Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Stereotypical Boychild I Never Thought I'd Have

I'm surrounded by things with wheels.

Seriously, if I look around my apartment I can count probably 1,000 wheels if not more.

We found out Aias was a boy halfway through my pregnancy.  I thought this was great because we are such open-minded people and I thought for sure we could take on the project of raising a boy who played with all toys, whether society deemed them "for boys" or "for girls."  He would be gender-neutral, open to all things, and totally not a stereotypical boy because of his super socially aware parents (us!).  We figured the universe is always sending little boys who want to wear dresses and little girls who wouldn't dream of it to conservative parents who won't have it, so instead, the universe could send one of those kids to us.  Right? Right?

When we started buying Aias toys, we kept an open mind. He had blocks, trucks, dolls, toy food, a stroller to push his dolls in, a mini dollhouse set, toys that were pink, toys that were blue.  We sat down with him and tried to play with them all the toys with equal enthusiasm.  We did crafts, we played house, we did it all.

At 13 months old Aias was given his first toy train.  It was love at first sight.  It was also the love that has yet to die.

After he got the train, all he would say is "choo choo!" Everything with wheels was suddenly the epitome of all he deemed worthy.  No wheels, no interest.  Things like blocks and lego were ok, but only because they can make cars and trains, or they can become roads and tracks for cars and trains, or they can become places for cars and trains to park.

We kept pushing and encouraging other things, but if it didn't have wheels, it didn't have his interest.  Trucks, construction vehicles, cars, and above all, trains.  Boats and planes slowly became acceptable as well, I think probably because of the engine noises.

When started going to drop-in groups when he was around 2, Aias consistently made a bee-line for anything with wheels.  Baby dolls, wheel-less and engine-less, stayed largely ignored.  I handed him a doll a few times, showing him how the doll could be a passenger in a car, and he asked me "Where the wheels?"

No matter what we did, Aias only wanted to play with stereotypical boy toys, and it started to drive me crazy.  I knew and know, damn well, that cave people did not have toy cars.  Aias did not have a drive toward engines in his blood, did he? Not possible, I figured.  I kept up with getting him toys that were "intended for girls" as well as toys that were "intended for boys."  The "girl toys" have since gone largely untouched, except for when well, a girl comes over.

I was pretty alarmed by this for a while.  I was worried we were somehow imposing this on him and that this was a detriment to his development and overall personality.  I was worried we were somehow subconsciously creating a stereotypical male child out of a "blank slate" of a child that we felt we had in the beginning. My worst fear, of course, was that we were creating a human being that would perpetuate a stereotype.

The truth is, I have no idea why my kid is obsessed with wheels and trains. I have no idea why he thinks dolls are boring.  But one thing I'm certain of is, we never had a "blank slate" to work with.  We weren't "creating" a human being, we were just nurturing one.  For whatever reason, this kid is who he is and he likes what he likes.  We can't force him to like anything, all we can do is expose him to as many things as possible so that he's given an opportunity to choose what he likes. And if what he likes is vehicles, then that's what he likes.

Personally, I feel pretty neutral about cars and trains.  I happen to be female, but I don't think that's why I feel this way. It's just who I am.   In Aias's opinion, they are the most beautiful and magical things ever.   As his parent, all I can do is respect that, and get over any weird guilt I may have around his interests.  It was never within my control in the first place.  Finally, I have to remember it's not my responsibility to try and encourage him to go against a stereotype that has existed long before he was born in some futile effort to change the world through him because in this case asking him to do that would be asking him to go against himself and what he truly enjoys.
Watching a cement mixer pour cement, as though it's the most fabulous thing in the world. 

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