Toys vs. Gender (How I Plan to Parent)

This morning started just like any other Thursday. My alarm went off to the rousing tune of “Dancing in The Streets”. I felt like staying in the sheets. So…I did. Then, it went off again, and I felt a little guilty for telling Martha to shove off. Then, I finally faced reality and pulled myself out of bed. My work won’t do itself. The students won’t teach themselves.  But it’s too bad about the some work things though. Take for instance, house work. One day, if my vacuum comes to life, Beauty and the Beast style, I wouldn’t complain.

After a hot second of panic after noticing a text from my husband, I settled back down. He needed something and I had time to run it to him at work before being late for my own.

The dogs were still snuggled in their downstairs beds. It’s raining, so they park it nicely downstairs until they dry.

But one thing you have to understand about my home, is that there are toys everywhere. And as much as I try in vain to contain them in their respective “cat” and “dog” baskets, it doesn’t work. They are everywhere.

I have three boys and two girls. And it freaks people out to tell them, “yes, we have five children…” and then, Barney Stinson and wait for it, “they all have tails.” If you want to see the facial expressions of nosy strangers change in less than two seconds flat, pull that on them. It works well.

This morning, I saw something that I’ve seen in the past, but I never thought much about it. And it might be that I’m overthinking it now.

I opened the bathroom door to find our youngest cat in the hall with a dog bone. Not a soft toy, not a squeaky toy, no.. a rawhide.

Kip is a gray and white tiger stripped kitty. We got him in August, 2014 at ten weeks old. He’s quite the robust little dude, weighing in at almost sixteen pounds. He chases anything and will bring balls back. He plays fetch like a dog. He sleeps either on my husband and me or in the middle between us.

This morning, he was not only “holding” the rawhide, but he was also chewing on it.

“What are you doing big man?” I asked. And as a pet mom, I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty, that they will answer me.

Kip rolled onto his back, giving me his best “cute boy”. I scratched his tummy and walked down the hall, ready to leave.

I drove into town laughing a little about Kip and his chew bone.

And I wondered why I didn’t take it away from him. There was no “real” reason for him not to have it. The dogs take the cats’ toys enough.

Is there a rule for toys? What belongs to whom? Why?

Is there a reason a dog toy “can’t” be a cat toy?

I don’t remember ever being told that I couldn’t play with a toy because it was a “boys'” toy.

I had trucks. I had Matchbox cars. I had a cash register (that I used often to ring up products at my various stores). I had toys of all shapes and sizes. I had art supplies.

So, when did I learn gender?

I don’t have an answer to this. But I do know that is a social construction and I know that in my own ways, I subscribe to it.

But there are also some things that I understand quite well.

Toys don’t have gender lines.

If a girl wants to have trucks, she ought to have trucks. And if a boy wants a doll, he ought to have a doll.

And there are many people that might disagree with me. I can hear their voices now “how’s ya’s gonna teach ’em to be a boy?” Or, “girls need to learn how to be girls.” Well, for starters, I plan on teaching them to love. To love themselves and their family. Then, I plan to teach them equality. Girls that “drive” toy trucks grow up and have interests in the way things work. Girls that dig in the mud and get dirty grow up to be archaeologists and run the Smithsonian. And boys that play with dolls become great soccer coaches. They teach grade school. And both of them grow up to be the kind of people that worry more about others than pink versus blue toys.

I hate cooking and can’t sew much. But somehow, miraculously, I am still alive. I’ve never developed an interest in some things that are stereotypical “female” interests, and I am perfectly okay with it.

Call me crazy, but it doesn’t make sense to start children out in life by limiting what they can do before they even have fully developed senses of self.

And when I have children, human ones, they will have toys of all shapes and sizes.

And I’ll keep an extra chew bone nearby for those that don’t like it if my son plays with a doll or my daughter has trucks.

And I can present my chew bone to my critics and tell them what to do with it.

“Chew on it. And while you’re at it, bite your tongue. Like, for real.”

That’ll keep the critics distracted, me from the doghouse, and my children from the narrow minded.

Trucks and dolls still intact.





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