It’s absolutely normal, I imagine, for little kids to want to be what their mom and dad are when they grow up. I suspect that is especially true if your mom or dad is a firefighter, a ballet dancer, a painter, a pilot or a vet. Or, in the case of my daughter’s father, a professional athlete.
Our child watches Dave play hockey with an enthusiasm wholly unfathomable to most adults. She loves the crowd, cheering for the team, waiting for him at the rink after the game. She also loves watching hockey with her father, on his lap during playoffs or together in front of the laptop watching highlights on YouTube during the off-season. Last week while Dave was on the road V and I were cruising YouTube over breakfast as we often do, watching Jack Johnson videos and alphabet song remixes and the like. And suddenly she was making requests. For hockey highlights. *sigh*
In recent months her love of her father’s profession has turned into a desire to be just like him. She asked for hockey sticks and a helmet. We obliged. She says very matter-of-factly “Vesper play hockey too!” while nodding vigorously. Her father loves it; I hope that she and any future children choose a pursuit with less chance of physical harm. But what can I do?
I get it. When I do yoga, she wants to do yoga. When she sees her aunt rendering, she wants to draw. For goodness sake, when she sees my dad picking up sticks in the yard, she wants to be a stick-picker. She focuses in on the people she sees as cool and fun and wants to emulate them. I get it. But this is unique. This is precious.
Because as normal as it is for her to want to be just like her dad, I realize with sadness and frustration that she is still untouched by societial expectations of her in terms of what is normal according to her gender. That eventually (soon?) she might be told my some asshat that girls don’t play hockey. Can’t do this. Don’t act like that. For now she is still following her instincts, but rest assured the campaign to pigeon-hole her started the day after she was born and her gender was revealed. Tiny shirts that say ‘Pretty Diva’ for girls and ‘Tough Guy’ for boys. Blankets with flowers and hearts and kittens for a lady baby, gear covered in footballs and rockets and dinosaurs for dudes. Everyone knows girls can’t throw, will never get to space and are scared of dinosaurs/science! Might as well teach them this lesson right out of the cervix!
The truth is that as cute as this is, her interests are bound to shift and change constantly until she finds her passion(s), and even after that she will always be evolving. The point, though, is that I want her to be able to make those changes and choices with the understanding that her status as female doesn’t define or limit her. I want her to dress herself and choose her bulldozer t-shirt with her tutu and not feel that this is a contradiction. I want her to be express herself through sport and/or through art. I want her to think of herself as strong and funny and smart AND beautiful. If I were to have a son, I’d feel the same way. I’d want him to feel free to dance and sing and jump and play and cry and laugh and have no concept that our society views some of those activities as the territory of girls only. A dream, perhaps, but one worth pushing into reality as much as I can.
If she wants to play hockey, I want her to play hockey. I want her to be veryveryvery careful and always wear her mouth guard and have a giant helmet. But I want her to do what she wants to do.
Although I do have to put my foot down somewhere. Gender be damned, I prefer to not be put through the stress of watching my child play goal. Pleaseletthisbeaphase.