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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

on swords and fairy wings

So this year we went, as always, to pick out Halloween costumes from our favorite thrift store.

Last year little man was an adorable little lion. We put whiskers on his face. He roared delightfully at every house we stopped at. He was perfect.

This year.

This year negotiating costumes was a bit more challenging.


little man with his "serious" face.
No, no wait look here. A SHIELD. A SWORD.



Now, like most moms I know we are a “no-gun-play” family. That is tricky enough.

But the whole sword thing is another matter.

For some reason knight play is less…just “less” I guess. Easier to swallow. They are noble. They are classic. They are not owned by Disney or Pixar. I knew at some point the day would come when we would have to relent.

Last year when someone gave him a pirate sword for his 3 year old birthday I gasped and quickly hid it from him. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I could just imagine him thwacking his baby sister on the head when he got mad. (In my own defense, 3 year olds really have very little control with something like that.)

Four year olds get it though. He gets that if he ever thwacks his sister over the head it goes in the garbage. Done. No discussion. And, we chase dragons with the sword, or go on missions to protect the kingdom, swords blazing high. We don’t fight EACH OTHER. Nobody is the bad guy. For days afterwards he asked “Why is it ok to play with swords now?” Well, I say, we know you are big enough to play without hitting. He pretends now, he has these worlds in his head and I am happy to contribute with some props.

I had prepped dada for this prior to our visit of course. He had adorably drawn pictures with his auntie, going over all his possible costume ideas. The knight (chasing a dragon outside of a castle) was clearly the big hit. And he adorably chose corresponding outfits for his little sister too. She was to be the princess to his knight.

And this is the thing, as he is picking out the shield and breastplate and tunic we talk about baby sister being his fairy princess. We find some wings for her. And a hat. And a frilly dress. My child that loves her pink sparkly shoes is going to be a fairy princess. Her brother is going to be a knight.

And then you get into that sticky place. And it makes me almost uncomfortable.

And seriously, I ask this.

Am I contributing to their roles in our family based on their gender? He, the protective big brother. She, the sweet little sister to be saved.

But it’s crazy because they are these stereotypes. I never would’ve believed that it could be hardwired so clearly into their little selves if I didn’t see it acted out every day.

He who is the active loud boy who builds rockets that shoot into space and the cannon and gun fascination (“What is a war mama?” he asks. SIGH. ) and the swords and the trucks and the football and the dada adoration.

little miss in her brother's old "supah-man" shirt.
 She is of the pink sparkly shoes (girlier than I ever was!) who rocks baby dolls to sleep and kisses their ears and eyes and noses and copies me putting on makeup (yes occasionally I do) and hugs stuffed animals and asks anyone who sneezes “Oh-Tay mama? Mama oh-tay?” “Yes, honey, mama is okay.”

But then, I tell myself. Had I had an older daughter and then a younger baby brother, she too would be protective of her baby sibling. And I as a child loved rocket ships and adventures and disdained girly lacey dresses (maybe this is why the gender role thing is hard to watch as it plays out in my children?)

And, I must remember. She too is opinionated and loud. “STOP IT.” She tells me as I try to lull her to sleep with a song. He never did that. I sang to him over and over again “Baby mine, don’t you cry.” He still loves mama to cuddle up to him to fall asleep. “Hold my hand mama,” he asks.

She is far more daring than he. Climbs without thinking. Runs without hesitation. She is adventurous. She is all out there. “Here is who I am! ME! Aren’t I GREAT?” She seems to ask the world. (And she is, of course.)

He can be timid. He is sensitive. He is passionate. Certain books made him cry as a child. Books that she doesn’t blink at. He still doesn’t like watching movies where people are mean or grumpy. “Mama,” he told me crying the other day after being upset by the fighting antics of Tom and Jerry “You should’ve watched me better!”

And I have to remember. They are children. Individuals. Little shiny pieces of soul to be nurtured. They are not “boy” or “girl.” They are their own selves. One likes sparkling pink shoes. One runs around with a sword. But that doesn’t define them. He may be the artist. She may be the doctor. But, then again, what does it matter? In fact. Not only am I am not going to define them by their genders but I am also not going to dissuade them against the pink sparkling shoes or the sword obsession. I want them to be them - the best “thems” they can be. I want them to be thriving helpful adults. Who love the world. Who love each other. Who find partners to love and cherish. Who contribute from their innermost beings to help make the world a better place. This is what I want.

My children are not to be boxed. Especially, by me.

So my little princess and little knight will go out trick or treating this weekend, just as they wish.

But of course the fairy may want to trade in her wand for a sword and she may refuse to wear her crown. And the knight may just hold mama’s hand extra tight as we walk by the scary decorations or try on his sister’s fairy wings, so he too can pretend to fly.

And I will happily oblige.


  1. beautiful post! it's a thorny question, the gendering of our little ones. but I love where you arrive at the end of this.

  2. ...and this is what it's all about. This is why we stress and worry and don't sleep and try not to scream and set ourselves aside. Because being Mommy (capital M Mommy) is all about those "little shiny pieces of soul to be nurtured." (LOVE the imagery!) You are one amazing Mom!!

  3. robin - it is a tough one, but really, not just between genders too...i should have put that in, i have been thinking about it more this afternoon... its a sticky with with parenting siblings too. its so easy to be "you're the sporty one, you're the bookish one, etc" but we all have a little bit of this and that in us and we need to help it blossom, you know? anyway. yes. thanks. :)
    tracy - thanks. you are nice.

  4. Love this! Absolutely love it! :c)


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