What’s in a Room?

Yesterday afternoon, while my husband and I were hemming and hawing over the placement of her furniture, our daughter wandered upstairs, sneaking up on us, and peered into her new bedroom for the first time. It’s not finished yet (half of her stuff is still hiding away in the guest room, and we haven’t got any of her new wall decorations up yet), but she seemed quite excited. She pranced around the room for a while, snuggled up with her “Twilight Sparkle” blanket (it’s totally just a purple blanket, but whatever she wants to think, right?), and overall just seemed happy with it.

It got me thinking about my different rooms when I was younger. I had three different ones, even though we always lived in the same house, and each of them was very me.

The first room that I had was the logical room for the baby, before my parents’ house was renovated in any way. It was in the back corner of the house, across the hall from my parent’s room. It was, as far as I can remember, a perfect square, and the walls were painted a very light pink. I believe I remember that there was a flowery border around the center of the room as well…pink roses, I think. Obviously I can’t remember back as far as when I was in a crib, but I do remember my big-girl bed, a white deal with drawers in the bottom and a headboard that allowed me to keep some of my favorite books beside me at all times. I also had a little double crib in that room for my baby dolls…not a toy, and not the real deal, but one of those miniature display models you see at the store when they don’t have the room to put up one of the full models. I don’t recall who got it from the store for me, but it was pretty damn awesome because I loved my dolls, and it was the perfect thing to keep them in. I don’t recall a whole lot more about that room, except for little flashes of additions (my first TV, my first “boom box”, my first Nintendo system), and eventually I moved on to…

My second room was the one that was adjacent my parents’ room, and across the hall from the bathroom. This room was illogical for a child’s bedroom because of the shape and the size (it was much smaller than my old one), but I can remember insisting that I wanted to move in there. The embarrassing thing is, thinking back, I think the only reason I wanted to move into that room was so that I would get to have decorations in my window during the holidays. Kids are dumb sometimes. But for better or worse, I moved into that room. A lot of the space was taken up by the closet, which jutted out at the front of the room near the door. The space created between the side of the closet and the window wall of the room was where I jammed my bed, and everything else logically had to go on the opposite wall. I actually quite liked the layout because at the time I had about a million stuffed animals that I loved and had given names to, and with the way my bed was crammed into that spot I could have all of them on there with me without any chance of them falling off. It was a bit silly, to be sure…the stuffies took up more room on that bed than I did…but I loved it. Later on in that room I completely negated the use of the closet by building myself a dollhouse in there. I’d never had a dollhouse, but at the time I was too old to not sound weird if I asked for one, so I made my own by building furniture out of cardboard boxes and the like, and making all kinds of little stuff like magazines and the like with paper and crayons. It was mind-blowingly immature, but sometimes mind-blowingly immature stuff is what keeps us happy. I like to think that that homemade dollhouse was an important moment in my creative life.

After some time in the small room I actually moved back to the bigger room, which was mostly the same except that now I was older so I started papering the walls with posters of my favorite bands and actors, and since I was doing a lot of drawing at this time in my life, there was a lot of that as well.

I don’t remember when, how, or why I brought up the idea of me moving into the basement (knowing me, I probably read it in a book), but several months after I first brought up the idea, my parents sold their pool table (which didn’t really ever get used), carpeted the main room of the basement, built a wardrobe/shelf/desk combo, and moved me down there. It was more like a small apartment rather than a bedroom, really, it was so big. The desk combo and my bed were down in in the smaller section, and in the bigger section there was a love seat and the TV and games, and a kitchen table (of all things) on which I would do puzzles and models and the like. I didn’t even have to go upstairs to go to the bathroom, since there was a toilet in the basement. It was really quite ridiculous for a teenager, but I loved it and in the end my parents loved it as well because it allowed them to start renovating upstairs (by way of knocking out walls to make the important rooms bigger). The poster-papering continued down here, and I hold that I probably had the most ridiculously dark room in teenage history because of all the black that wound up on my walls.This photo doesn't even come close to showing how bad the walls eventually got.

This photo doesn’t even come close to showing how bad the walls eventually got.

I don’t know why I felt the urge to write this post. Maybe I just like talking about my childhood, or maybe I was just struggling for something to write about. Either way, thinking about my various bedrooms allowed me to remember how important it was for me, growing up, to have a space that was my own, that I could decorate the way I wanted, my own special sanctuary, and I hope that my daughter grows up feeling the same way about her room.

I think she will. :)
I think she will. 🙂

Gender Insignificant

Gender stereotypes.

Paying attention? I’d be willing to bet that you are because these two words, when combined, create panic attacks and mass hysteria, especially when applied to children.

You said it, Joker.

Gender stereotypes are something that I’ve personally never played into. As a little girl I was a bit of a tomboy who preferred pants to skirts, blue to pink, and climbing trees to tea parties, but I also liked baby dolls and My Little Pony. I grew up to become a woman working in a male dominated field, but I do so wearing red lipstick and nail polish. I guess you could say that I’m a feminine tomboy. Does that make sense? Sure it does. Move on already, geeze.

I just happened to turn out the way I am through neither the fault nor the effort of my parents or the other people in my life. My mom tried to get me to wear more girlie clothes, but I mostly vetoed her; my slew of male cousins tried to get me into things like fishing and shooting pellet guns, but I never really caught on to those things. I was pretty adamant that I liked what I liked, and to hell with the rest.

When I was a kid the topic of gender stereotypes didn’t really exist as far as I was concerned, but now that I have a child of my own, I see the argument in a much different light. It makes me raise a critical eyebrow.

People are absolutely nuts when it comes to the gender stereotype issue. Absolutely nuts.

There are two major groups that I can discern. The first are the people who cling to the gender stereotypes. These people believe that girls belong in pink skirts, and boys in blue pants. They believe that girls should play with dolls and boys with trucks. Girls should be gentle and sensitive, boys should be rough and tough. Girls grow up to be mothers who take care of the household, boys grow up to be the providers. To the minds of these people, any deviation from the norm is some kind of horrible character flaw. They’re terrified that allowing children to experience anything outside their gender’s “rulebook” will create ultra-feminists and flamboyant gays, which is a concept that, aside from being just ridiculously prejudiced and bigoted, couldn’t be any less based in actual fact.

Second, you have the other side who take it to the exact opposite extreme. These people think that kids who stick to concepts that are traditionally labeled to their gender makes them somehow socially backward. A little girl who dreams of being a princess is an embarrassment to “enlightened” women. A little boy who likes superheroes is automatically a typical testosterone-laden chauvinist. By choosing to embrace things that fall into the stereotypes we’ve grown up with for decades, these kids are thought to be some kind of terrible example of the rampant sexism in the world and people’s unwillingness to advance.

Does anyone beside me think that both of these types of people are a little looney?

You want to know what I think? (Well it doesn’t matter because it’s my blog and I’m going to tell you anyway!) I think that, for a change, we should just stand back and let the kids make their own decisions as to what to surround themselves with. Give them the opportunity and let them figure it out on their own what they like, instead of what you think they should like. I promise you that what toys he plays with does not decide whether your little boy is going to be a vicious brute or be sexually confused, and that your little girl is not going to become a vapid slut or develop unhealthy female body expectations just because she happens to like Barbie dolls.

I’ve said this before, but kids aren’t born understanding things like stereotypes and prejudice; they learn it because we inflict it upon them. The choices they make on their own are innocent, free of our perceived consequences. If a little girl likes trucks it’s not because she’s too masculine, nor does it mean she’s a strong, enlightened woman; it’s because trucks are fun toys. That’s it. End of discussion. If a little boy likes to play with tea sets it does not mean that he’s destined to be gay, nor does it mean that he’s advanced and in touch with his feminine side; it means that tea sets are fun toys. Honestly, that’s really all that goes through a child’s mind:

“Is it fun? No? Get that crap away from me!”

“Is it fun? Yes? Gimmi gimmi gimmi!”

Kids learn from us, and it’s our habit of focusing on gender stereotypes that is the real problem. By making a big deal out of it, one way or the other, we reinforce that this is an issue and it therefore becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Seriously, if we would just pretend that the issue doesn’t even exist and let kids figure out what they enjoy on their own, it’ll be much, much easier on everyone. I promise.

(And yes, before any smart-asses point it out, I realize that I am, by way of this blog post, “focusing on the issue”. You know what I mean; stop being purposely contradictory.)

My daughter is now 2 and a half. We’ve imposed nothing on her (except for, obviously, we’re the ones who have been buying her clothes), and she is one of the most well-rounded toddlers I know. She loves reading books and she loves running and jumping. She has tea parties and she has water gun fights. She loves her My Little Pony t-shirts and she loves her Ninja Turtles pajamas. She likes purple and pink, and blue and green. Her mother is on the other side of the country two weeks out of every four, and her father is a stay-at-home-dad, and you know what? It hasn’t affected her one bit…because why would it?

It’s time to stop pushing our kids to be the way we believe they should be and let them figure out who they want to be. Wouldn’t you have wanted that as a child, had you been given the choice? Please share your thoughts and comments!