14 September 2012

Stay Gold, Pony Boy

Dear Princess Celestia,

This week, I learned that there are still people who have really backward notions about gender roles and that society is probably even harder on boys with non-traditional interests than it is on girls ... 


My 5 year old loves My Little Pony.

We don't have TV programming, so we didn't catch the MLP trend until it came to Netflix a few months ago. On a whim and a recommendation from a friend, I decided to watch the two-part premier with my kids one Saturday morning. A few weeks later, we'd finished all of Season 1.

When Season 2 came out, they watched it almost every day. The 8 year old is slightly less enraptured by the show than the 5 year old. But they were both completely engaged by the characters and stories and were cheering their hero Ponies through all of their adventures.

Recently, the 5 year old has became the proud owner of a small herd of plastic Ponies and their varied accoutrements as well as a fairly awesome Canterlot Castle where the Ponies like to party several days a week.

The neighboring super heroes and villains, and sometimes a talking car or two, will pop in for a tea party or a epic battle every now and then, too.

Oh, have I mentioned that both my children are boys?

I didn't think that was worth mentioning because, well, it shouldn't be.

But, it kind of is, huh?

I was reminded of that by the checker's double-take when Bam-Bam (the aforementioned 5 year old) proudly declared that he couldn't wait to get home and play with it.

And I was reminded when a co-worker gave me a confused look and asked "Aren't both your kids boys?", when I mentioned how much they liked the show.

And I was reminded when the clerk at McDonald's asked me if our Happy Meals would be "for a boy or girl" and I had to clarify that they were for boys, but we wanted the My Little Pony toys, thankyouverymuch.

And I was reminded when we were in the toy section at Target (looking for a Princess Celestia to complete Bam-Bam's collection) and this random Dad was openly mocking his son for wanting to buy a toy that was *gasp* pink.

It was really hard to keep my mouth shut and walk away from that aisle (with our Princess Celestia tucked happily in our cart). And all I could think was: OhMyBob, is this really still a thing?

It IS 2012, right?

Just checking. 'Cause, yeah, apparently this still a thing.

Maybe not for me. And, of course, not for you, Gentle Reader. You're much to evolved for that.

But, for some people, yeah, this is still a thing.

Bam-Bam doesn't know that some people would think My Little Pony is "for girls" (Though, he's already asked me why some of his favorite toys are in the "pink aisle" while others are in the "hero" aisle.) I hope that if/when he learns that, it won't diminish his enjoyment of one of his favorite shows/toys. And you never know - he's a pretty headstrong little kid who's never worried much about what other people think. So, maybe it won't faze him at all.

But, I still hate the idea that some adult or kid will tell him that something he loves is "wrong". I dread the moment that he would reject something he enjoys not because he's ready to move on, but because someone else is uncomfortable with his tastes.

I admit, I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about this topic.

When I was little, I always liked "boy" toys. Even with fantastic parents and other adults who were great about not telling me what girls could or couldn't do, I learned quickly that others - including most of my peers - were not as open-minded.

I wanted to play with Castle Grayskull when the girls on my block were all about decorating their Barbie Dreamhouses. And I didn't understand why my brother and his friends didn't want me to play superheroes with them. And I couldn't figure out why the local librarian kept trying to get me to read Little House on the Prairie when I was there to check out sci fi adventures.

So I learned to fit in. I never lost my tomboy-geek interests, but I kept them largely hidden for almost my entire childhood - feeling like they were something taboo. Something I could only share with a special few. I played dolls and dress-up and I pretended I didn't know what Star Wars and Spider-Man were. I watched GI Joe and and Justice League in secret and hid my books in my backpack until no one was around but my family.

By college, I was well on my way to my current philosophy: I don't care what anyone else thinks I should or shouldn't like or do. You can think it. But you're wrong and I won't be defined or limited by your lack of imagination.

But even with this now-innate philosophy, I admit my knee-jerk reaction is defensive to small-minded people who get stuck on their ideas of gender roles. Even now as a happy, confident, 38-year-old geek and mom ... I still sometimes have to work really hard not resent someone who wants to tell me what I - or my sons - can or can't do based on their limited ideas of gender roles.

Add to that my Momma Bear instincts to protect my sons, and I almost feel sorry for anyone who tries to tell my kid he "can't" like "girl stuff".


... But, even though there are still those who insist on trying to fit people into old-fashioned little gender boxes early and often, I hold out hope that my sons will never feel the need to hide their joys because others might not approve. That, instead, they will always be surrounded by people who love and celebrate who they are and what they love.

Friendship is magic,