Thursday, 26 September 2013

On the Buses

I just had the following conversation. I'll truncate it for brevity's sake but I think you'll get the gist pretty quickly anyway. Here we go:

Lovely random lady (we'll call her Dot for this exercise): Oh how old is he?
Me: (smiles) She's 10 months.
Dot: Oh I'm SO sorry....
Me: Don't worry, we're not. 
Dot: (leans in very close) Oh you have some red on. I should have guessed. 
Playful Baby looks up, beams and starts chattering and waving at Dot. 
Dot: Oh but of course, now I see! You're so pretty aren't you?
Me: Yes, she's quite a character. 
Dot: Oh but look at you. Aren't you beautiful!
Me: (smiles) Thank you. She's really enjoying chatting to you. 
Dot: Well, you are a princess!
Me: Mostly she's an explorer. She just wants to crawl all the time. Do you have children?
Dot: Yes. A boy. He's not beautiful but girls are beautiful and you are SO pretty. 

....... you get the idea, yes?

Having a 10 month old invites lots of interaction which is great because Playful Baby is very nosy and likes to ransack other people's bags, pull at newspapers and sing her favourite song to the whole bus. I don't wince when someone calls her a boy because I honestly don't care. I do wince when everything that is commented upon is ornamental. I do my best to move the conversation away from it  but it's hard sometimes. 

Playful Baby likes to hang upside down. She likes to crawl as fast as she can then stop abruptly and cheer her progress. She adores books. She likes ducks quite a lot too. She's not massively keen on sleep because hey, things to DO! She rough and tumbles with her baby friends and likes a gentle cuddle to get to sleep at the end of the day. 

Now I know no one is going to know that when she meets but I do my best to try and help you see her character. I can tell you about her favourite game at the moment (stuff her food in mummy's mouth) and what book she is currently obsessed with (My Little Baby has a mirror at the book that she anticipates and gleefully kisses each time). I cannot see where princess is coming from though. She currently is wearing trousers with monsters on the butt. 

When we define small infants in gender stereotypes, we are not just limiting our expectations of their character but also our interactions. If you expect Playful Baby to sit prettily, you will rapidly find yourself very lonesome indeed because she'll be in the next room, chewing on a shoe she has found. I won't chastise you for noticing she's awesome and yes, I want her esteem about her self image to be healthy. She has killer smile with wicked deep dimples and curls that just make me melt. I tell her she's beautiful every day when I scoop her up as she wakes. It goes like this:

'Hey beautiful girl. What are we going to DO today'. 

The world is too exciting to be ornamental Playful Girl and so are you. Go get 'em. 

3 comments:

Kristin said...

I love this post so much! My daughter is now 3, and we constantly get comments like this (she is damn cute). Delightfully, rather than dressing pretty or playing princess, she is far more interested in running, collecting sticks and leaves for her nature collection, climbing on everything... you get the idea. I say delightfully, because she is completely, 100% herself. She is delightfully oblivious to the expectations of how girls should act or dress or be. I love it. :)

By the way, when she was an infant she had a bunch of cute dresses with flowers and butterflies and girly things on them. And they were blue. And, inevitably, anytime she wore one of the blue dresses people told us what an adorable little boy we had. It was mind boggling.

handstories said...

amen. baby Blue had a lavendar tshirt, "aren't you worried people will think he's a girl?" no, either they know him & know he isn't, or they don't & i don't care. flash forward...9 yr. old Blue, getting to know some new boys..."hey, Blue, your pants are purple!" said in a tone meant to embarrass him. without missing a beat he replied, "Actually, they're maroon." i was a proud mama. (though now he's 15 & will only wear boston red sox attire...sigh)

Sarah Moore said...

I tend to get around that one by talking directly to the baby: "how old are YOU?"

In fact I was just having this conversation with my mum - to me all babies are gender-neutral, they don't have a gender until they are old enough to figure that out for themselves!

My niece is now about 7 weeks old. She wears very gender-neutral clothes. Her (parents') favourite outfit is a Yoda costume I knitted. But Kate has started dressing her in pink booties to stop people getting embarrassed when they wrongly assume she is a boy... SIGH.

You hear so many things about how boy babies are supposed to behave differently from girl babies, for example "boys need constant feeding" etc. But from my friends' experiences every baby is different and it has nothing to do with gender!