Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Story of a Pink and Blue Striped Cap

This post was inspired by the memoir Raising My Rainbow by Lori Duron as she shares her journey raising a gender creative son. Join From Left to Write on September 5 as we discuss Raising My Rainbow.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. The book is available for purchase here.

This is my first post for From Left to Write, an online book club where our bloggers/members create a virtual discussion of a book and how it relates to their lives and in turn, everyone’s lives.

When our twins were born I saw not two girls but two blobs of healthy baby: twenty toes, four blue eyes, minimal hair, squishy faces and good Apgar scores. Also, I had no idea which was which. My husband knew although I think he had a better view of the "A" and "B" tags that the nurse had stuck to their tiny caps, their matching tiny pink caps.

"Could you put one of them in a blue cap please, it would be easier", was my exhausted plea to the nurse on day 2, feeling like a complete failure as a mother for having no idea which child was A and which was B without finding my glasses and studying the caps.

"You want me to put a blue cap on your daughter?", with a look of bewilderment comparable to the one on Jack's face when the doctor heard not one but two heartbeats.

"I do, please".

She scurried away and came back with a much better solution, a blue and pink striped cap. Who this was originally intended for we have no idea. I can only imagine the level of confusion for the poor mother who was not supplied the cheat sheet version of infant gender assignment; what child was deemed suitable for a gender confused baby cap?

Mine, but only at my request.

My mother in law quickly found her way to Baby Gap to find something more suitable. She was, I assume, unnerved by seeing her beautiful granddaughter wearing the ambiguous striped cap. The next day one girl was wearing a mint green number, the other lavender. Sanity restored, my only challenge being to remember who was in what color and to pray that no one ever switched the caps without me knowing.

When the girls were born I believed that there were certain things we all, as parents, had evolved into accepting. McDonald's food was unhealthy and generally bad, ditto television and all processed food. Also, the overall atmosphere of force feeding gender stereotypes? Very bad. Didn't we all believe that teaching our daughters about knights in shining armor and glass slippers was bad practice? Apparently not.

It is difficult to buy a child's toothbrush without making a gender specific proclamation. There we are at Target, trapped for hours in the dental aisle, trying desperately to agree on a toothbrush multi-pack that keeps everyone happy.  God bless Snoopy. His tooth brush collection, available in red, yellow and green, appeals to all and says little about the gender of the brush'er.

My children wear puffy coats from L.L. Bean every winter. They are warm, simple, last forever (or long enough to hand down between two very different sized twins) and are available in a vast array of colors. The boys' coat comes in bright orange, night sky and river moss. For girls we have citron, orchid and true blue, a turquoise color. It's the same coat, the exact same coat, and rather than list all the colors together, it is sorted into two distinct groups which I, as a mother appreciate, as I sometimes have trouble knowing just what colors are appropriate for my girls. Thankfully there are so many people willing to help me find my way. Pity my poor child who prefers primary colors and is forced to buy her winter coat in the boy section each year.

For all the effort made to categorize children, to assign to them our own stereotypes and confine them to our rigid, and really outdated, criteria of pink and blue, I remain confused. My children are not gender creative, they are gender non-compliant. Mary, who climbs every tree she sees and lives her life covered in scrapes and bruises, prefers to dress in glitter sparkled tutus.  Kate, who recoils in horror at the idea of bedazzled clothing, is perfectly content to spend the day inside with Kit, her doll, having tea parties and telling stories.

Who wouldn't be confused?

Many thanks to the employees of the Gap who have tried, repeatedly to direct me to the correct side of the store. My own ignorance once again stepping in first as I continue to miss the obvious, the screaming pink and purple displays to my left as I walk in and turn right, looking for jeans for my daughters that do not cling to their tiny bodies as if wrapped in a neon colored fire hose.

Also thanks to McDonald's which, on the one trip I made to pick up lunch for a classroom party, almost stumped me with the gender specific Happy Meal question. Thank goodness for the counter help who were able to direct me to the appropriate lunch option, and apologies to the 10 boys in the class forced to suffer the indignity of eating a girl Happy Meal. Thanks also to the girl in kindergarten who told Mary that if she was a girl she needed to wear pink to school every day and to Kate's first grade classmate who told me that she was almost positive that Kate's blue tennis shoes were for boys. Where would we be without the kind direction of these people?

When the girls were younger a woman at the park, the mother of a boy and a girl, told me she thought I was lucky because I would never have to separate their toys.

"I'm sorry?"
"Well I just mean you'll never have that day when you have to tell your son that he can't play with your daughter's toys, you know, because they are girl toys".
"Oh right, I hadn't thought of that. Lucky me!"

Clearly I have been very confused. Perhaps we all are. 


Nicole Pelton said...

I must admit i was ready to rant and rave half way through this post, but then I just started to laugh :) twas a joke, right :)

northsidefour said...

Yes, but the idea of tacking on a blue or pink label to children, no joke, just archaic.

Anonymous said...

Who's cares if your child has on blue or pink. I am a girl who never wanted those colors. Don't make me where purple either. I never liked girls toys, I still don't.
I only wanted tools, cowboy stuff, army stuff, trucks, cars.
I grew up to be very much a woman, but I still do not care for the frilly stuff; its really ok. I liked engineering and science. I love motorcycles, everything male. I love men's clothes but I choose not to dress in men's clothes.
Let children be who they are, they know. It does not always mean anything. Let them be whole and happy in their own heart and soul.

Nellie said...

We've two grandchildren, a boy (big brother) and a girl. Thoughtful visitors when his sister was born would bring along TWO gifts. He would always announce that the pink-wrapped gift was for HER, and he wasn't quite three years old when she was born.

I agree with the last paragraph of Anonymous above.

A very well-written and thought-provoking post.


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