Peanut and I were in England for a few days in August to visit family, and since most things cost less than in Italy, I stocked up on various things. So many aspects of the UK feel like home for me, and of course many things also feel delightfully foreign. But I naively assumed you can basically find all things in all seasons like in North America. Not so. The two things I had trouble tracking down were 'wellies' (rain boots -- which, yeah, I was surprised too, because, England) and a Halloween/Carnevale costume for Peanut.
On our last morning there, I finally found a store with costumes. There was exactly one for boys and one for girls. (Of course. How I long for the day there is a gender neutral costume section for kids. Period.) They were located in two different areas of the store and I spotted them before Peanut.
"Do you want to be a princess, honey?"
That's where I should have stopped. Because I know my kid. Sure, he likes nail polish and watching Princess Sophia and cooing at babies, but he LOVES all things 'boy' - anything to do with fighting, exploding, crashing, revving engines, sirens...you get the picture. I knew he would pick being a ninja over being a princess, any day. So why in the world did I show him the ninja costume?
1. I rationalized to myself that at least I even gave him the choice. So many Italians wring their hands if boys express preferences for anything even remotely girly. Recently a friend told me that when her husband saw her son dressing up in her jewelry, he demanded he take it all off immediately. Because, you know, he could 'turn gay' just by wearing it.
2. If you think about it, being a ninja is just cooler than being a princess. I would pick that too. Being active, heroic and mysterious versus passive, pretty and graceful? Is there really any contest? Girls have such a raw freaking deal when it comes to the roles they're encouraged to emulate. It seems like 90% of the time it's just PRINCESS. Definitely here in Italy for Carnevale that's pretty much all the girls get to be. We all know princess-focused girl culture is a virtual epidemic. So, yeah, I may warmly encourage any spark of interest that my boy may have in princessy things, for various reasons, but BLECH.
3. I'm still rather cowardly when it comes to pushing these buttons. It doesn't help that I would have to fight Andrea on it. He is pretty evolved compared to most Italian men; I must give him credit. He gave in about the nail polish and doesn't care if Peanut wears pink, plays with dolls, dresses up in my heels. He humours me when I insist on sending Peanut to school in neutral-coloured smocks when the rest of his class is all in pink and blue. But sending him out dressed like a princess would be too much. Which makes me sad, because it's hard out here on the gender activist parenting frontier all by myself. Maybe I should have pushed with this one too, but I'm picking my battles and focusing my energy on those.
Have you fought a battle like this and won? If so, please share your tips in the comments below!