Pink Strollers vs Monster Trucks

I recently read a debate on a public forum where mothers were discussing whether it was appropriate for their boys to be playing with dolls and toy strollers, pink or otherwise.

The arguments on either side were fairly simple. One side put the choice onto their husbands, who apparently would rather their toddlers were playing with footballs and toy cars, and felt uncomfortable with their manly babies being exposed to too much pink. The other side took the banning of ‘girl toys’ to be the parents way of bringing up mini chauvinists, who would shun both cooking and childcare, and treat their future wives as second class citizens.

I was particularly interested to note that from what I saw, no-one was making the argument that it simply doesn’t matter. Toys are toys. No one was insisting that your son either cooking up a frenzy in a plastic kitchen, or angrily causing mini car pile-ups has no effect on what kind of boy or man they will become.

So does it? Personally I found the conversation slightly ridiculous. If your son wants a buggy, let him have one, If you can find a blue one, great. Otherwise, get the pink one!  The idea that by your child playing with a fake baby they are going to be anything less than a “proper boy” is frankly ludicrous, and yes, as I saw one mother say, bordering on homophobia. Pretend play, which includes feeding a fake baby, cuddling it, kissing teddies, and taking care of a toy in a nurturing way, is an important developmental milestone which every child, male or female should be experiencing and indulging in.

Just in case anyone needs any help working out what is worrying male behaviour, it includes wearing female undergarments and recognising shoe designers by the heel size. Your toddler is simply learning and growing. In my opinion, there is no difference between your son hugging his Action man and hugging his sister’s Barbie doll.

On the other hand, I also had to stifle a laugh at the mothers who are rallying against the wife-beaters of tomorrow. If for whatever reason, our sons do not end up with buggies and dolls, because they are simply not interested or perhaps because we can’t all afford to indulge this weeks interest, I think there are far more important ways of showing them how to grow up to be well rounded and sensitive men. You want your son to know how to cook, even without a plastic kitchen? So take him into the full sized one and let him pour the flour. You want your baby boy to be a hands-on father, then lead by example and be the kind of dad that inspires that behaviour in his kids. Shoving a pink plastic buggy in front of him isn’t going to make him a nurturing parent, any more than it will make him gay to be frank. Both concerns seem to me to be rooted in social ignorance. This idea can only be reinforced when you realise how little you worry that your daughters enjoy playing with cars and planes.

On a personal level, after an afternoon at a public stay and play, where R spent an hour cuddling and feeding a baby doll, I decided to get him his own. Due to his sight, his developmental play has been somewhat behind, and this was the first instance of pretend play I had seen him take part in. I was delighted. We got him a blue ‘boy’ doll, (as if he knows the difference) and a pink stroller, mainly because it was cost-effective and cute looking. He loves putting the baby’s clothes on and off, taking him for walks in the stroller, and giving him cuddles and kisses.

Just in case that worries anyone, he also loves throwing the baby against the wall, building towers on its face, and discussing the football scores with him at length. At least that’s what I assume his babbling must be when he chats to it. They are both boys after all.

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It’s a … Baby!

When I was pregnant with R, a million moons ago, it is no secret that C and I had a slight difference of opinion about whether we wanted a pink or a blue bundle.

Yes yes, I know, every baby is a blessing, and the main thing is that our precious bump was born healthy, but once you’re past that obvious wish that strikes your heart unawares when holding the pregnancy test and feeling like an omnipotent being for actually creating the potential of a person, you have 9 months left where the last thing you want to be thinking about is all the things that may cause your baby not to be healthy. A far less frightening conversation, is the prospect of football vs barbie dolls.

Somewhat unusually given the self centred nature of humankind, and in fact reproduction itself, I was desperate for a boy, and my better half had his heart set on a girl.

In order not to go into the delivery room with this split, and so that I never had to ask my husband the frankly awkward question of whether he was happy or not on the arrival of our firstborn child, we agreed to find out the only secret of pregnancy at our midway scan.

This didn’t bother either of us, as we are both of the opinion that having a ‘surprise’ to end off the pregnancy is a bit odd to begin with. Let’s put it this way, if and when they have the ability of telling you any other information about your child, I’m sure we all wouldn’t treat the data as anywhere near as sacred. Height? Weight? Hair Colour? GSOH? -shrugs- It just doesn’t really matter either way does it? We personally feel the same way about gender. Whichever way, we’re happy. Yes, we both have a preference, so why not find out, and then we can stop wondering and get down to the intricacies of the more important Big Naming Conversation.

Just as a side point, there is nothing more annoying than people who say “Oh no, we don’t want to find out, we just care that the baby is healthy.” I’m sorry, do you know something that we don’t? There is absolutely no correlation between finding out your baby’s sex and its current health. It will not make your baby either more or less healthy if you keep the gender a secret between God and the sonographer until it’s appearance. It doesn’t make you care about your unborn child more than those of us who choose to find out. It’s just a preference! By all means, enjoy having less information for 4 months more than we did, but please just say “We wanted a surprise” or “We didnt want to find out.”  Gesundheit.

Anyway, so as I was saying, we decided to put the mystery to an end at our 20 week scan, and were told in no uncertain terms that we were bringing a tiny man into the world. One look at my emotional husband and I knew I never would have had to ask the awkward question in the first place. We were both excited and overjoyed.

20 months later, and it looks like the joke was on me. My son is about as masculine as a pink fluffy pillow. He has the thickest curliest fastest growing hair of any child I know, he can only sit happily if he knows that all his toys have been tidied away and put in their right place. He hates mud, sand, or any form of stickiness or dirt, and he simply stands and looks terribly sad when faced with any form of provocation or bullying. He loves cuddles, he adores his baby doll and its pushchair, and to be honest? We just wouldn’t have him any other way.

I don’t want to feel better.

Pet peeve of the day. Consolation.

Maybe I’m being a bit ridiculous, but I genuinely dont want to be made to feel better. At least not the way you think.

There is a verse which says “Do not comfort your friend while his dead lie before him.” The point being, it doesnt help. No one wants to be made to feel better when an event or situation is still current or raw. A good friend will not actively try to comfort, but rather just listen and be sympathetic, which in my opinion makes a much more substantial difference to how you’re feeling.

One of the most grating sentences ever uttered is, “may that be the worst thing that ever happens to u!” This tends to be said when you’re particularly upset over an event which may not be in truth, earth shatteringly important. No one has died, no great financial loss has been incurred. But do you know what? I’m still upset.
What is basically belittling my sadness and telling me the equivalent of ‘worse things happen,’ is not only ridiculous (because yes, of course worse things happen than missing my bus / losing my oyster card / waiting half an hour for a tardy friend [can you tell I don’t drive?]) but frankly unhelpful. Did you think I was going to jump out of my misery, exclaiming “wow, I forgot about all those starving kids in Africa, I’ll cheer up now”?
Aside from the uselessness of that comment, it is also extremely condecsending. It suggests that nothing more important has ever happened in your life that could compete with your trauma of the day. Which is obviously not true. You dont need a degree in sociology to be aware that it’s the little things which throw us into a tailspin of moodiness, wheras real life crisis normally summons strength and composure we didnt know we possessed.

It seems to be obvious and so easy to me that when someone is upset, they genuinely just want to hear, “I’m so sorry, that must be so hard for you.” Whether a big life event or a trivial occurence, if someone is in a bad mood, that’s the way it is! Why should we have to be ‘talked out’ of it?

I’ve found that a lot more men are guilty of this than women. I think this theory heads back to caveman times. Men, as ‘Hunter-Gatherer-Provider’ types, have an inbuilt desire to ‘fix’ problems. Even when there is nothing to fix. Most of the time, when us poor ‘Frail Weak’ woman types have a problem, all we really want is a shoulder to cry on. Someone to tell us that we look pretty and offer to punch whoever/whatever was mean to us. (Calm down feminists, I’m hyperbolising, but you get my point.) When men cant fix, they get jittery at being asked to use their more emotional side to -Gasp- listen to us and be sympathetic.. so they tend to keep trying to fix, long after it’s clear they can’t unburn the lasagne for you, and you just need a good wail.

I’m sure I dont speak for all people-kind. I suppose there are folks out there who hate even the smallest amount of wallowing, and would prefer to be snapped out of their bad moods immediately upon occurence, and if a solution is out there, they want everyone in their lives on ‘fixing mode’ until it’s sorted.

I will have to apologize to you for my generalisation via this blog, as I wouldnt want to meet with that much good-naturedness face to face.

SPD.. Sibling Personality Disorder

I have been part of almost every concievable family structure. With two older brothers, I am a youngest child, and have been known to be spoilt, selfish, highly competitive and ambitious. Being my late fathers only offspring, and being the only kid at home from the age of 9 (on and off) I am only child and oldest child rolled into one. This explains the bossiness, the perfectionism, the importance of my friends to me, and the leadership capabilities. For a short while in my life, I inherited a ready made step family, and became middle child. (My least favourite of the bunch.) I suppose that can explain the tags of insecurity and strong desire to sort out conflict. I’m yet to discover any long lost twin.

There is a lot of discussion on whether your placement in your family and the gaps between siblings makes a difference in how you grow up. If the gaps are too small, will the oldest feel ignored? If the gaps are too big will he be spoilt? If you wait a bit longer will the youngest be babied? If you have an odd number will one feel left out?

Personally I find all these theories a little laughable. If you scour the web, you will find lists of great leaders who are only children or firstborns, serial killers who were middle kids, and nobodies claiming this is down to their youngest placement in their family. If I wanted to I’m sure I could find enough personalities in the world to prove the exact opposite can also be true. I believe that the only part that a childs place in the family can play is the expectations they have on their own personalities and the way society expects them to treat themselves.

Any other explanation surely takes away your own free choice to be the person you want to be. If you are going to blame your pitfalls on your number in the household, your successes must be given the same source. Instead, take the responsibility on yourself. Worried that your bossiness as oldest child is holding you back? Change it. Take a step back, try and let others take the lead. Ignored as a middle child? Find where you shine and grab it with both hands.

As for parents, I think the desire to blame the shortcomings of your children on anything and everything outside of yourself can be too strong. Some situations are certainly harder to deal with, as I often feel when I see people who have incredibly small gaps or many multiple births. But the way your kids are brought up, and the way they get along with one another, is nothing to do with the age gaps or placement. It is everything to do with the way you bring them up and the morals and guidelines which they live their life with. One of the reasons I could watch Jo Frost supernanny all day every day, is how she almost always sorts out the famillies she visits by transforming the parents outlook and actions.

When I was younger, my eldest brother used to play games with me. Imagination play, board games, teaching me things.. I loved having such an older brother. Over 11 years between us meant that no matter how ‘young’ he really was, he always seemed grown up to me. I even forgave him most of the time for the deadpan lies he ‘taught’ me and encouraged me to repeat to friends and family. Boys.

My point is that the eleven year gap didnt and doesnt make a difference in terms of closeness. Similarly, I know many siblings with ‘perfect’ 2 or 3 year age gaps who can’t bear to be in the same room as each other. I think there is too much pressure. Only you know what is right for your family, and only you have to live and deal with your own children. We are told that Yaakov and Esav were brought up exactly the same way, and yet one grew up evil and one good. This shows us that you are not meant to do exactly the same for each child, and even two kids growing up at the same time with the same treatment can grow up as polar opposites.

As I have been blessed with so many different family types in one, maybe I am looking at everything too simply. But in my eyes at least, the only ‘personality syndrome’ that comes from your family structure, are the ones that you give yourselves.

Thoughts?