Boy Bratz & Raising Cain

Remember when I hijacked Izzy’s Bratz thread and went off on child beauty pageants? Well, Bryan sent me an email I have been meaning to get back to.

“Fortunately for boys, they have absolutely no pressure to be anything at all. They are not pushed into being superheroes who fight all the time, ingest massive amounts of food and alcohol, grope aforementioned slutty girls at will, all while creating a multibillion dollar investment firm, and be overall jerks with a weekend gay-bashing habit. I am so thankful boys have none of those pressures. Sure, boys are simple to raise.”

Sarcasm much?

OK, point taken. Boys have all kinds of toys pushing them grow up fast, just like girls. Guns, swords, army gear, video games, car chases, bam, bam, BAM! Most of this crap has never even entered Declan’s realm of existence and luckily, he has very little interest in it anyway – but I see it on the horizon.

How do you navigate the clearly stereotypical line of boys vs. girls toys anyway? And it’s getting harder and harder as they grow older. Declan has always overwhelmingly had more girl friends than guy friends, and as such, many times he will gravitate to the pink purse before the plastic sword. And I have been damned if I was ever going to call anything a “girl toy” or a “boy toy.” So there is my son. With his pink purse. Is it wrong for me to be quietly relieved when he picks up the sword sometimes?

But then, we are a gun-free household both for adults and little ones. Duh. I hate guns. HATE. And even if I didn’t, I personally think they are not toys. I have never been able to get my head around the fact that we have miniature plastic reproductions of weapons used to kill people and we hand them to our children and say: “Here! Go have fun!” Why don’t we have toy electrocution chairs? Or toy chemotherapy kits? It’s the same thing.

Which brings me back around to Bryan (and Izzy’s) point. Again.

Why do we have toys that push our children to become mini-adults? Are they preprogrammed in their genes to like that stuff?

And in turn, are gender stereotypes ingrained or are they learned? I read a book once called Raising Cain and while I think it was mostly for big, blowhard asshole Dads who try to “toughen up” their boys and who would never be seen reading a book like Raising Cain in the first place, I did get some valuable insight. With minor differences, the authors assert boys and girls are the same. The. same. That much of the emotional closed-off-edness walking around with penises is a result of not being given emotional literacy at a young age, or not being allowed to have feelings at all. “Stop crying. Tough it out. You are a boy. Boys. don’t. cry.”

Heard that on the playground a few million times?

Now, Bryan and I try to balance emotional needs with “playing us for a fool,” but we rarely tell Declan to stop crying. And since reading this book, we have tried hard to feed Declan words… words that he can use to explain his feelings. “Are you feeling frustrated?” “Wow, that must make you feel very anxious.” “You seem angry. Is that how you are feeling?”

And the first time he turned around and used one of those descriptors instead of throwing a hissy fit, I felt like Queen Mommy.

Of course, the downside is then wondering if it is possible to make him too sensitive. Julie chastised me the other night when I joked about turning him gay (Shuuh! As IF! – We all know that comes from disco music). But I get her point too.

No need to worry, I guess. No need to label. We’re doing our best to walk the line. Not pushing him to grow up, but also teaching him emotional literacy.

And hell, if he *is* gay – we’ll get some killer home decorating tips out of the deal.

This article has 7 comments

  1. Meghann

    I have a lot of thoughts on this, but um, my brain melted so I can’t put it into words right now.

    But wanted to say thanks for the compliments on my kids’ pictures. I get all nervous-like when you look at them, cause I respect you a lot as a photographer, and I wanna be just like you!!!! (ok, not really since I am older than 12, but you know what I mean)

  2. Anonymous

    Declan is a fantastic little boy so keep doing whatever it is that your doing!


  3. Anonymous

    I also have a boy that has always had more friends that were girls. Now that he is 9, I find that he is a little Romeo! THat is whole set of other problems.


  4. aimee / greeblemonkey

    LOL, that will be fun to look forward to Erika! 🙂 And yay, your first comment!!

  5. Anonymous

    Yeah, we are anti-gun too. It’s hard all the way around.

  6. Tree

    Great, thoughtful post. And I agree with Bryan. I was thinking rather similar thoughts yesterday about how to keep my boy as innocent as possible as long as possible. Unfortunately, I do think my window of opportunity has narrowed on most items

  7. Izzy

    I have a boy in addition to my Bratz-hating daughter and nobody better EVER tell my son to not cry or “toughen up” or I’ll kick their ass and show them how TOUGH his mama can be. I used to get so mad at my dad for saying that kind of shit to my little brother.

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