My three year old watches a lot of TV, cuz that’s the kind of parent I am. And, while I do try to sneak off to indulge in my own amusements while the babysitter is blaring, occasionally he insists that I watch with him. Which, as any of you who have watched the toddler-oriented fare will attest, is slightly less fun than banging your head against a wall repeatedly. Barney. Teletubbies. Little squishy pustule looking guys that give me the creeps.
My son insists on watching previews. They’re all like mini-shows to him. And that explains how I happened to be watching a preview for a My Little Pony adventure flick this morning. In case you aren’t familiar with the very feminine toys, they’re little pastel colored stubby ponies with big rainbow hair and magical powers. Some are unicorns, some pegasus (pegasi?), but all adorable. There’s lots of pink, lots of frill, and enough sweetness to power Willy Wonka for years. It’s the stuff a gay child’s dreams are made of. Or, at least, I can speak for myself on that. I’ve always loved unicorns. I had posters of them all over my bedroom growing up, bless my faggy little heart.
[Tangent: my wife suggested that one of the little boys in Barney’s shows is gay, and then after a few moments’ pause added “bless his faggy little heart” to establish what we both feel in general: he can be gay and sing his irritating songs and we’ll still love him (or hate him) all the same. “Bless his faggy little heart” has been a non-offensive joke between us ever since. So quit being offended!]
To this day I find myself sometimes drawn inexorably to the super cute on occasion, but far less than as a child. I like your well designed mini-anything, and I see a strange connection to My Little Pony in this affinity. It’s what I like, and it’s not conventional boy stuff. They mentioned March Madness in Elders Quorum today, and I immediately tuned out. I was probably day-dreaming about making mini-scriptures even smaller, or something like that.
Recently when a coworker scoffed at my son’s being enamored with Dora the Explorer (rather than Diego, her male cousin), I remembered why I don’t have unicorn posters anymore. Diego, Dora’s cousin, seems to exist specifically to assuage those folks like my coworker who believe in strict gender interests and gender roles. The show makes a big deal about teaching Spanish, and that seems to have a built-in message of tolerance and diversity, but apparently that only goes so far. My unicorn posters went down when my social awareness went up. I became aware of an unforgiving world that certainly persists today.
It’s hard for me to tease out what interests are learned and which ones are just there, but I don’t think it should be a crime for kids to like what they like. I don’t think it’s a crime for parents to encourage them to like things they don’t like either. That’s a part of parenting, I suppose, but the motivation behind the effort can be important. One of my nephews wanted nothing more than a set of Disney Princess toys for Christmas, and his parents didn’t care much for the idea. They got him what he wanted, but his family has been encouraging him to embrace more gender-typical toys and interests ever since. As I don’t live nearby, I’m not sure how that has turned out. But, I know they are a loving family that manage to include love and positive development in everything they do, so I doubt their efforts make him feel like he’s not what he should be (or something else belittling).
For all the talk about accepting kids the way they are, and all the talk about encouraging typical gender roles (it is one of the few things that is significantly associated with sexual orientation), I’m not sure where I stand on how to parent. Someone enlighten me.