Have you ever had your joy squashed by someone else? You mention your excitement about an upcoming concert, and your co-worker sort of questions why you would want to see that performer. You order your favourite salad at a restaurant and your friend side-eyes you as the waiter writes it down. You’re shopping for a new skirt and your mom continuously tries to veer you away from a beloved style. Suddenly you feel self-conscious about your own joys. You start thinking; are there any joys I have that are ‘normal’? Sure, what may be joyful to you, may not be to someone else, but it does not make enjoying it wrong, as long as it does no harm to others. Nor does it make it abnormal. It’s what makes the world go ’round. If we all chose the same joys, likes and passions, we would live in a rather flat world. If we never ventured out of our comfort zone we would never grow, and never learn. If we don’t take risks, there will never be progress. If Magellan had not risked sailing over the edge of the world, we may never have believed we live on a sphere.
Most passions, or loves, come naturally to us. We show our likes very soon in life. My own children have kindly proved this to me. Peach showed a love of colours and art from a very young age. Little Pea on the other hand loves dirt and sand and water and our bean bin, but couldn’t be bothered to really colour, unless that included dumping the crayons on the ground, and then nibbling on them. Now these things did not shock me, as I am the one who introduced these joys to my children. I love to colour, and Peach picked that up. The bean bin was an idea I had to make indoor fun, just that – more fun. So it makes sense. That’s the nurture … but here is where even I get stumped.
Nature. Yes, I may have bought the little yellow truck for Little Pea, but only because he was launching himself at it! Personally I hide the loudest plastic toy once a week for a little peace and quiet! But Little Pea would push it for hours if I let him. I wonder what would happen if we combined the beans and the truck? Then there is Peach. Somewhere along the line she adopted this love of all things princess. She loves to wear pretty dresses and struggles when I insist that she wear something warmer, and finally settles on the purple tutu over the warm pants. I never introduced princesses to her. I have no issue with them, but they’re not something I really enjoyed as a child, so I left that out as a mommy. Peach also loves cars. Specifically Lightening McQueen. She is currently on a Dusty the Plane kick. I have been very careful to let her decide what she likes. (Although I have forced owls on her, as that was her nursery theme, as I still have a lot of adorable owl paraphernalia. I think she knows she making me happy – mm sweetheart!) I did fetch a few comments and side way glances when Peach was obsessed with Cars. I remember one lady in the Walmart saying to me “Too bad she’s going to be tomboy.” I didn’t respond, as I knew she was also in love with her froggie, and treated him like a baby. She also loved the colour purple. To me, this was her being well balanced.
Children don’t know the difference between what is meant to be ‘girl’s toy’ or a ‘boy’s sport’. They just play. Yet, it’s difficult to sit idly by as we watch them choose what is considered different. We fear our children will be bullied for their joys and passions, or will be pigeon-holed into a certain role. So to protect them we gently push them to make the right decision. But who are we to decide what is right for them? Unless their joy is playing in traffic or something equally dangerous, shouldn’t we embrace and even encourage these joys? The one thing I try to keep in mind is, usually our likes change, or alter, as we learn new things, adventure to new places and are introduced to different joys. What may be today, may not be tomorrow.
I do think little girls have a slightly easier time than little boys though. If a little girl loves cars, sports and all things deemed boy very few people will automatically place her in the ‘She’s going to be gay (Lesbian) category’. She is usually called a tomboy, and believed that in time she will outgrow this, and embrace her femininity. For little boys though, we protect them from that label. We steer them away from picking a tea set instead of a dinosaur in fear that other people will judge him. I want to say this now: If your little boy likes pink, or dolls, or any other girl joy, embrace it! If your son chooses in the far far future that he is Gay. Embrace him! As parents it is not our job to choose their joys or who they love. (well at least not in my culture) I understand the ‘I want to protect his feelings’ statement. No one wants to see their child bullied, or brought down by their peers. And let’s face it, we can teach our own children kindness, and no judgement, but it does not mean everyone is teaching their children this. What we need to teach on top of kindness, is conviction. So when little Joey heads to kindergarten show and tell with his new pink tea set, because we all know tea sets usually come in pink (a big shout out to Ikea for making their set pink, yellow, green and blue!) warn him that other children may ask why he’s playing with a ‘girl’s’ toy, and give him the conviction and intelligent responses he’s going to need. He’ll probably ask why a tea set is a ‘girl’s toy’ and my answer would be: Because a long time ago, way back when Nanny and Papa were teeny, only daddies went to work, and mommies stayed home and served tea. Now that everyone gets to go to work, or stay at home, people are still getting used to daddies serving tea. And might I add, your Papa – he makes great tea! So when they ask, you just say, I am serving tea like my Nanny & Papa do! I like tea. Would you like a cup too? Inviting the others to share in your joy will automatically make them reconsider their original ideas. Of course, they could just say no too – but that’s their loss. I have answers for a few other controversial toys, but I think it’s best to be creative. You will know what to say to your child that will ring true enough to them. If you’re stuck – feel free to ask!
Finally – why are we so afraid of our daughters loving being feminine? I understand that no one wants their daughter to be Cinderella – literally. Unless that means they’re performing as Cinderella for Disney or something alike. We want our daughters to have ambitions beyond finding a Prince. I wonder how Kate Middleton’s parents feel about this? I am pretty sure though that the seven year old who is mildly obsessed with Belle, or Ariel, or Sophia is not focusing on the end product. At that age most girls won’t even sit next to boy, let alone think about marrying him. Boys have cooties. So yes, little Leah may love to dress up, wear crowns, and twirl, but who wouldn’t? Have you ever twirled in a long gown? Exactly. It’s fun. Fun! Joyful! Good. One day that twirling blur of pink and sparkles will most likely trade in the princess look for preppy, grungy, mismatched, sporty or even just plain. She may stick with the pink, but really, who says doctors can’t wear pink scrubs? If your little girl is fully embracing this whole princess obsession I have one trick that may ease your mind too. I repeat this to myself frequently:
Your princess knows she’s beautiful. That’s a good thing. Only she can build her own esteem.
Others may help it grow, but it’s up to her to maintain it. In her princess get-up she feels she is able to conquer the world! *If I could have aced my exams because I was wearing a princess gown, super hero cape or clown nose, I would have!
It‘s a game.Yes. Just a game. She does not believe at the age of three, four, or five that Prince Charming is coming to rescue her. *If her obsession continues into her teenage years, she should understand by now that those are fairy tales, but to help her face reality, simply ask her if any young man she goes to school with carries a sword and always smells great. Chances of finding that combination is so slim, realty will kick in. Also, most princesses endure a lot of hardship before their prince arrives. Princes want to spend a lifetime with someone real, not just dressed pretty. Which brings me to my last mantra.
It’s easy to teach respect, kindness and goodwill to a princess. It’s what even the real princesses do. * Princess Diana was a kind, loving and dedicated woman. She was an excellent mother, a loving wife, hard working, and always giving of her time. She was also interesting and intelligent.
As adults we can use these lessons for ourselves. The next time you get the side-eye for ordering the Waldorf Salad, exclaim; “I can’t wait to eat my salad! If you’d like you can try a bite.” That passion and conviction will shut them up pretty fast. It’s hard to argue with conviction and positivity. When you’re feeling as though you cannot manage to get through a tough situation, throw on your favourite shoes, or dress and own your confidence. Respect other people’s joys. You may not share the same views, but it does not make those joys wrong. Teaching this respect will surely change a bit of the world. Lastly, be proud that your child is willing to risk stepping out of the norm – for when we reach out, we learn more, and experience more, and change the world. (that includes wearing a pink ball gown to the dentist)
I am going to step off my soap box now with one final point. If your son asks for one of those play kitchens, just remember 8 of the 10 top earning chefs are men!