Trucks vs. Princesses

Trucks vs Princesses

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.

8 thoughts on “Trucks vs. Princesses

  1. Oh wow. I’d never thought of the princess/truck connection before. Mind blown. As I read this post, I found myself nodding again and again in agreement. I’m parent to a truck-obsessed little boy too. Even though I’m aware it’s a “boy” thing and that the people around him have probably encouraged this obsession (either knowingly or unknowingly), I most definitely have not viewed it with the same turned up nose I’m ashamed to say I sometimes use for pink princessy things. Thanks so much for this post, and the food for thought! (Side note – our boys sound very similar in the way they play. Also, have you read the Little Blue Truck books? Good messages, catchy rhymes, and great artwork. On heavy rotation here.)

  2. I think trucks are very different from princesses, and they are not a problem for obsession at certain developmental stages. Princesses are more problematic for me. Some reasons:
    – Trucks have to do with real life in the real world involving real activities that are important for human beings to function together. People do things with trucks. Princesses in contrast do not exist in our real world anywhere. They are fantasy. Period. They are not helping our society in any apparent way. They are decorative. Trucks are essential.
    – Trucks convey a message of productivity and involvement in action. “let’s make roads! Let’s haul dirt around! Let’s go places!” Princesses? The message is beauty and dependency. Princesses are “pretty”. Trucks are essential to life. Princesses are definitely not essential to any life I know. Their symbolism is class hierarchy, not sharing life together. That said, it would be nice to be a princess once in awhile!
    – Princesses are dependent on others for their survival unless the princess presented is involved in politics. “Real” princesses, such as the European Queens that still exist at least have a role in the political lives of their countries, albeit for sometimes purely symbolic reasons (representing country elsewhere, carrying on tradition, etc.) or sometimes to uphold positive values (e.g., family maybe). But, these roles for princesses are not brought forward in children’s princess images. These princesses are presented as for show only: pretty, “woman-like”, etc.
    – The message to little boys is: You too can be involved in working, building, creating. The message to little girls: you too can be pretty and taken care of!

    These are some of the big differences between trucks and princesses in my opinion. I vote for truck obsessions. I do not vote for princess obsessions. Also- not so unimportant- trucks make all sorts of cool noises when they’re pushed around the coffee table (zoom, varroom, etc.) What cool noises do princesses make?

    On the other hand, I think princess obsessions may be gender specific comparisons to male super-heros in some ways. But that is another conversation.

    Thanks for opportunity to think about this!

    1. Wow! This is very thought-provoking. I agree with a lot of it. But I notice that the trucks are all about being tough and strong. I see both trucks and princesses as an outlet for gendered attributes and that is something that I’m uncomfortable with. In this post, I tried to explore why I’m more comfortable with Wolfy having male-gendered toys and characters than I would be with a girl.
      I love that you bring up the princess and superhero comparison. I think that is very apt. Wolfy has not yet developed an interest in super heroes and I’ve been reluctant to introduce them to him. Maybe this is why…
      Thank you for such a thoughtful response!

  3. As a mother of boys who are also obsessed with vehicles, I can’t imagine a house full of princesses and ponies when I’ve actually grown to love cars and trucks and planes. You’re absolutely right though, there are good versions of these things and had versions. I think you’ll be fine 🙂

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