But I decided that my daughter would be taught that girls and boys can share interests and talents. She has been given tea sets and cars, Batman action figures and Barbie dolls.
Unfortunately, I can't get the Enlightened Parent of the Twenty-first Century award just yet. Even though she scooted a Batmobile around as a toddler, seven-year-old Boo told me recently that she's "just not that interested in her Batman toys anymore." Or her Star Wars toys. Or the box of cars that sits in the top of her closet.
In fact, she spends most of her playtime with dress up, jewelry, play food, and baby dolls.
What has surprised me, however, is that my seventeen-month-old son has gained his education from his big sister. Once he started scooting and crawling, he learned to reach for one of Boo's bright pink tea cups. Ji would turn the cup every direction, examining it with his wide eyes and slobbery mouth. As he became more mobile, he began to spend most of his playtime cooking with Boo's pots and pans and plastic foods. He had become jealous of Boo's attention to her babies, so we even bought him his own baby doll.
I'm not sure what all of this means for gender roles. I don't believe that girls are "sugar and spice and everything nice" because I've known a lot of girls who were snotty and mean. Boys can't really be made of "snakes and snails and puppy dog tails" because that's just disgusting. Snakes are cool. Snails are okay. But puppy dog tails? Really? I've never shaken the image of dozens of little puppies' tails severed to mix into a giant pot of boy.
I heard recently about a couple in England who decided to raise their child as gender neutral for the first five years. The mother called gender stereotyping "stupid" and compared gender roles to horoscopes in limiting personality characteristics. Considering the number of times "like a girl" was used as an insult against me as a child, part of me wants to agree with her. But, I just can't believe it. I'm too attached to my femininity. I feel like it is most of what makes me who I am. And it seems to be the same for my daughter.
Boo has finally decided that pink is no longer her favorite color. (I'm a little relieved. So much pink can really get to a parent.) She's decided that she prefers turquoise. She assured me that "there are no girl or boy colors; they're all just colors."
At least there's something in that.