Growing up in the 90s it was fairly well-known or widely accepted that girls like pink. Gender segregation of toys was coming back full blast and we were seeing it everywhere. I remember seeing a commercial for the brand new pink Legos and wondered what was different about them.
Every time we went to a toy store there was a clear distinction between the toys I should be interested in and the ones I shouldn’t. Media influence helped kids buy into the gimmick that gender decided what toys were appropriate and color helped us find them. Boys at school would use “pink” and “girl” as insults. It became clear that liking pink made me a girl and being a girl was not a good thing. Likewise, being a girl meant that I must like pink, and liking pink was lame.
Being the oppositional and hard-headed child that I was, I thought I could either be a girl who lets others tell me who I am or I could be a girl who decides for myself. I decided I hated pink. Hating pink freed me from gender incarceration.
Fast forward to when I was pregnant with my first child. I still hated pink. I registered for gender non-specific clothing even though I knew I was, indeed, having a girl. I told anyone who asked that I didn’t like pink and preferred yellow, blue, and green baby things.
When my baby was born I dressed her in all colors, including pink, because I wasn't in a financial position to be picky (and I mean, I can be an adult about it right?).
But as she grew bigger, I started to realize what every mom realizes at some point: that my preferences aren’t necessarily her preferences. This became even more obvious when she refused to wear pants in January but was always fully clothed in June. My daughter was a whole, unique person and she would choose what she wanted (she made sure I knew that!).
But it was still hard for me. I didn’t want her to think she had to like pink because she was a girl. I didn’t want her to be indoctrinated with gender segregation like so many little kids are (and it starts as early as two years old!). So I offered choices. White or yellow? Flower print or stripes? And even (gasp!) pink or blue?
(I would never dangle the blue shirt closer to her so she would pick it. No – that would be pathetic.)
Before becoming a wife and mother I worked at a summer camp. There was a little girl, five years old, in my classroom, and she was the quintessential pink princess. She actually aspired to be a princess (this was a few years before Kate Middleton so she still had a chance). She loved pink and glitter and ruffles and pretty things. She was exactly what I was afraid of.
One day when her mom was picking her up from camp, she mentioned to me that she had been really good about using gender neutral clothes and toys for her daughter. I said, “Really? Hmm...Well, I guess you know this is really her personality,” and she agreed.
Remembering this interaction with another mother who similarly wanted to protect her daughter from gender segregation, I realized that shunning all things “girly” was just as bad as avoiding all things targeted at boys. Choice was the key. Choice was what I felt like I didn’t have when I was a child.
So, I gave her choices. I became comfortable with my daughter wearing pink, or purple, or whatever she wanted. She also loves cars and trucks, wants to be a mommy when she grows up and, just the other day, said she didn’t want her hair up because she didn’t want to look like a princess. Go figure.
The funny thing about parenting is that we're here to teach our children about the world, but they are here to teach us about our souls. My daughter is exactly who she is and does not apologize for it. Seeing pink so often on her made me start to be okay with pink, and then even like it a little. My feelings of resentment washed away.
I hadn’t worn pink in as long as I could remember and all of a sudden I was enjoying the idea of a coral pink sweater or a magenta tank top. The world of pink seemed to open up to me because of my daughter. Though it’s still not my all-time favorite color (I prefer blue) I am open to the idea of pink and feel like my life is richer and more authentic, now that I’m not afraid of it.
It takes a village!
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