OBSERVATIONS · raising strong girls · slice of life

Princess Panties?!?! Really? Really.

Ever since I found out I was having a girl, I vowed I wasn’t going to do the princess thing in our house.  G-d help me when preschool arrives since that’ll be the first time she will find out about the Disney Princesses!  That’s right, my daughter doesn’t know the exist right now.

If you’ve read this blog, or some of my posts over at Two Writing Teachers, you know I’m not big on the girlie-girl culture. Isabelle wears all colors, plays with all kinds of toys, and has friends who are boys and girls.  It would be SO MUCH EASIER if I threw up my hands, said “none of this matters,” and let her take part in the girlie-girl and princess culture. But it does matter to me. Everyone has their schtick and this is mine.

I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure faux tiaras and wands don’t cross the threshold of this house. Isabelle doesn’t have any toys with princesses on them. She also doesn’t own clothing with the words princessdivaor daddy’s little girl emblazoned on it.

Nowadays, Isabelle wears a size 2T or 3T, depending on the brand. We’ve also entered the land of potty training (That’s all I’ll say about that personal matter here!), which means you have to buy everything from potty seats to books on potty training to underwear. Isabelle’s favorite potty-related book is Big Girl Panties written by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Valeria Petrone. The book begins with the words, “Bye bye diapers! I wear panties.” The little girl loves wearing all kinds of panties, which got me thinking about panty shopping for my little girl. Wouldn’t it be fun to get her lots of different kinds of panties like the little girl in the book?

And then I went panty shopping. I thought this would be an easy task, but instead it was a tall order since most of the toddler panties in the stores have princesses on them. Even though underwear goes under one’s clothes, I vowed I wouldn’t break my “no princess clothing” rule.  After a lot of looking, I bought a pack of owl panties at Gap Kids for Isabelle. (Those went over really well.)  Next I went to Osh Kosh where I got frustrated. Almost all of the little girl panties had crowns or tiaras somewhere on them. I finally found some days of the week panties that looked cute. (Those were not liked as much.) Next I headed to Carters where I was faced with more princess panties!  I walked out of the store empty-handed since I felt like it would be better to keep looking than to buy into the princess culture.  If the girl in  Big Girl Panties had lots of different kinds, then how hard could it be to find non-princess panties.

I’ve been searching in the stores for a few weeks now and I’ll tell ya — it’s hard to find fun, non-princess panties for little girls. Yesterday evening, I went online to gap.com to see if I could purchase more owl panties. But they were no longer in stock!  😦  There were only three kinds of toddler girl panties in stock: gingerbread underwear, ballet underwear, and days of the week underwear. Wow! Three kinds!

A screenshot of my choices from gap.com. Click on the image to enlarge.
A screenshot of my choices from gap.com. Click on the image to enlarge.

Or so I thought. I didn’t even have to click on the ballet ones since I saw the penguin on the underwear wearing a tiara. Those were out. I clicked on the days of the week underwear and discovered the cats on some of the panties were wearing tiaras.  Feline princess panties?!?! Really? Really.

That left me with one option: the gingerbread underwear. I hesitated when I zoomed into the product listing since there were candy canes one pair of the panties. Candy canes are typically a Christmas candy, right? I paused. We are Jewish. Do I want my little girl to be wearing candy cane and gingerbread underwear?  I thought about it for a minute. Then I clicked “2-3 years” and “add to bag.”

I told my husband about my little girl panty purchase before we went to bed last night.

“I think you’ve gone overboard on this princess thing,” he told me.

“Trust me on this one, okay? Did I steer you right when we were trying to get her upstairs earlier tonight when I had you get down to her level and reason with her?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Okay, then trust me on this, please.”

“So you bought gingerbread men and candy canes instead of the cats with princess crowns?” he clarified as if he was still in disbelief.

“Yes, yes I did.” I said.

He chuckled so I continued.

“First it’s the princess panties, then she’ll be walking around this house waving a wand, and bossing us around.  You think she rules the house now? Wait ’til she thinks she’s a princess.” I paused realizing how ridiculous I sounded. “Besides, she has never even had a candy cane. She won’t even know that they’re candy.”

We said a few more things before saying good-night.  As I lay in bed, I realized life would be so much easier if I would just allow myself to buy her the darn princess panties. But for some reason, I just cannot make that purchase.

Give me another year. We’ll see what happens once pre-school begins, right?

Go to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com to read more slice of life stories.
Go to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com to read more slice of life stories.
OBSERVATIONS · raising strong girls

Play Nice in the Corn Bin

If you had told me ten years ago that I’d be taking my daughter to a fun farm and watching her play with toy John Deere vehicles in a corn bin, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. Ten years ago I was living in Manhattan and I doubt I would’ve put the words corn and bin in the same sentence. (Unless, of course, it would’ve been “Please buy me more candy corn from the bin on the bulk foods aisle.”)  Fast forward to yesterday and I was watching my daughter play with delight in the corn bin at a local family fun farm.

We found our friend, in yellow, playing with the blue BOY bucket upon our third trip back to the corn bin. Isabelle was just as happy to play with the pink one as she was the blue one.
We found our friend, in yellow, playing with the blue BOY bucket upon our third trip back to the corn bin. Isabelle was just as happy to play with the pink one as she was the blue one.

We took three separate trips to the corn bin during our time at the farm. The second time something really unexpected happened.  I found myself defending Isabelle’s right to use a boy bucket in the corn bin.  Here’s what happened.

My daughter was playing with a John Deere tractor and a blue action heroes bucket inside of the corn bin when a group of little boys entered the corn bin.  One of the boys marched right over to Isabelle and tried to snatch the bucket she was playing with. Since she doesn’t have the words to defend her inalienable right to use the bucket, I stepped in to be her voice.

“She’s playing with that bucket.  You may play with that one,” I said pointing to a second, unused bucket on the opposite end of the corn bin.

The boy turned and wrinkled his nose. “That bucket is for girls. This bucket,” he said as he bent over towards Isabelle, “is for boys.”

“These buckets are for everyone,” I said putting my hand in-between him and the bucket.

“But that one is pink and has princesses. It’s a girl bucket!” he said angrily.

“Both of the buckets are for everyone. Boys and girls can play with both buckets,” I said firmly.

He started getting louder. “I want that bucket!” he said pointing towards Isabelle who didn’t seem to understand what the fuss was all about.

Just then one of the little boy’s friends dove across the corn bin and grabbed the pink princess bucket and began dumping corn into it.

“See,”I said calmly. “He’s playing with that bucket. The buckets are for everyone.”

I really wanted to see the expression on my husband’s face, but he was standing off to my right, and I didn’t dare take my eyes off of the little boy who looked like he was going to grab the bucket away from Isabelle (and probably wanted to throw corn in my face by this point!).

The little boy stamped his foot and whined at which point his grandmother got involved. She called his name, “Devin*!” (Name has been changed.)

He stamped his foot in the corn again. I stood there and watched, wondering what she’d do next.

“Devin! Play nice or you’ll have to come here.”

Seriously? That’s the response! 

He looked down and stamped his foot one more time.  Thankfully the corn kernels didn’t fly too far.

“Devin! She’s playing with that bucket now. Find something else to play with.”

Really? Really!?!!? Why didn’t she tell him to wait his turn or to play with the pink bucket in the first place?

Meanwhile, Isabelle kept playing in the corn bin ’til we encouraged her to go to the straw castle at which point Devin swooped in and grabbed the blue, boy bucket.

* * * * *

We returned to the corn bin 15 – 20 minutes later and found Devin and his cousin playing with the blue boy bucket on the other end of the corn bin. He looked up, saw me, and turned his back.  Isabelle began playing with the pink bucket, which wasn’t being used, and a tractor. Once Devin saw Isabelle wasn’t a threat to his blue bucket, he slowly turned his body towards us. Once we we got up to leave, I said “good-bye” to him and his family and so did Isabelle.  He said, “Say bye to my pop-pop!” And so I did.

But I was left wondering this: Did Devin learn anything today?  It’s doubtful. In order to challenge stereotypes and expand gender notions, children need to see these things modeled in their daily lives. Isabelle was content to play with the trucks and the the blue action figures bucket because she has toys like this at home. She plays with stuffed animals and has a dollhouse too. However, she knows that she can play with a variety of toys.

When I was reflecting on this situation last night, I sat in my office wondering what I can do, as a parent, to help other kids realize that toys and colors are for everyone. Change like this is much easier when you’re a teacher rather than just another kid’s parent.  Do I just have to start with my small corner of the world (i.e., my kid) and hope other people will do the same… eventually?