One thing that I have noticed at the day care lately is just how lopsided the toy distribution is. We have cars, trucks,trains and planes. We have dinosaurs and bugs. We have tools and action figures, and a whole bunch of play equipment.
If I had to guess I would say some 70% of the toys at the day care lean towards what would be considered masculine toys. Another 20% would have no leaning, leaving only a few dolls to occupy the stereotypical girl toy position.
However all this changes when we open the dress up drawer.
When Meghan was collection supplies for the day care she got a couple great finds. A large Thomas the Tank Engine play set, a huge bag of plastic dinosaurs, and a garbage bag full of really impressive dress costumes. Girl dress costumes that is, save for one Harry Potter cape.
Today Hannah asked to put on a princess dress. While I was getting her set up Simeon came bounding over wanting to dress up too. He reached in to the dress up drawer and out came a white, flowery, dress/skirt thing. It sort of reminding me of a wedding dress.
Now I pride myself on being a ‘modern man’ so to speak. You know the drill; sensitive, does their share of the chores, good with kids, not afraid to cry etc. I won’t lie helping Sim dress up in this challenged me to see just how modern I was.
I didn’t like it.
After he and Hannah plopped on their costumes off they ran to play with the plastic dinosaurs. They growled and fought, they collided the toys into each other, swinging their tails back and forth. It was pure Jurassic war.
I was taken back by what I was seeing. I just had to stop and watch. Then it hit me. Neither of them had any idea that they both were doing something they ‘weren’t supposed to’. Simeon didn’t get the memo that said boys can’t dress up, and Hannah didn’t know that girls don’t growl with T-Rex’s. They were just having fun playing games with each other.
I thought for a moment what it would be like to still be that free. I constantly worry about what others think of me, of what I am doing and of what I am saying. Most of my job, and some of my hobbies live or die on my ability to in someway meet the approval of others. I rarely feel free.
But self esteem, and being self conscious are bigger people problems. They have not yet invaded my son’s world. And for that I am grateful. So today let him play, because it won’t be to long before the weight of what others think will begin to weigh on him too. Maybe by then I will have remembered what it means not to care, so I can show him on that day what he showed me today.