July 12, 2017
My daughter is three, an age alternately filled with delights such as the combinations that result in self-dressing, and horrors such as the five o’clock broken cookie meltdown.
Age three is also the stage of child development at which many children like to put things into categories. As she’s learning to tell male from female, she sometimes talks about whether boys (or girls) do or like various things based on her own observations. My favorite so far is, “Girls can eat corn but boys can’t.” Her brother is allergic to corn, so she’s concluded, logically enough, that corn can only be eaten by girls. Fortunately, she has two other brothers who can eat corn, so it was pretty easy to disabuse her of that particular notion.
There’s nothing like having an entirely human sibling to inspire confidence in one’s own abilities. Having three older brothers has definitely helped keep her mind open to what activities she can do. She has never said that “only boys can do X” - she just assumes she can do whatever they can.
In fact, she’s actually more daring for her age than her brothers generally were at three. She climbs up play structures designed for much older children, takes bigger risks at the pool, and gets into wrestling matches with kids twice her size.
Unfortunately, it’s harder to dissuade her of other conclusions that she’s drawn - she’s already figured out that pink means “for girls.” This is confusing to her because she and her brothers play with dolls and tea sets and other things that come in pink boxes, so she doesn’t seem to think that the actual toys are limited to girls.
There are always girls and boys in the non-pink aisles. But observational data to the contrary about the pink aisle is weak. I’m struggling with all four kids to get them to see beyond pink - which brings me to the worst offender of all...
The clothes - yikes. Of course I founded Princess Awesome because of the lack of dinosaurs on girls’ clothing, so I was aware of the problem. But I still do find myself occasionally arguing against absurdities that have resulted from her observations about what boys and girls wear. From jeans to blue to non-cute animals - she is driving me crazy telling me that she can’t wear a certain thing because girls don’t wear those things. And she is getting this information from what other girls are wearing, so it’s much harder to refute.
Because of Princess Awesome, I can usually counter her by just pulling something out of her drawer and proving it to the contrary: “See? This dress has a dinosaur on it AND it’s blue. This one has ninja and they’re pink. This one is red! Girls can wear red.” But the rest of the world isn’t helping me out. She wants to identify as a girl - but she already feels self-conscious if no other girl is wearing what she’s wearing. Last week for the first time she wanted to wear a princess ball gown all day (and that’s fine!). But then she said it was what she was “supposed to wear because she’s a girl.” The other girls her age at the park wear them, after all.
I honestly just want her to try everything, explore her interests, choose what she likes - all that feminist childrearing stuff I’ve written about over the last few years. But it’s so much harder in practice. The pull of wanting to fit in and identifying with others like us is so strong - even at age three. I don’t want her to make choices because she feels like she won’t be a girl if she doesn’t dress “like other girls.”
That’s why my first “wild sighting” of one of our Rockets Dresses was so exciting (“wild sighting:” seeing a Princess Awesome dress in person worn by a child I don’t know). There are so many girls out there who want to dress in twirly dresses AND ALSO express a love of rocket ships. And I’m so grateful to all of our customers who have been part of this sea change. There are thousands - millions - of girls who deserve clothes that speak to their interests - and which also speak to those around them, including to each other.