Pink, and Purple, and Princesses, Oh My!

This past weekend, I was at a ‘Saturday Night Meatballs'[1] event with some old friends. Amongst other things, I was watching how the children interacted with each other. There were a collection of children of various ages, from a few different families. Seeing them interacting with their parents, they were all well-loved, and each of the parents were practicing what I would consider modern parenting, setting down firm, well-defined, sensible rules, and encouraging their children to resolve problems themselves by thinking of solutions and implementing them[2].

At the same time, I saw the children self-segregating by gender, both in behaviour and location. One of the parents, talking about a female child mentioned that before they went to daycare, they were into a variety of non-gender-stereotypical things. Almost immediately afterwards, it was Pink and Purple and Princesses. For me, this was a huge stark reminder of the uphill parents face. One could see that even if all of the parents were giving their all to make a non-gender binary household at home, that a culture could persist in a playground or daycare, passed down from year to year by the children.

You can also see it other children’s behaviours. One of the girls wanted to go play with the boys, but was too afraid to go downstairs to the basement[3]. The group of girls sat downstairs for much of the afternoon/evening while the boys ran around and yelled upstairs. When the girls went up to join them, that lasted for a while, the yelling intensified, then they came down to complain about how they were being treated (which prompted the solution-finding conversations above).

I don’t have good answers, just a few observations. I’m sure this is better than it was decades ago, but there’s still a large amount of genderism that we still have to unpack as a society, and it needs to be unpacked early and unconsciously, for the sake of our children.

[1]It’s a great idea, in the tradition of eating together with family and friends to build community. There’s a great description of the ‘original’ Friday Night Meatballs here.

[2]I particularly liked this tactic. The first question is ‘Can I help you think of more options?’, to help the kids develop the coping and problem solving skills to deal with others.

[3]This could also have been because she was new to the group.

2 thoughts on “Pink, and Purple, and Princesses, Oh My!

  1. The problem-solving thing is trickier than it looks. On one hand, it is very easy to dismiss children as “tattling” when they report conflicts. And, of course, sometimes they are. But, much of time, by the time children come to adults, they have in fact exhausted their problem-solving strategies. (And there are many cases of children being truly bullied and feeling like the adults do/did nothing about it.) So you have to feel out whether they actually need help and what type of help they need. I’ve definitely under- and over-helped many times.

    “What have you tried?” is a good way to start the conversation if they need help or end the conversation if they don’t.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *