Boyish & Girlish, Llamas, Mermaids, Unicorns, Starfish… #MondayMusings

This weekend, as I was going through the ALDI special-buys leaflet, I came across a lunchbox carrier which Dhruv has been asking me to buy for a long time.

I did get him a lunch bag earlier after careful browsing through a store among the various colours and patterns. After striking off the Spiderman and Fairy themed bags, I zeroed in a bag with Llamas on it considering the fact he loves to mention Llamas when he gets into the spitting mode. (Llamas are the non-violent animal who show their anger by spitting on each other.) When I brought it home, there was a mild disappointment at the colour of the bag. It was pink. It was a nice shade of pink, according to me and it had his favourite Llamas on it. He didn’t pester for long on this, after all, I always propagate colours are just that, colours.

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The Llama lunch bag

I packed the lunch box in the new bag the next day. That day, when he came back from school in the afternoon, he complained lots about the boys at his lunch table making fun of him for the pink bag. He told me he understands there is nothing boyish or girlish about the colour pink but the boys at school will poke at him. Considering he never fusses about the pink toothbrushes we get him every now and then or the various Barbie toothbrushes I have got for him in the past times or when I ask him to wear pink shorts on our outings, I gave in. I put away that Llama bag for later uses other than for school.

Going by our previous experience of a lunch bag, I showed the ALDI leaflet to Dhruv to choose a theme among the 4 themes – Smiley, Dinosaur, Mermaid or Unicorn. He chose Dinosaur. I tried him to choose between smiley or unicorn but dinosaur remained to be the fixation. Why did I keep mermaid out of my ‘Trying’ question? I had already got my education about mermaids earlier in the week on my school day.

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ALDI Special-buy leaflet

Last week, I witnessed a related episode on my school day with the 6-year-olds in the class. There was a new teacher that day and the class was well-behaved. It was surprising for me to see all of them showing their best behaviour with the new teacher. One reason was 2 children with behavioural issues were spending their time in the Deputy Head Teacher’s office. The rest of the children worked very hard with the Maths and the letter formations. As a reward, the teacher had a fun activity planned for them. This activity had A4 size sheets with body parts of a seagull, a starfish and a mermaid which the children had to colour in, cut out and stick them together to make the respective pictures. The teacher asked me to pick one of the 3 pictures. Starfish was my choice. Next, the class was asked who all were interested in starfish were to go to Mrs. Vee’s table. Was I surprised that 5 children raised their hands and all of them were boys? The other help that afternoon, the teaching assistant, chose the mermaid and all the girls (all 11 of them) sided with her. The remaining 2 boys who were back from the Deputy Head Teacher’s office by then got to do the seagull by default. Later on, after a slight readjustment, one girl came to my table with the starfish sheet and 2 went to the seagull table. I think I learned something more that day about the interests of boys and girls.

I recounted this incident to Dhruv wishing to know if something similar has ever happened in his class. “Surely”, he said. It was the choosing between football and unicorn craft work. He chose football, a game he does not like or play. I was curious why didn’t he do the unicorn craft. The answer was obvious if you can make out.

To give him some credit, once again he didn’t say unicorn was girlish. He said all the girls chose unicorn and the boys football.

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Images – The images of the lunch bag and the ALDI leaflet are mine. The images in the above collage are taken from the free images on Canva and Pixabay.

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14 comments

  1. I like that you’re teaching Dhruv that no colors are for boys or girls only. But the boys activities and interests start differing from girls at quite an early age! I really wonder why or how that happens…

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  2. I completely agree with you the environment in which these kids are growing also matters as most of the opinions they would pick up based on their peer interactions only

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  3. We are going to face several other dilemmas in our journey of parenting. Its a clash between our own principles, thoughts and values that we teach them and what they pick up from their environment. Finally who they turn out to be would be a combination of both these factors.

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  4. This is interesting! I had similar experiences with Arjyo while he was growing up. In the UK, even baby clothes were in shades of blue and pink so the “colour-coding” happened right from birth. We tried not to go with that consciously encouraging Arjyo to wear every colour. While growing up, Arjyo always had a preference for purple and until he was in grade 6, he was happy with whatever he was wearing. Later, the colour preferences began to sneak in and I think the peer groups play a big role in that. It is even more pronounced in the case of teenagers as I’m getting to experience now and most of the times, as a parent, one can only try to suggest ways but if the peers put them under pressure, the kids will buckle in.

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  5. It’s the peer pressure at work, Anu. However much we explain to them that colours are just that, colours, or for that matter, even cartoon characters, boys WILL pick what’s the fav in their peer group, and so will girls.
    I, too, did it for quite a long time! πŸ˜›

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  6. It appears that the “gender-neutral” movement will need more time to take hold, but you’re providing a step in the right direction! Attitudes take a long time to change, but eventually, they will.

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  7. Kanna never picks pink or purple because they are girl colors. But surprisingly he made a unicorn banner at school and it happened just a month ago before the school closed, so I was really surprised at how my boy is changing from boys-girls division to doing it for his fun. When he was attending Reception class in the UK, another boy teased him when he sang the song from Frozen, because it wasn’t boys’ song. He stood his ground and said that there was no such thing. But gradually he got corrupted and joined the boys’ group. My second one, on the other hand, loves to paint his nails with pink nail polish and likes pink the most, at least for now. I am sure things will take a turn when he finds out that pink is a girly color. My husband’s aversion to the color pink won’t help either.
    That llama lunch bag was cute, Mrs. Vee. πŸ™‚

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  8. As a mother of a 6 yr old daughter I have started believing that choices of girls and boys start developing from very early age though choices of an individual child can differ with the choices made when surrounded by friends. Having said that, my daughter hates cricket , by default; but has started playing cricket now as its the World Cup season.

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  9. In my last post on how to raise feminist sons, I mentioned these gender equated things and how I am fighting those stereotypes. As you mentioned, peers are a huge problem. Incidentally, my younger son has a brown and pink lunch bag. He only once mentioned that it had a lot of pink, but I said he liked pink which he does. So he took it without comment and has had it for the entire year. Of course, he is older but pretty introverted. Maybe, his class kids are not as immature.

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  10. Hmm, this is a tricky one and there’s a lot of deep-seated gendered stereotyping at play that has to change for the kids to feel comfortable about their choices. It cannot be easy on them, either.

    At some level, kids will evolve and mature, is my belief. Maybe the more the read, the more they interact with kids and adults who show them that colours are not indicative of gender, the focus may shift. I agree it’s a mammoth task, but what you’re doing at home is crucial too. So I’d commend you on that and for keeping things real for D, while being accepting of his choices as well as navigating peer pressure.

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  11. I am glad that he understands colors are just colors. But more than that he also understand the social pressure of making a particular choice. You are going great in teaching him good life lessons.

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  12. I am glad you are doing your bit and sad that world isn’t changing or may be the change is too slow. Having said that, I know that conditioning plays such a big role in upbringing. I hope more and more parents make conscious choices.

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