Book Stacks and Train Tracks

Owen spent the day after his second birthday sprawled on the living room floor in pajamas, surrounded by new legos, train tracks, and matchbox cars. Addie and I spent a lazy morning at the library, browsing our favorite series’ and reading stacks of books in the children’s area. Each kid found flow in their activities – a sweet spot of focus and joy in the doing. Their passions for life reassure me they both will end up happy humans. But how stereotypical are the activities that drive them?

My girl is in her element among the book stacks, my boy in building train tracks.

I hear it about them all the time: such a boy, such a girl. I’ve long questioned society’s insistence on forced gender roles. I have concerns all over the place about the backlash of exaggerated male and female stereotypes. My privilege is kicking me in the face, but growing up as a feminine tomboy in a progressive family in northern CA, I have never bought the ideals of manly men and weak women.

And then I had a GIRL and a BOY who, from the time they could express a mere hint of an opinion, became all girly and all boyish.

I cannot deny the cliché differences in their physical ability. Addie, my little klutz to this day, lazily army crawled on her bony elbows for an eternity. She took first steps at 14 months but remained unsteady (at best) for another year. Owen, on the other hand, was born with the innate desire to move. The first time he stood up, he recognized it to be the key to walking; I saw the eureka moment on his face. Confident running and jumping followed before long.

Everyone tells me how active their boys are, compared to their girls. I hate it when the masses are right.

Never one for conformity, I kept Baby Addie’s pink princesses to a minimum. But she spoke complete sentences pretty early and demanded what she wanted (all the time). Now she collects jewelry, stickers, and little decoupaged boxes full of pretty rocks. When Owen was born we had one little set of cars and a few balls. We now have 6,000 vehicles and buckets of balls that he races and chucks daily.

My girl wants her dollhouse and my boy wants his garbage truck.

Not one to buy into the pink vs blue consumerism, I passed on all the baby onesies that said “feed me and tell me I’m pretty ” or “ladies man”. Still, neither of them was ever mistaken for the opposite gender. Now that they pick out their own clothes, they are walking stereotypes. Owen with his signature skull and crossbones trucker hat. Addie in hot pink (her “favorite pink”) and sparkles.

My girl plays with makeup, and my boy runs around shirtless with tangled hair.

While I refuse to reinforce these stereotypes, or ever question what they should or can do because of their biologically assigned gender, I rarely steer their interests. I try to guide them towards more of what makes them happy, where they can find flow. They are little humans with agendas of their own.

Some days the division works out well for everyone. Owen played for hours that day, with his new birthday toys. Addie read all of her books with anyone available, and alone. We all reconnected to watch a movie. They went to bed happy that night, my girl in heart pajamas, and my boy in fire trucks.

Venn Diagram
“Hi, this is a Venn Diagram.  We’re still developing the McSorley Diagram.” – Kevin McSorley

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