“Toby is going to be so jealous of her LelliKellies. You know that don’t you? We’re due for a meltdown”.
The words I said to my husband when we brought Edith her first pair of mermaid-shit-on-my-feet sparkly abominations otherwise known as Lelli Kelli shoes. Bloody things. I was pretty confident that they were going to do more than just offend my eyes as she pranced around, cocking her foot up and pointing to her “new shoesssss” for all and sundry to coo over. I was totally sure that Toby would be super jealous and instantly demand that he too be gifted a pair so that he could preen over the sparkles and the pretties.
But he wasn’t jealous at all. My pink loving, princess adoring, My Little Pony obsessed 4 year old announced that they were “yucky” and totally for girls.
I’m not going to lie, there was a small part of me that felt a little broken hearing those words from my son. I mean, I totally agree, the offending shoes ARE yucky, but this flamboyant, fashion loving child was suddenly spouting phrases that you just wouldn’t hear in my home. There is no such thing as “for girls” (other than tampons, they would be weird for boys) and it’s something that I’ve always impressed upon my children. We don’t do “for girls” or “for boys” you like what you like and that is totes cool, irrespective of your dangly bits or lack of. As soon as the boys started to go to preschool and school this changed, in fact, this changed so much that I find myself often questioning the boys and asking them to clarify why they have said what they have said.
I’ve noticed this more with Reuben. Roo is a people pleaser, much like his dad he has a fundamental desire to be liked and be part of the clique, whereas Toby has always been a little bit more secure in himself. He likes what he likes and that is that. Reuben is easily manipulated, easily influenced. I remember Reuben coming home once and informing me that “Boys can’t marry boys, it has to be a girl AND a boy. So and so said so.” At the time I was pretty mortified, I remember sitting him down and telling him that that wasn’t accurate, it wasn’t anyone else’s business who someone decides to spend their lives with, who they love. It wasn’t something someone could choice or control. I think in that instance he trusted me, but on a much simpler angle the gender bias thing sticks. For both kids.
Neither one wants to be on the outside, it’s human nature. Living in rural North Yorkshire, liberalism isn’t exactly a common practice. Boys are boys. Girls are girls. I’m making a sweeping generalisation here, but I think most people could say that it’s true we’re not a forward thinking up here as other places. The boys are told constantly at school by peers “that is a girl thing” and Reuben has informed me that girls are gross on more than one occasion – to which of course I replied, trust me buddy, girls are just as gross as boys and they will always think boys are gross.
I know that there is a part of growing up that you can’t change but I do feel like the changes you DON’T expect when your children start school are the way that they are moulded socially by more than just their teacher, but by their peers and beyond that, their peer’s parents and friends.
We’re a far cry from the little boy who insisted I bought him Dora the Explorer knickers from the girl’s section on Tesco because he liked Dora and didn’t give a single fuck what anyone thought of that. He still has the moments that I affectionately refer to as “camp” (and please don’t misunderstand me here – camp is NOT to be confused with homosexuality, anyone, male/female/homosexual/heterosexual can be camp) like squealing with delight at new shoes or critiquing my outfit choices (“Mummy, those trousers need to be untucked. You don’t look pretty”) or playing with my hair… but slowly, he’s being given the impression that those things aren’t right. They are for girls and set to a gender conformity that I really don’t like.
I’d rather buy him the hideous shoes.