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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Pets & the Sub-pets. And Gender. And Barbie.

Here they are: the pets. They are the ones who eat the crickets, the earthworms my son digs up in our garden. When my daughter sees one of the fire-bellied toads chomping away on one of her precious "wahms," she bursts into tears. "Predator/prey" I whisper to myself, wondering how to explain to a 3-year old that it's a frog-eat-worm world. My son, on the other hand, relishes the world of eat or be eaten. Since he was barely verbal he's been captivated by the osprey catching a fish, by the peregrine falcon tearing apart a pigeon.  My daughter, though. She's not sure about all this predation, all this killing. 

Katha Pollitt, bless her heart, would probably say that I'm (or we're) the root cause of her squeamishness, her reluctance to embrace carnivores. But  lo and behold: instead of running around roaring like a t. rex, she prefers combing her Little Pony's manes. 

And we're to blame, right Katha? Because we put her in a pink room, in a pink blanket, in a pink world? But Ruby was born into a blue and green world. She inherited her brother's nursery. Not one thing changed. She rejects dolls and she isn't fond of princess outfits, but she does like dinosaurs, though only certain, specific ones: the mommy herbivores. Did I tell her that she must love mama maisaura? Protoceratops and psittacasaurus? Give me a break! If anything, I pushed for the big guns--carnatorous and deinonychus--but she would have nothing to do with those guys. Nope, she loves her sweet, plant eating friends. Did society do this to her? Is all the while a Barbie whispering in her ear to wear tights and a pink skort? For a year she refused to wear pink OR skirts, but now she occasionally concedes. 

Not that there's anything wrong with pink. It's just that since I'm a mom, I feel more certain that kids are who they are b/c they're hardwired to be who they are, not b/c society's putting pressure on them to conform to a narrow set of characteristics. But hey,  and even if she did want a Barbie doll (and I bought her one), would  it prevent her from getting into Harvard? Our finances might impinge on her academic wishes, but not Barbie. Would Barbie give her a warped self-image? Make her bulimic? Perhaps . . . but lots of women grew up in Barbie-land and escaped those fates. 

Where do you stand on this gender stuff? When does peer pressure take over? My son is 8 now. When will he come home in tears because he hugged his best friend on the playground? 


~ said...

Good post, Marty!

You know, in the end they like what they like. I hated dresses and anything pink, now I wear it.

My daughter loved pink until last year, now despises it. I have never really commented on the color...because well, it's just a color.

She covers *my* eyes on animal planet when anything gets attacked because *I* can't stand it.

When I first had a child, I thought I controlled much of who she is, now that I've been through a few years, I realize that much of who she is, is because of her temperment, how she was born and has little to do with me.

I think the best thing a parent can do is be open--open to pink, to blue, to black, to dinosaurs, to sky, to ocean, to toys, to books, to everything and help your child figure out who *he/she* is and not who you want them to be.

I think much of our job is staying out of the way...seriously.

Help them find their own passions and not expect them to love yours.

much love

Joannie said...

My son, who is now 18 and away at college (and how I miss him) often gave hugs. To me. To friends. Whatever.

My daughter does not prefer pink, even though I love it. However, she is so much more girlie than I am (can you say manicure?) and also much more adventurous about camping, partly because even though we are outdoors morons, we sent her to camp.

I agree that it's a lot about recognizing that our children are their own people. And I'll be the first to admit that sometimes it's hard (especially when they come into their teens).

And my favorite dinosaur name from those early years (if I'm spelling it right): Eustreptospondylus.

~ said...

BTW, when I write this:

Help them find their own passions and not expect them to love yours.

I mean the general you (not you) or really, I mean mine.