Toys don’t make the girl

Toys don’t make the girl

Came across this article of in my online journeys yesterday.

Short version – a guy mansplains to women about how he’s failed his 2 year old daughter by giving her too many pink girly toys and how she’ll probably never excel at STEM because of it, or something, and extols women not to make the same irrevocable mistake he did.  He describes the toys he and his brothers played with – blocks, planes, trains, dinosaurs, and so forth, as superior to the princess and home economics toys that his daughter’s been playing with.

I will set aside the extremely sexist aspect of portraying traditional female endeavors as being in some way of less value than men stuff for the purposes of this piece (but yuk).

Dude, she’s TWO.  The idea that children are somehow ruined forever by toy availability at age two has no basis in reality.  Truth – kids used to have few toys of any type, and yet somehow they grew up and found employment in the world despite having not played with the junior trainer version of their future career.  And the idea that if a child haven’t been exposed to computer science prior to potty training they’ll never excel at it is nonsensical. If that were true, please explain Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  Explain James Watt and Alexander Graham Bell and Marie Curie and any other person who came of age prior to a technology being invented, who then later went on to invent or develop that technology. Consider Albert Einstein – my God, he was never allowed to play with tiny replicas of energy, mass, and the speed of light as a boy!  The deprivation!

But let’s set that glaring logical error aside to focus solely on the author’s claim – that his daughter gravitates towards things like baby strollers and toy vacuums simply because they’re there and if only she’d been given an Erector Set instead she’d be making scale replicas of the Eiffel Tower instead (dude, seriously, she’s TWO!)

I have been given a unique opportunity to run a real life experiment that could prove or debunk the author’s claims.  I raised sons for 21 years before finally having a daughter. Our home is full of blocks and Legos and dinosaurs and Nerf guns and Millennium Falcons accumulated over 2 decades of boys.  We own roughly 700 toy swords and at least that many balls of various shapes and sizes and bounceability. And because we had so many toys already, we did not buy our daughter many toys until very recently (she’s almost 6 now).  So up until the age of three, she had access to primarily boy toys with only few exceptions. Since she’s our 5th child, we are pretty set in our ways as parents, so very little has changed with our parenting style.  She doesn’t go to preschool and plays almost exclusively with boys. Oh, and we also don’t have subscription television so she sees very few toy-themed commercials and watches mostly boy shows since that’s what her brothers like.

In short, if environment makes girly-girls, we’re going all in towards making a tomboy.

At first, we saw little difference between our daughter and our boys.  She roughhoused enthusiastically with the boys and drove Tonkas and learned to ride a very small boys’ bike with maniacal daring.  My husband spent hours showing her girls playing sports and drums and building robots on YouTube. We sometimes watch women’s MMA together as a family (yes, we’re those people). The only difference that we noticed at first was that she was really, really interested in animals.   But we chalked that up to an individual quirk, not gender related. All kids like animals. She did talk earlier, but of course that’s something proven by science and she was also surrounded by people talking to her all day, so we attributed that as having been expected.

Somewhere along the way, I had a acquired a boy doll that my sons had mostly used to club each other over the head.    One day, she brought it to me and said “Look Mommy, look at my baby! Isn’t he cute! Look at his bright smile!” And I paused for a moment, because never in all my parenting years have any of my sons used the expression “bright smile” and it was just downright weird hearing it coming from a 3 year old.  

Thus began The Baby Phase.  My daughter is quite frankly obsessed with babies.  I don’t use the term lightly. She can spot a baby’s head the size of a postage stamp a football field away.  Just like animals, all kids like babies, but my daughter is obsessed with babies. She talks about babies 20 times a day.  It doesn’t come from us. I never talked about babies with her any more than I did with my sons. If anything, my husband has been discouraging about the babycession – he’s not negative or unkind, but he’ll tell her “I’m not interested in babies right now” and try to redirect her to something else.  But it just keeps going and going. It’s coming entirely from her.

But that’s just one thing, right?  Wait, there’s more.

For her 4th birthday, she received a purse and some chapstick.  She immediately put the chapstick into the purse and insists on carrying the purse everywhere we go.  I don’t even own a purse. Therefore, she has never seen me put chapstick IN a purse. How did she know how to do that??  I have no idea.

She is constantly complimenting my appearance and my husband’s appearance.  None of my boys ever did that. She will ask my husband to compliment her appearance –  “Don’t I look pretty today, Daddy?” We don’t encourage this and try to stay very neutral about it (I actually had to force my husband to validate her against his will out of fear that his lack of enthusiasm would harm her self-esteem) but nevertheless, she persists.  None of my sons has ever complimented my appearance, certainly not my husband’s, and have never once asked me if they looked attractive – despite the fact that I lavished them with remarks about how cute they are just the same as I do with her.

She will also make envious remarks about clothing she sees me wearing and outfits that are on television.  She assumes that I am equally jealous of her and will occasionally ask me if I’m jealous of her shirt or dress.  She notices things like matching shirts and pants and will deliberately pick shoes or a barrette that is the same color as her clothing.  The first time she saw a pair of high heels (in an ad on Facebook and without feet of either gender in them) she gasped with delight – and I don’t wear high heels.  It’s all very peculiar.  I recall an event that occurred when I worked as an assistant in a day care when my oldest sons were small. I had two similar shirts that were different colors, and I walked in to work one day wearing one of them, when I’d worn the other the day before.  One of the little girls gave me a puzzled look and said “You just wore that shirt yesterday!!” I laughed at the time because I doubted my sons would notice if I wore the same outfit for a month straight. My daughter would totally spot that fashion faux pas.

She also used to take my pots and pans and filled them with Legos to make soup (I’m sure she still would, but my husband got her a kitchen set for her very own).  She takes my broom and sweeps the floor and pretends to do the laundry as well. Now, in this case, my boys did stuff like that too. Maybe not as often or as emphatically, but they did it, despite not having a kitchen set or a glittering pink and purple broom set for their very own.  The point is not that this type of play is a girl thing per se, but that kids play like this regardless of whether or not they have access to toy versions of stereotypical women’s work toys.

I’m not saying that chapstick, purses, and heels are genetic, not at all.  But for some reason I feel that my daughter has an affinity for those things that cannot be explained by her environment.  I don’t carry a purse, I don’t wear heels, my husband is a mechanic and there are tools lying around everywhere, she has 4 brothers, she doesn’t watch girly TV or have girly toys.  Why is she attracted to things like that? Who knows, but I can assure the author of this piece that whatever toys he’s providing to his daughter, she is who she is, her interests lie where they lie, and I suggest that parents simply enjoy the ride because it all goes by too darn fast as it is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s