching the King develop, and his friends for that matter, it’s hard not to notice how girls and boys embrace their gender fingerprint and moreover, how we as parents fight or welcome that very embrace. 

In our house, we pride ourselves on colouring outside the gender boxes (or the stereotypes anyway). My husband is an avid baker, takes longer to get ready than I do, ranks shopping up there with Formula One, and has been known to buy a woman’s magazine now and then (he says more men should do it as it gives him insight into what the heck women think). When it comes to the King, I have never been one to push anything particularly 'male' onto him. As readers of this blog can attest, he used to push around a little pink pram, the kid loves his clothes and most of our arguments center around his need to dress monochromatically (he ends up looking like a giant crayon), and he has been known to embrace a good handbag and baby doll from time to time. For me, worrying about how male or female your kid is, is utterly pointless, they’ll be what they’re going to be whether you like it or not. And trust me, any parent of a teenager will tell you, you can fight that tutu at 3, but by the time he/she reaches 16, that tutu is going to be worn over a good pair of rebellious combat boots.  

Additionally, I've always been curious by parents who push the gender card one way or another when it comes to their children, i.e. my girl must NOT wear pastels, my boy must not...push a pram :-) and what that says about our fear or idea of certain gender traits. For those with an aversion to raising their girls 'too' girly, its interesting to wonder what's behind that. Is being too girlie a sign of weakness? A fear that they will not be seen as intellectual if they're not wearing trousers? Or conversely a boy that appreciates a good episode of Polish Barbie, like say the King. In some people's eyes, there is that profound fear that allowing one's son to embrace certain feminine traits or behaviours means that his masculinity is at stake. It's hard not to be amused by the parental need to control.

The other fascinating part is that no matter what my husband and I have done up until now, there came a point when the King’s testosterone began to dictate his likes, interests and behaviors. Whereas he has several girlfriends and doesn’t mind being the only boy at an all girl birthday party (who wouldn’t?), he now wakes up every morning and asks me ‘what boys are we seeing today?’ As if he has a deep seated need to get his inner 'dude' on.  He is also now incredibly physical (always was really), enjoys a good growl like a small rabid animal (who doesn't) and has moments of utterly irrational 'testosterone rage' as my husband and I call it. Additionally, I pride myself on never letting him watch anything violent, frown upon guns of any kind and try to emphasize that it’s much more valuable to be a lover than a fighter. And yet, one day everything he picked up seemed to be  shaped into a weapon and he would march around the house telling me was going to ‘PILL the tiger upstairs’ so it didn't eat me (he means kill, but I figured it sounded more adorable and less scary to want to pill things). Despite me telling him that we don’t 'pill' anything and tigers are our friends even if they’re living in our bedrooms, he didn’t seem to embrace that concept. In his little boy mind, he was out to conquer, occasionally destroy and exert his King sized muscles to protect me from his apparently wild stuffed animals (men's predilection towards combat is starting to make much more sense as I fear it's in their genetic code). 

The same thing is happening to his girlfriends at the moment; from one day to the next, their drama is increasing (obviously all pre-schoolers embrace drama boy or girl, but the girls seem to do this high pitch, rag doll, Gone With the Wind thing and boy drama is a tad more aggressive), they are becoming more fickle and one day the King’s girlfriend - who according to her mother has put a boycott on anything but skirts and dresses - thinks he’s the bees knees, and the next, he’s ‘naughty,’ ‘noisy,’ and she’d rather be around her girlfriends playing with princess dolls. Of course there are exceptions to all of this, but for the most part, the male, female roads begin to diverge soon enough. 

Don't get me wrong, the King is still very much a romantic and we're still fighting over his outfits, but after he smothers me with kisses and wants to help me make things in the kitchen, I can be sure he's going to grab a wooden spoon, pretend it's a sword and growl at me like an angry dinosaur. So if I could impart any message to the King from all this (as I'm hoping when I'm old and grey he looks back at these blogs and doesn't cringe too much) it's that we, and we alone define what is male or female, for OURselves, not in the eyes or hopes of those around us. I love sports and hate make up and I'm all woman. Stereotypes are made to be shattered and gender is a mere starting point, not a place of confinement. So fire up an episode of Barbie, my King, cause you're all man to me. 


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