September 08, 2017
We were at Dave & Buster’s a few weeks ago for my eldest son’s birthday. Each of the kids received a token card loaded with money to play games. The boys would choose a game, pay for it with the card, then put the card in their pocket and play. My daughter would choose a game, pay for it with the card, and then hand the card to me to hold while she played the game.
Granted, she’s three so I would have been following her around regardless, but I also had my five-year-old son with me and he had no trouble at all taking care of his own card. He didn’t really need me there as “card security” - and he didn’t have to ask me if he could have his card back every time he chose a new game.
I started looking around to see what other girls were doing with their cards. Some of the older girls were carrying purses, or were wearing jeans with back pockets and could put their cards there. But the younger ones either left their card on the game console while they played, held it between their teeth or knees, or handed it to a friend. I wondered if girls’ cards tended to get lost or stolen at a higher rate because they had nowhere to put the cards while they played.
Do pockets really make a difference in how we navigate our lives? I think they do. From an early age, kids with pockets have a slight edge on learning independence. They don’t need someone else to hold things for them when they need both hands. Those tiny moments of self-sufficiency set in motion mindsets and methods of operating that ripple throughout our lives. A child with a pocket can go a little farther and have a little more confidence than a child who constantly needs someone else present to hold or monitor their necessities.
I’m thinking in particular of how my husband and I differ in how we operate. He can go anywhere because his hands are always free - he has many pockets for his wallet, keys, phone, tickets to events, gum, guitar picks, etc. But I’m tied to my purse - if I put it down somewhere, it could get stolen along with my identity and my indulgently expensive lip gloss. I can’t leave it at a table to go pick up an order. I can’t let it sit there unprotected while I get up to dance. Someone either has to hold it or watch it while I run to the bathroom during intermission. It slows me down when I run and play with my kids; it swings around and hits me in the back of the head when I lean over to pick them up. It’s always on my mind, like having one of those sixth-grade social studies egg-children to mind. And so it adds to my mental load - weighing me down not just physically but mentally too. After 20 years of carrying a purse, I’m mostly inured to the extra stress - but it’s stress nonetheless, and it adds in a small way to the inequality of the sexes.
And it isn’t an anxiety I want my daughter to have. I want her to grow up feeling free to walk around and explore without having constantly to protect her physically separate identity-in-a-bag. That’s why all of the clothes we design at Princess Awesome have pockets - big ones - to hold kid treasures (acorns, rocks, and toy cars for the most part). They exist so that she’ll become accustomed to having pockets in her clothes - and to demand that they be present in her clothing as an adult. Maybe operating under the assumption that she will be able to have her hands free when she needs them to be, she will grow up a little less dependent on others than I am. Maybe she won’t assume that she will need someone there to support her, or feel limited by the identity she has to mind constantly. Maybe she’ll live her life with a lighter mental load - and pockets that enable her to be the equal of others around her.