I came across this exchange (in Italian) in an advice column on the site for families in Florence called Fiorentini si cresce. This is an actual question by an actual person:
Dear doctor, I’m the mom of a three-year-old girl. What worries me about her is that since she started school and started playing with boys (which she didn’t do before) she talks about superheroes all the time, as many as 10 different ones … she pretends to be spiderman, and I get mad saying those are games for boys and she shouldn’t play them. She responds that she’s just pretending and it’s just a game. My question is this: am I doing the right thing? Also, is it normal that she’s attracted to games that are more for boys? I have no idea what I should do…thanks so much in advance for your answer.
I don’t think there are games just for boys or for girls, only games that a boy or a girl (in your case) like to play with others! What’s more, your daughter is still very young, it’s too early to say what her preferences are. I recommend you let her play and use her imagination however she wants.
My heart just breaks for this woman’s little girl. At three years old–three!–she’s already versed in downplaying her true desires to placate her mother. Thank god this woman at least had the wherewithal to wonder if she’s doing the right thing. And usually it’s at least a little more acceptable for girls to do boy things than vice versa. Lordy, imagine what this woman would do if she had a little boy who liked playing with dolls!
And while the doctor’s answer is on the right track, it feels awfully feeble to me. Especially with the cop-out, between-the-lines reassurance of “don’t worry, this doesn’t mean she’ll be like this forever.” So what if she is? What exactly would be so wrong with that??