When my girl turned three, Granny, Granny’s sister, and Granny’s mom joined forces and bought a pink extravaganza. There was a little baby doll, and a little baby diaper bag, and even a little diaper for the baby. There was also some princess stuff, like a tiara, and a necklace, and a wand (maybe she was a fairy and not a princess? It’s a thin line) and clip-on earrings, and a dress, and of course, my girl’s first high heels.
With disbelief, I watched my little baby stumble on her new heels from one side of the room to the other. She was happy because it was her birthday, and because she got the attention and the presents, and because…
Or maybe she was happy because of these particular presents. Maybe she liked her new purse heels tiara earrings bracelet necklace.
When it comes to the debate between nature and nurture, I strongly stand behind the latter. I believe girls like pink princesses because they’re told they’re supposed to like them, and that by the age of 3, this stuff is so ingrained in their heads, that there’s no turning back. Tell a three year old girl that boys can play with dolls, and she’ll think you’re being silly. Tell a boy that the birthday party goody bag with the Cars stickers actually goes to his sister, and he’ll know you’re joking. We teach them this stuff from the moment they’re born, and then when they exhibit the behavior we’ve taught them, we say triumphantly, “See? Girls ARE different than boys! Hey, can’t fight nature.”
Don’t get me wrong: as much as I believe girls learn to love pink stuff, and are not born to tea-party, I don’t care THAT much. I mean, my girl looked happy in her high heels, and that was the only thing that mattered at the moment. And look at her with Great-Grandma, dressing up her new baby doll.
But a few days later, I did gently confront Granny, my wife’s mom.
“It’s OK to get her this pink princess stuff,” I said, “but she needs balance. If you buy her pink stuff, maybe buy her some other, non-pink stuff too? Just to teach her there’s more to a girl’s life than princesses and dolls.”
And I thought I was being fair, until my mother-in-law said, “I get this stuff to balance your time with her.”
Which made me feel defensive at first, but then I realized it actually made perfect sense. I’m a stay-at-home dad of a girl who spends most of her day with me. And what does she do with me? We play basketball and soccer together, we go on hikes, we play with Lego and with puzzles… There’s nothing “girly” about my girl most of the time. I haven’t even put her in a dress in the three years of dressing her up in the morning. I don’t do it on purpose–I don’t try to stop her from being who she wants to be or to push her into being anything she doesn’t want to be. I like to play soccer with my kids, and the fact that she’s a girl shouldn’t stop me.
So that was quite the eye-opener. Is it possible that the pink stuff is not something I should fight against, but something I should embrace, as hard as it is to do, since it keeps the balance I want for my girl? Maybe when she walks around with her little purse like she’s Paris freakin’ Hilton, I can take a step back and let her do her thing. And when she’s done walking back and forth with her purse, I’ll throw a plastic ball on her head, and watch her laugh as she falls, gets back up, and kicks the ball back to me.
Speaking of balance, here’s her birthday cake. We asked her what she wanted on her cake, and she said, “Princess.” We agreed, but said she had to have something else there, for a balance. Which is how we ended up with this…
My girl, the sometimes-princess.