Wingstaff writes: I am currently a stay-at-home mom to two boys. My husband is Active Duty in the Air Force. We are your ‘traditional’ white ‘All-American’ family. We are also very liberal and I am trying to raise my sons in the most feminist way I can. My husband and I are originally from the US West Coast, moved to the US East Coast three years ago and are slated to move to the United Kingdom next month.
It has started. The yearly inundation of ads for new toys that will be available just in time for Christmas. I can’t complain too much about how ‘it gets worse every year’ since my oldest son is only four and he didn’t really start noticing toy advertising until about a month before Christmas last year. However, this year he wants EVERYTHING. Seriously. Everything.
As long as it’s not a girl toy.
Every boy toy commercial ends with him turning to me and saying, “I want that. Promise me I’ll get that for Christmas.” Luckily my stock answer, “We’ll see.” is holding strong with only the occasional reinforcement of “Make sure to put it on your list for Christmas.”
Every girl toy commercial ends with complete silence. I do my best to combat the message he’s getting about what is and is not appropriate for a boy to play with. When I hear mutterings about how pink is a girl color or how he can’t play with dolls, I remind him that colors are just colors and toys are just toys. All colors are beautiful and toys are for anyone who has fun playing with them.
OK, mostly I get out “You can like anything you want” and then he loses interest and walks away.
But lately there has been a lot of “We’ll see” floating around. Santa is going to be making a lot of choices about what is appropriate for a four-year old (and, seriously, why do they advertise toys for 8+ during pre-school shows? It’s just a recipe for heartbreak since even if the parent does buy the over-age toy the preschoolers have no idea how to play with them.) Unfortunately Santa is also going to be basing his decisions on what can be shipped in advance. We’re moving to a different continent three days before Christmas.
There is a lot of angst regarding Christmas this year in our household.
Most of the angst has to do with the physical realities of moving two adults, two kids under the age of five and two cats across the Atlantic Ocean. There will be a very long flight involved. A flight where all I’m hoping for is that the two kids will sleep.
We already live across the country from all of our extended family, so the kids know how to fly. However, one of the biggest issues we run into on the plane is how to keep the kids comfortable when they actually do fall asleep. We’ve used coats, shoulders and overly large stuffed animals as pillows. None of them were very successful.
So when the Pillow Pet commercial returned to heavy rotation, instead of “We’ll see” the response was “Next time we see them in the store, you can pick one out.”
A few days later we were on a shopping run at the mall when we ran across a display of Pillow Pets. There were only four animals to choose from: dog, ladybug, bee and unicorn. The dog, ladybug and bee were relatively gender neutral since they were really just cartoony versions of the actual animal. However, the unicorn was obviously a girl toy – lavender purple body with a bubble gum pink mane, tail and horn.
I geared myself up to buy yet another version of a stuffed dog when I looked at which animal my oldest son was actually holding. It was the unicorn.
Given his general stance on ‘girl toys’, I asked him twice if the unicorn was the one he wanted. He replied yes both times with quite a bit of irritation at my doubt.
Once big brother had picked the unicorn, little brother had to pick it too.
That moment felt like a tangible feminist mothering win. The unicorn was definitely the prettiest of the choices. It was also the closest thing to a horse, which is the animal my sons are currently obsessed with. My son knew it was a girl toy but chose it anyway because he liked it best.
I feel like I’m now up a point against a culture that spends much of its time socializing boys to choose the opposite of the ‘girl’ option. I know that my victory will probably be fleeting and that in the future I will have to work to make sure he is not ashamed that he did choose the pink and purple unicorn, but in that moment my voice was the strongest.
On the way out to the car, I asked my oldest son what he was going to name his new pet. He decided to name her Miss I Love.