Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gender Neutral

So. I've been thinking. And it turns out that I'm not as enlightened as I thought I was, I guess.

I am one of those secondary infertiles who meticulously saved most of my first child's things in desperate hopes of someday having another baby. I have a trunk full of clothes in zip-loc bags categorized by size and season. I have all of her wooden toys in bubble wrap and boxed according to age-range. I have a beautiful library of children's books, which I would give to her without the jackets. I would reunite them with their jackets and pack them in small boxes of themed groups, like gift packages for an unknown recipient.

Now, it helps if you know that my daughter was very precise and delicate with her toys. She wasn't the sort of kid who pushed the limits of things - she was tentative and gentle, so much so that I sometimes wondered if she shouldn't be testing out some boundaries a little more aggressively. In any case, some of her things look brand-spanking new.

All of which would be fabulous news if it weren't for the fact that I have just now realized that I don't think I can populate my boy's childhood with Madeline dollhouses and Eloise books. I do have a nice set of those wooden train-track pieces, and some beautiful plain wooden blocks. There are a few things that are truly gender-neutral, but other than that my carefully packed collections are unbelievable feminine. And the crazy thing is, I never realized it. I thought I was raising my girl without those stereotypes. Sure, a lot of her toys and super-girly outfits were gifts, but I obviously contributed heavily to the overall vibe and it is decidedly feminine.

I should also point out that I will be perfectly happy if I have a boy who wants to wear a tutu and play chef all day. I have a very gay-friendly life and in some ways I might be better suited to having a gay son than a macho football kind of child. But, that's not really up to me - it's not the kind of kid I end up with that I'm thinking about now - it's the kind of parent I obviously am, without even knowing it. And yet...

Do I have boxes of rag dolls because I let my child be her own person, and that's the person she turned out to be? I would love to believe that's true. She is sort of dainty and quietish and, well, girly. Not pink-lacy girly, but still. Anyway, the whole thing is just getting to me because I am finally realizing that if I am actually going to have this boy I might have to get some baby stuff together at some point. And I am gravitating to the decidedly "boy" colors and prints. Stripes seem good, maybe an olive green, or a turquoise...

What do you think? Am I just responding to a lifetime of marketing campaigns, or is there something innate about these choices?


PJ said...

I think it's only natural to buy girly things for girls. Now if she detested these things, and you forced her to play with them, that would be a different story. I think you only nudged though.

So how close are you to learning the gender?

DAVs said...

Hmmm, I don't know about all of this. I do know that I love to buy girly stuff for my friends' girls, and boyish stuff for my nephews. It just happens!

Sky said...

Lorraine, I just cracked up at a comment you made about your openness to a gay son.

I thought I was the only person in the world that said I'd like to have a child in this order of priority:

First choice: a girl
Second: a gay son
Last: a straight son

But all kidding aside, I am extremely accepting of the gay life - though I'm completely heterosexual myself.

Now...for the other comment - congrats on the boy! I didn't realize you were having a boy. And you'll now have to hope for a grandDAUGHTER to pass down the girlie things to.

Best When Used By said...

Every time you post I feel such a kinship. First, we are at the same stage of our pregnancy. Second, we are both having boys. Of course I COULD have tons of girly stuff because my mother has collected it all over the years in hopes of one day having a granddaughter. But since I am disappointing her by having a boy, I too need to begin collecting toys and things.

So what do we get them? Are we influencing their development by our choices? Well, I think the answer is "yes, but only limitedly." We influence them by exposing them to as many things, experiences, places and opportunities as we can. I am actually looking forward to giving my son a tall, puffy white chef's hat and apron and having him help me in the kitchen. I hope he loves it! I'm not a particularly huge sports fan, but if he wants to play baseball, football, soccer, gymnastics or whatever, okay by me. He can play with trucks, if he wants to rumble them around. He can play dress-up in my clothes if he wants to. Maybe he'll be rough and tumble, maybe he'll want to take ballet.

I guess the bottom line is, if you offer a variety, he will naturally choose whatever it is he is drawn to. Trucks or dolls, books or footballs, chemistry sets or dance class. I suspect you offered your daughter girl-type toys and she enjoyed them. So you bought her more. Makes sense to me.

just me, dawn said...

hmmm, great question. I myself am so NOT a girly girl, but I find myself gravitating towards the girly stuff....even though I swore I wouldn't. I think balance is important though, I will be teaching her how to run and tumble and be a strong if she likes pink, I can live with it :)

Celia said...

I am thirding on the gay child thing. My husband and I don't care if our boy is gay. That is not an issue.

I am trying to pick gender neutral stuff. The nursery was going to have a quiet theme no matter what we had.

I think if your daughter had rejected the dolls you would have found her something else.

I am really really hoping I can keep our son away from the more violent toys and things they market to boys. But we'll see what he likes.

Anonymous said...

yes, it is hard not to buy some stereo-typical toys, it's only natural and remember that if you do have a boy who likes to wear tutus and play chef it doesn't necessarily mean he's gay!! maybe he just likes tutus and cooking! but you are right, the important thing is that your children are happy, not whether or not they like boys or girls.

RoseAG said...

I had two boys and years that revolved around truck puzzles and fireman hats.

I searched my house high and low, not for barbie doll shoes but the the little helmets that came with the G.I. Joe action figures.

We'd go places and hostesses would say, "oh don't worry they can't hurt a thing in this room." Ha, ha, ha!

Don't fret about the books. Think how many hours you'll be reading stories. They'll be time for the old favorites plus some new titles.

Your fellow will have a wonderful chance to be his very own self without the ghosts of his big sister lurking around.

Gwynn said...

OMG! Your comment about ziplock bags categorized by size and season kills me! If only I could be that organized. Amazing!!

We tried to raise our son basically gender neutral (yellow nursery, with deep rich plaids and an oversized chair with velvet and floral slipcovers). But, alas, it was not to be. All it took was his fascination with cars (which we didn't provide, he just saw them on the street during stroller rides) and the trucks, trains and tractors in his Harry the Dirty Dog book and he was HOOKED! "Tractor" was one of his first 5 words.

But I have to say, although boys will be boys, it's been a blast. I am sure you will enjoy it. From what I can tell from all the other kids his age (almost all my friends have girls) it's definitely a lot different, but without a doubt an absolute load of fun!

Midlife Mommy said...

I have all my daughter's things too. I wonder what I would see if I laid them out. Lots of pink and purple clothing for sure. But some cars and trucks (and books about cars and trucks too). Not much, and I did cringe when it first happened. This was before I kicked myself for trying to pigeonhole my daughter and never let on that I even had those thoughts.

As for colors, it doesn't matter how you dress them, people on the street will usually get it wrong anyway. Go with what you like.