So we went to the mall today - trying to find a water filter for our refrigerator. They were out of our kind (of course), so we took the opportunity to ride the little train ride at the mall, and we grabbed some lunch at Burger King.
I get the kids’ lunches and sit down and start unpacking them, and I’m suddenly faced with a dilemma at the bottom of the sacks - one of the sacks has a doll, and one has a car. Oh man.
See, anyone looking at my two kids without knowing them would think, of course! The 3-year-old girl needs a doll, and the 1.5-year-old boy needs a car. Clearly, that is the way the universe works, and what keeps the sun rising and the tides going in and out.
But not so with these two small ones, my friend. Not so.
As soon as the car appeared, Rowen was all over it. It didn’t even occur to her that the car wouldn’t be for her, so she reached for it. But I pulled out the doll as well, and unwrapped it, and in my carefully intonated voice (I don’t want her to know I’ve given up hope of her ever actually playing with a doll that wasn’t riding in a car) I said, “Rowen, would you like to have this doll? Look at her pretty dress and pretty skirt!” Nothing doing. She just said, “But I want the red car.”
So I’m faced with this decision. I could:
a) Walk back up to the counter and exchange it and avoid the whole thing - (but the funny part is that this didn’t really occur to me at the time as an option, in the rush of the moment and two kids already seated at a table far enough away from the counter that I couldn’t just leave them there, and was SURE not going to unseat them and bring them back up with me)
b) Give the car to Elliott because this is what “they” intended all along, what I was supposed to do, I guess, and let Rowen either be happy with her doll or not, as she chooses. (At this point, several people around me are actually looking at me as I sit there, car and doll in hand.) But something in me says, no.
So in the end I chose:
c) Give the car to Rowen because she wants it, loves cars, and will gladly add it to her collection of cars at home, and give the doll to Elliott because he loves to hold stuff in his hand, and won’t care what it is, and go on our merry way. Everyone happy, except for all of the people in the mall who stared at my son carrying a little doll, and my daughter carrying a car. Seriously. These toys are like 4 inches high, and they attracted the attention of everyone in a 50-food radius wherever we went. Amazing.
I used to think I hadn’t bought in to these gender ideas we have for kids - that boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls and that’s that, end of story. I have made piles of layouts about Rowen’s love for all things wheeled, and I like to say a kid can play with whatever makes their heart happy. But I was actually amazed at how tough this was for me, sitting there with people watching, when I had to put my money where my mouth was. (And, to be honest, a little sad that it mattered to me how many people looked at me with disapproval.)
I still think that kids should have the right to play with whatever thing you want, no grownup interference (dangerous objects excluded, of course). But I guess I was most amazed to arrive at a decision point that that revealed a bias I didn’t even know I had, and to discover that this is way more about me that it is about them. Interesting how much you can learn about yourself in a trip to BK.
Such deep stuff for a Wednesday afternoon. Now tell me what you think about kids and toys. :)