Don’t Call Her a Tomboy
She had on camouflage cargo shorts and a lavender shirt and probably sandals with Velcro straps across her tiny toes. We were looking at Disney princess nightgowns and then made our way to Cars. Lightning McQueen was her favorite. Our house was full of him: the blue Dinoco, the classic shiny one with white-wall tires, the muddy one, and on and on it went. As we were leaving a clerk stopped us to say that her grandson was in love with Lightning too. And then she asked, “How old is your son?”
“My daughter,” I said, “is almost four.”
It was an honest mistake and nothing to write home about except in pre-school my daughter’s teacher made it a point to tell me that she was so happy to see a girl play with dolls and want to build things. “I was a tomboy too,” she said.
It was at this point that I kind-of lost it.
When I was growing up, I honestly do not remember walking into a toy store and being bombarded with an explosion of pink on one side and a cascade of muscles and six-pack abs on the other. Walk into any big-box store now and you can divide the toys for “boys” and “girls” by the aisle down the middle. Never – the divide suggests – are these two worlds supposed to meet.
Let’s say you’re in a hurry and pull up to the drive-thru. Yes, toys still come with the meal but do you want a “girl” toy or a “boy” toy? I have always made it a point to say we want Hello Kitty or Transformers; completely disregarding the question.
Or how about potty training? Superheroes, Spongebob, Cars and Diego are for the “boys” and Princesses, flowers, and Pooh Bear are for the “girls.” Regardless of what the section suggested, we went with her favorite character.
For Halloween she was Jessie and then she was Harry Potter.
I’m not a gender warrior; I’m a mother that’s raising a well-rounded daughter. That’s why I lost it at pre-school. Boys, probably and eventually, will become fathers, so why not play with a baby doll? Girls, when they build things, may become architects. When someone – however good the intention – takes notice and labels a girl a “tomboy,” they limit her potential. Labels are things we stick inside our clothing, not something we should put on our children.
I made my thoughts very clear at pre-school: do not call my daughter a tomboy.
And they never did again.
It’s not my girl that has the problem. She’s more than happy to bring her stuffed animals to school and then skateboard home. Maybe, if I let her, through the aisles of the toy store too.
Image via Liz Henry