On the school run, buggy in hand, toddler enjoying a breadstick snack I see the eyes of an elderly women fix upon my little one and she makes a beeline in our direction. It is a scene played out across the country daily, she 'coos' and 'ahhhhs' and makes comments on how adorable my little one is. We have stopped just alongside a building site where a large team are finishing the car park of a new hotel. The lady stops cooing and starts pointing out the diggers to my toddler, who, in turn, glares back after being interrupted during snack time.
'Oh dear,' lady in question responds, 'I thought all little boys like diggers, never mind.' And she strolls on.
As I continue on my journey the conversation plays over in my head... a fairly innocent conversation perhaps, yet so many things feel wrong- to begin with my toddler is A GIRL. She is not dressed in pink today, her top knot has fallen out leaving a mass of blond hair over her elfin features and she had chosen welly boots from the 'boys' section- because she likes them. I often correct people, joke about her boots and comment that 'yes it can be misleading' but this is the forth time this week and you know what- I am a little bored. I realise i am lucky to live in a friendly neighbourhood, where strangers stop to chat, but the gender assumption is becoming a little much.
I have been blessed with two little girls. When my eldest was born I had clear visions in my head of avoiding gender stereotyping. I bought her beautifully crafted wooden toys and avoided pink plastic like the plague, but you know what? As soon as little S learnt to speak all she wanted was pink. She refused to wear anything unless it was pink, she wanted pink dolls houses for her birthday and pink kitchens for Christmas, and of course I am not going to refuse her these things on a technicality. Then four years later when little O arrived there was an obvious shift in personality. Shy, unlike her sister, and very mummy oriented it took a while before I identified exactly what she was into. But once she started talking she pointed out the vehicles, the cars, the buses, the helicopters. O likes blue- she chooses clothes in the 'boys section' and if she is happy wearing them then good for her. As for the strangers presumption that 'all boys like diggers' well you know what- they don't! But my little GIRL does (perhaps not during snack time though)!
As we approach the festive season I have begun my Christmas shopping, all online of course as who can face shopping with a toddler? As I surf various websites to buy things for nephews and nieces I am always directed to either 'boys' or 'girls', but does it have to be this way? Is it not time we accepted that girls like trucks and boys like dolls? A well meaning relative approached me with the question, as I ranted on the subject of, why is O always labelled a boy when she is not dressed in pink, 'If you had had a boy, would you be so open to them wearing clothes from the girls section? If he wanted a skirt would you buy him one?' I thought carefully before I replied- I considered the obvious, would I be setting him up for bullying if I agreed to it? But you know what, if that's what he wanted, if he felt good about himself in it, and if he was happy then yes, of course- he could wear what he wanted too. If we continue to live in a world where we fear the haters and conform to what is 'normal' then 'normal' will never actually be normal at all- it will be a world where we can never truly be ourselves, never truly be happy. As we raise the next generation, instead of teaching them old fashioned methods- can we alternatively instil that, wear what you want and like what you like and encourage others to do the same. After all, if we were all identical, what a boring world it would be! It is our differences that make us human, let's embrace them!