Today I was chatting with one of the other parents after story time and she said something that struck me.
“Trucks are kind of the same thing for little boys as princesses are for little girls.”
Maybe I am the last person in the world to make this connection but honestly, I had never thought about it in this way before.
When Wolfy started becoming obsessed with trucks, I never questioned it. He simply loved trucks so I loved them too. I bought him trucks at yard sales, trucks are the main characters in his books, trucks filled his Easter basket, there are trucks on his t-shirts, truck decals on his bedroom wall. He even sleeps beneath a brand new truck quilt- one that I asked his great-grandmother to make especially for Wolfy. Sure, once in a while I’ll toss a pony or a dog or even a doll into the mix for good measure, but let’s be honest; most everything in our house is attached to some form of wheels. For some mysterious reason, everyday Wolfy carefully places his fleet of vehicles in a ridiculously long line while toys like his well-stocked play-kitchen sit neglected in the corner.
When the other mom compared the truck obsession to the princess obsession, I instantly pictured all the trucks in my house magically turning into pink, sparkly princess paraphernalia. The image in my mind was absolutely repulsive. I thought of the teeny-tiny baby girl growing in my belly and realized that a princess obsession in my future is actually a very real possibility. Suddenly, I felt nauseous and faint.
What is wrong with me? Why am I okay with trucks and not princesses?
I’ve even stepped on board the crazy train of Thomas the Tank Engine and other talking vehicles. They are terrible and yet Wolfy loves them so they’ve become enmeshed in our lives.
What is so wrong with these gendered toys and obsessions?
For girls, princesses seem to say something about how to be a woman and what girls should expect out of life. In many cases, it’s a message that I’m uncomfortable with my little girl to cleaving onto. But trucks are also sending messages to my little boy about what it means to be a man. These messages, about toughness and strength, are more subtle but they are still present. When Wolfy plays by himself, I can hear him holding conversations between his trucks. Usually it is an elaborate rescue scenario involving a break down and a visit to the mechanic. Wolfy’s trucks are exceedingly polite, much more so than my real life child. And they are all good friends ready to help each other out in a bind.
Later in our conversation the mother at story time said, “Like a lot of the princess stuff, some of the truck books are of good quality and some aren’t so much.” I couldn’t agree more. There are some fantastic truck books out there that teach solid values and encourage imaginative play. Perhaps trucks are something that Wolfy can love without them taking over his psyche and brainwashing him completely. If that’s true for trucks, then there must be pink, sparkly princesses out there ready to do the same thing. And if my daughter delves into super princess mode, my plan is not to shame or deny her of what she loves. Instead I will make it my mission to find those well-written books, and those princesses that exude the traits I hope to cultivate in my little girl as well.