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Is your kid a dude or a chick?

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Reel Mama: Is your kid a dude or a chick?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Is your kid a dude or a chick?

This was a question recently posed to me at a grocery checkout line by the bagboy. I replied, “Well, she is covered head to toe in pink plus wearing glittery Princess tennis shoes.”  “So what?  Justin Bieber wears pink!” the cashier chimed in. 

He has a point.  And thank you, Justin Bieber, for being a progressive enough young man to wear pink.  After all, where is it written that men can’t wear pink?  Pink on a man can be very attractive, and not just on a tie.  And why the unwritten rule that baby girls must wear pink in order to be recognized by their gender?  And yet, because my daughter has very short curly hair, unless she is wearing something pink, at the very least a headband, she will inevitably be mistaken for a boy.

I remember the first time my daughter was mistaken for a boy.  She was wearing a brown onesie that said “Little girl, big dreams.”  Yes, “little girl” was actually emblazoned right on her person.  And yet, because the onesie wasn’t pink, a fellow mom thought she was a boy.  At the time I was upset, but now I’ve learned to let it go, because sometimes it’s fun for my daughter to wear blue or even brown and orange. 

We have arrived at a point where almost no toy is gender neutral.  Yes, even the Rock-a-stack comes in a version for little girls, with varying shades of pastel pink.  What is the message?  That primary colors are only for little boys?  I had to draw the line there.  Babies love to look at bright colors.  It’s a part of their development, and the pastels just weren’t as eye catching. 

Strangely, there’s some part of me that feels guilty when I consciously opt for the gender-neutral option, or even when I walk on the wild side and purchase something blue for my daughter.  Sometimes I feel guilty for not buying the pink version because in that moment I’m not singling out my daughter as the special one, the princess.  I’m deliberately choosing a toy that could be passed on to a future sibling, cousin, or friend of Leilani’s regardless of gender.  The toy companies hate this.

There’s something brilliant in the marketing of these toys that wouldn’t be gender specific if it weren’t for the new color-coding system: the regular version of the toy is now for the boys, and the telltale pink one is for the girls.  If you have or are related to a boy and a girl, whether they are your children, niece and nephew, or grandchildren, or even a friend’s children, you have to buy two of everything.

And yet there’s a part of me that deeply enjoys succumbing to the pink and celebrating my daughter’s femininity.  Even the backdrop of my blog is pink.  As the parent of a little girl, I believe it’s okay to enjoy the “sugar and spice and everything nice” and see the world through pink-colored glasses for a while. It can be a healthy and fun part of my daughter’s growing up, but it won’t be everything.  We can enjoy it and celebrate it without letting it take over our lives with the overwhelming compulsion to purchase everything in pink until she turns 18.  After all, Leilani’s favorite toy of all is Elmo, who isn't all that gender specific except for the name.  For Leilani the pink-clad Disney Princesses and Dora are a very distant second and third to our adorable furry red hero.

It’s going to be okay that Leilani loves her dollies and her dresses.  It’s going to be okay that all of her Legos aren’t pink.  And someday when she grows up, if she wants to move into the Barbie Dream House, I guess I would be okay with that.  After all, not all of them are pink.  Some of them are lavender. And once upon a time, they came in yellow and even (gasp!)…BLUE!  Unthinkable!


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