I resist the gender stereotypes as much as I can. Yes, she has dresses but she often wears pants. Yes, he likes balls but he also plays with dolls. She plays with boys. He plays with girls.
I can feel things changing though. It makes me worried.
I am suddenly seeing a difference in how the kids interact with each other. The other girls at school come dressed in princess costumes. The boys at the park play with water guns. The play is slowly diverging as I watch the boys get more physical and the girls get more intricate in their storytelling. The boys are bad robbers chasing each other and the girl play school.
I try to resist encouraging the stereotypes. But sometimes I fail. I give him a bag of cars I bought second hand and he loves them. I give her frilly dress up costumes and she loves them.
I shouldn't even have them in the house. A Disney princess costume handed down from my cousins. She wore it yesterday and announced that she was a princess. How about you are a Queen I tell her. I can stomach her playing Queen. Queens are rulers and aren't just sitting around waiting for a man to come and save / marry them. No she said I am a princess. Okay, I said, then what is your superpower? Convinced now that princesses have superpowers she jumped very high and ran very fast.
That may not work again. But I will keep trying.
This morning I watched the girl at the birthday party of a dear friend of hers. The kids were babies when I met my friend and the two kids have spent many hours together over the years. Today she was the only girl at the party. Shy by nature when she finds herself in a new situation, she kept her distance from the pack of boys. While they ran around the garden she sat with me and the other adults at the table on the deck reading a book.
When the boys sat together around a small table eating their hot dogs and pointing at each other yelling You're a girl! No, I'm a boy! You're a girl I felt sad. Sad for her and what this might mean for the friendships she has with boys as they get older. Sad that there will come a time where she will feel left out because of her gender. Sad that calling other boys a girl is somehow funny. Sad that I know the funniness of it can morph into an insult.
I tell her she can do anything. I will tell him the same thing. But is saying that enough? What is the weight of my words compared to her peers and what she sees around her.
So. There are still dresses in our house. There are still cars. But there is also me. Trying to walk the line between resisting the stereotypes and resisting what they love.