I’ve always encouraged the girls in their gender neutrality. They’ve got more toy cars than Barbie dolls and Allie is more interested in joining a soccer team than taking ballet classes. Don’t get me wrong, they are girly as all get out with their costume trunk full of princess dresses and tiaras, but I’m proud of them for not being exclusively feminine in their play. I’ve discovered this is easier to accomplish with girls than boys as evidenced by my brother-in-law’s horrified reaction when I offered the girls’ old dollhouse to my nephew. It’s interesting how hard wired some gender preferences are though – something I didn’t believe until witnessing said nephew finding only the traditionally boy-oriented toys while playing in Allie and Avery’s room. At the ripe age of 15 months, he knew that driving the dump truck over the baby dolls lined up on the floor was preferable to something so mundane as feeding those dolls their pretend bottles. Brother-in-law swells with appropriate pride to witness his son’s inherent manliness.
I wavered in my open-mindedness this evening. One of my candles spilled its scented wax over the confines of its trivet into a Rorschach blob on my end table. The girls were intrigued and the wax was long dried and cooled, so I broke off some pieces and said they could play pretend with them. Allie instantly took her “Fresh Linen” scented clump, aimed it at me and made gun noises that my onomatopoeic skills are not up to emulating. Though I live in Texas, I’m not a gun enthusiast and have not so much as touched a gun, much less mimed matricide for pretend.
Allie spent the entirety of our Colorado vacation playing with her 9-year-old cousin Jacob, so I knew she probably picked it up from him. And I know she is aware of my stance on guns as when we pass by even the water guns at Wal-Mart I hear a chorus of “Guns are bad. Guns hurt people,” from the shopping cart. I felt that reiterating my political beliefs would not be the wise parenting choice at this particular moment, so recalling overheard discussions with friends who are mothers to boys, I simply resigned myself to her imagination and told her to not shoot her wax gun at real people.
“Okay, Mommy!” was the subsequent chorus trailing back to me as the girls ran to their room to play with their new toys. Avery had already fashioned her wax bit into a tiara. I sat here alternately wondering if they were going to have a shoot out in their bedroom and how easy it would be to vacuum up the candle crumbs after their waxy bits disintegrated during their play session.
Our apartment is large for an apartment, but it’s still an apartment and one of the best parts of our compact living space is that I can hear them no matter where I am. Sitting at the computer, tagging pictures from our Colorado trip, I heard the girls in their room with the door closed as they morphed their melted candle entrails according to the whims of their imagination. I expected gunshots to be volleyed back and forth and was committed to thinking more about how to parent my budding NRA members. Instead, I heard one or two shots “fired” by Allie, and then an excited “Let’s play hospital now!”
Apparently, my “Guns hurt people.” mantra has sunk in and they spent the next 15 minutes triaging and treating Care Bear’s gunshot wound. Avery gave him a shot and an x-ray. Allie said his blood was type “G” which meant the gun hurt his “intextans” so she would have to cut him open and sew them up so his poop would come out okay. (Did I mention Allie is also fascinated with medicine and anatomy?)
I’m glad I didn’t overreact to the initial appearance of the gun, or I might have missed out on the ensuing medical drama that they invented in its wake. I forget sometimes how expansive their imaginations are and how quickly one scenario evolves into a totally different one. I’m finally enjoying the fruits of my parenting labor by seeing them recall my teachings without any prompting or prodding. A big family lecture on guns and violence wasn’t necessary; a non-dramatic reminder was sufficient to steer their play without inhibiting their creativity. Boys or girls regardless, they’re good kids and I am so proud that not only have I taught them values, but they’ve learned them as well.
But just to end the night on the right note, we’re having the frilliest of frilly slumber parties tonight. Hair will be curled, frosted blue eye shadow will be adorned, tiaras will be placed just so, and we’ll follow it all with a photo shoot and cupcakes. Because nothing is as empowering as baked goods and mascara. -April 26, 2007