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When Emerson was a baby, we bought predominately gender neutral clothing, gear, and toys. For every princess doll she received as a gift, we balanced it with Duplos or a train set; for every tea set a new drawing pad and crayons. We tried to make compliments more about her as a person than her exterior, and watched what we said to not create gender stereotypes.
Emerson is almost five and still a girly girl. Recently she asked us to donate all her dinosaurs and trucks and even Daddy and Brother dolls for her doll house to “little boys without toys,” refuses to wear her brown pants, and often says something is “for boys” or “for girls.” She doesn’t get this from us, she doesn’t get this from our extended family, our community, and we limit television with commercials so it’s not like it’s being hammered into her head from there.
Emerson is at an age where she is very curious, and very aware. She realizes that there is a difference between herself and her male friends, between my adult body and her child one, between me and Daddy. She asks questions, and we provide her with honest answers as simply as we can so she can understand. We explain how being a boy or a girl or our different bodies don't determine what we can and can't do or like. Emerson doesn’t believe that because she is a girl she can’t be strong or smart or a leader or brave. But at this age she finds comfort in surrounding herself in pink, reading about fairies and mermaids and princesses, and being as feminine as she knows how to be.
And we are not stopping her. We believe a female can be whatever she wants to be, and if she wishes to wear all pink, don tutus and crowns for a trip to the grocery store, and prefer a play kitchen over a train set who are we to judge? Emerson is not an adult, but she is old enough to know what she likes, to make choices, to see options and weigh them. And if she is making this decision without external pressures, we respect it. We also believe that who she is at this age isn't necessarily who she will be in five years… or even five weeks.
Where is this coming from, Alison? Well, it seems in an attempt to stop gender stereotypes, some have gone in the complete opposite direction. Along with one-upping on the playground or Facebook with whose child eats a more nutritious/organic/varied diet and who potty trained/communicated elimination first, there's now the competition of whose child is the most immune to stereotypical gender roles. How about we stop basing our self-worth on how impressive our little children are to casual acquaintances? No matter the gender, some kids just really like fairy tales and the color pink. And there’s many a successful, powerful, and confident woman who loved herself baby dolls and play kitchens when she was little. Let kids be individuals and find themselves, it’s the best thing we can teach our children, no matter their gender.