Seems this week has a theme

This is for all of you who have so thoughtfully commented this week, and specifically for Sara, whose son feels the same way.  By the way, Sara, tomorrow is pajama day at school.  I know what your child would be wearing.

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            After journeying with Peter Pan and screaming with Mr. Toad, it was time to fly with Dumbo, a ride that is non-threatening both because it involves pastel elephants and because the kids can tell from the outside exactly what they are in for.  Even though we were one of the last families to load, Zachary managed to score a pink elephant with his father, while Benjamin and I giggled just in front in a lovely purple pachyderm.

            Afterwards, the verdict was split: one child wanted the merry-go-round, the other the roller coaster.  We compromised and Zachary went to pee while his brother squealed “PONY!” for the entire length of the carousel ride.  And, because lines were mysteriously short, even for off-season, Zach and I managed to slip onto the teacups before Ben and J caught up with us.

            I get uncomfortably dizzy even when I am not pregnant, so suffice it to say our teacup was one of the more gently spinning ones.  “From now on,” I declared upon our exit, “the teacups are a Daddy ride.”  I went to recover in line for a boat ride through miniature storybook land, a line that moved so quickly that J and the boys almost didn’t manage to get to the front to join me before I boarded.

            And then, Zach got his long-awaited roller coaster, if you can really call the little acorn ride in Mickey’s Toontown a roller coaster.  Benjamin and I, meanwhile, went out to stalk Minnie Mouse.  He had hugged her on the last visit and was completely smitten.  Sadly, all we managed was second-runner-up Mickey, but the toddler was pretty much cooked by this point.  It was time to take the train to Frontierland, sit in the air conditioning with baskets of chicken fingers (while Zachary gingerly lunched on apple slices), and listen to a fantastic banjo show in the Golden Horseshoe. 

            It had been a hell of a morning in Disneyland.  And, because we like to spoil ourselves our children, we stopped off for ice cream on Main Street.  By now, everyone’s goose was totally fried, and we decided to pick up the promised mouse ears on our way to the exit, giving the kids a chance to sleep it off in the car before a rousing game of “visit prospective houses” in the afternoon.

            And that’s how we ended up in a store, Zachary trying on ears while I chased his little brother.  Then, Benjamin stopped in his tracks.  There, in front of him, were rows and rows of stuffed animals.  Mickey Mouse stuffed animals, to be precise.  He grabbed one and clutched it.  “Mi-Mouse!” 

            I sighed.  We want less crap, not more.  We are trying to minimize our impact on the planet by buying only things we really will use, and the ears themselves were enough of a compromise for the day.  But, I also know when I am beaten.   “Go show it to Daddy,” I told him, and Benjamin ran off.  It was clear we would either be buying the animal or surgically removing it from his grasp.  And, because we did not want to deal with the tantrum were trying to be fair, I pulled a pink Mickey bracelet off the shelf for Zachary, whose entire face lit up when we handed it to him. 

            Now, appropriately product-laden, we headed across the street to the right place for ears, the Mad Hatter’s shop.  “Which color do you want?” I asked Zachary, using my ever-widening body to block the sparkly pink ears with a bow.  He scanned about, looking over the rainbow of ears, seeking the color we all knew he would choose.

            “Pink,” he declared, and I subtly guided him to the plain pink ears that were much less likely to occasion teasing among his peers.  While we have long grown used to his monochromania, we try to help him find the pinks that are less ostentatious.  He does not want girly things; he wants pink things.  He just cannot tell the difference, and we have tried to shield him from the stereotype that boys don’t wear pink.  We prefer he not even know that there are pig-heads out there who believe that only girls can like such lovely colors.  Frankly, however, it is hard to find a whole lot of manly pink shorts.  We guide the process so he can be handsome in pink.

            I asked the saleslady for help fitting the proper ears.  “He’d like these pink ones,” I said.

            “Boys can wear pink, you know,” he declared, and inside I suddenly felt like lettuce that has unexpectedly found itself left out in the hot sun.  He knew, then.  He knew the stereotype well enough to take a preemptive strike against it.  Had people said things to him?  At three-and-a-half, were they already trying to take away his joy and his favorite color?  And was he already having to defend his individuality?

            We bought the ears: pink for him and red for his brother (he looks beautiful in red), and made a serendipitous Minnie-sighting as we headed for the exit.  Two hugs and one picture later, we were finally out the gate, Benjamin in the stroller and Zachary perched on J’s shoulders, pink ears, pink shorts, and pink bracelet gleaming in the sun.

            And that’s when I heard it.  A girl behind me, older than my children but still young enough to sound like a child.  “Do you see that boy?  He’s a boy and he’s wearing pink.”

            I wanted to spin around, confront her parents for allowing her to sink into the mud of gender stereotypes, point out that my son loves trains and busses and building along with stickers and coloring and cranes and construction sites and flowers.  But that would be playing right into the bigotry that is so inherent in our society that a preschooler cannot dress how he chooses without feeling the need to defend himself.

            And so, without even turning around, I shot back, “Boys can like pink.”  At least he knows I am defending right alongside him.

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I promise tomorrow’s post is not about gender!  But it is an important one, so please do stop by.

24 responses to “Seems this week has a theme

  1. You are a good mom, Emily.

    And this was such an evocative image:

    …inside I suddenly felt like lettuce that has unexpectedly found itself left out in the hot sun.

  2. You’re such a good mom. It’s too bad that that little girls mom didn’t point out to her that boys can wear pink too.

  3. My nephew is 11 and his favorite color has been pink for a good five years. In his case, however, I think he claims it because it gives him an outsider status that he likes.

    But all the gender stuff can be infuriating. A neighbor girl told my daughters the other day that her mother said girls don’t play soccer, so she needed to take up dance. Since both my kids play soccer, they looked at her with sympathy, like, oh you poor thing, don’t you know better?

  4. I felt my whole heart swell up when you told that little girl that boys can like pink. Way to go, Mama Bear!

    This story reminded me of our trip, where Bean selected the spinning Tinkerbell light up wand as his special treasure, obviously meant for girls (that whole Princess marketing thing drives me bonkers, but I’m sure you already know and agree), so his father took it to the register. As Bean clamored for his Tink during the few seconds the cashier was ringing it, she gave us a curious look. Hub simply said to her “He knows what he wants.” She didn’t say a word, but did offer a contrite smile. I felt so proud of my husband.

    Also, I want to go back to Disneyland. Like right now.

  5. Nice one mom! It is amazing how early these things become an issue.

  6. I’d personally like to know when sparkly and shiny became a girl thing? Aren’t ALL children attracted to glitter and shine?

  7. Boys CAN wear pink? Why not? I used to paint Ben’s toenails when he’d ask for it, and he looked adorable!

  8. I meant that without the question mark. Boys CAN wear PINK!!!

  9. What a great time you had! If you think about it, the idea of one color being a GIRL color is pretty stupid, isn’t it? Glad to hear Zachary stands up for his color!

  10. You’re good. I would’ve been tempted to “accidentally” kick the little girl. (Not a parent, obviously.)

  11. And the irony here– if I had girls, I would probably be hesitant about the pink thing, not being overly keen on the rosy hue myself. Of course, as mom to three boys, I embrace the pink completely. Go, Zachary!

    Thanks for the shout-out. I would be up for a Pajamas Day myself today…

  12. Go Zachary, and go you. There was all sorts of movie music playing in my head when I read the moment in the store and the last one. Good for both of you.

  13. Around my son’s second birthday, he became pink obsessed for a while and really wanted to wear the color. I went through our vast selection of hand-me-downs and couldn’t even find, say, a shirt with a flamingo on it. I actually went shopping, but finding pink clothes that weren’t cut to look frilly or sleazy was a struggle. We wound up with a tie-dye shirt that had a giant pink heart in the middle that he still wears with love.

    I think it’s a testament to your mothering skills that Zachary defends his color choice, sad as it is that anyone would question it.

  14. Can I send my kid to beat up that little girl? Even at two, she knows that boys are allowed to like pink. She’s not, since I hate it, but boys are! (OK, OK, if she really insists she wants something pink, she can have it, just so long as it’s not a Steelers jersey. I can’t do pink jerseys. It’s just plain wrong.)

  15. I suspect Zackary looks absolutely stunning in pink. Yeah, stereotypes bite.

    says she who played with gi joes and still has a pocket knife, and married a charming man.

  16. You are a divine mama.

  17. the heartsinking moment where you realize he knows…oh Emily. and yet i say he shows extra courage then, extra single-mindedness and self-knowledge, to not be bowed in his enjoyment of pink by the pressure of stereotypes he’s obviously aware of. good for Zachary.

    i am still getting over my prejudice against pink…for boys or girls. but Zachary is right. it’s a pretty colour – i just wish it weren’t so tied to all things princessy and frilly and yuck. i appreciate the reminder.

  18. As much as it distresses me that Zachary should have to defend his preferences, I love that he has the confidence to do it. You are obviously raising children who are confident in who they are.

  19. oy, the teacups. i tried to NOT teach MQ that we could spin them, but her godfather thought it would be funny. He was not laughing when we got off. 😉

    i wish more boys were allowed to wear pink. it’s just ridiculous. maybe we need to give pink an overhaul, and call it light red.

  20. Boys can wear pink. Good for you, no matter how you worry for him.

  21. I get that crap all the time. People always think Monkey is a boy b/c she rarely is in girly clothes. I always get so frustrated. Just because she isn’t in a pink frilly dress that makes her a boy??? grrrr……

  22. Yesterday, both of my girls were provided the requisite crap “toy” from some kid’s meal they were given at a birthday party. The girls in attendance were given dolls. The boys were given Indiana Jones toys. You should have heard the protesting in my car on the way home. I can’t stand this sort of thing. Neither of my girls were ever into dolls really.

    And also: one of the most well-respected, intelligent, and (yes) best looking men that I know of wears all things pastel on a nearly daily basis. He is married with two kids and seems rather well adjusted.

  23. Good on you, defender of boys loving pink. My Eli, as you recall, often has pink fingernails, and fights over the pink cup at dinnertime. This weekend he told Gramma his favorite color is pink. Let it be, I say, and defend where necessary. You don’t hear anyone telling girls they can’t love blue.

  24. My little man loves pink too but since he started preschool he’s coming home with all this BS about girls and boys, I combat it when I can, but I also try to stay aware of his social life and prevent the school yard teasing. It pisses me right off, but I hope we’ll instill enough common sense in him over the years to know that boys can do anything they like and so can girls.