Pink, Thomas the Train and Other Choices

We had a week of fun with Soleil. Her third birthday on Tuesday was a blast, and of course last night was Halloween. Soleil was Cinderella, her favorite princess.

People often remark about her love of princesses, all things pink and purple, shoes, kitties, and babies. She’s a girly-girl they say, and we agree, because she likes these things and most boys do not.

But Soleil is more than that. She likes to chase her Daddy and jump all over him while is sleeping (much to my chagrin). Soleil loves Thomas the Train, and trains in general. She also likes playing with building blocks and gears. We already discussed her crazy toddler passion for technology.

I worry about this girly-girl labeling more than I probably should. It seems that’s what we do as humans, afix labels and concepts on people, judge and put them into a box, and assume that’s going to be their life.

Roles Evolve

So you can see I fear that Soleil will become boxed into a submissive girly-girl life. Fortunately roles have evolved for women, but there are many hurdles to overcome as any good Marissa Mayer debate reveals.

I try not to interfere with Soleil’s predilections to like certain things, though I did put my foot down on My Little Pony. God, that’s mindless drivel. She does get to ride lots of ponies and horses, though.

Soleil should be exactly who she is, and that’s OK whether she becomes a powerful executive or a homemaker or anything else. The world is her oyster if she is willing to work for it, and that’s my primary message. There’s nothing wrong with an engineer who wears pink and purple. Or whatever color her evolving fashion palette determines is right.

I want to be present for her during this time. She has a fantastic life ahead of her, and there is much to see, wherever her path takes her. More than anything, I want her to have choices, the ability to discern consequence, and the education to engage intelligently in these acts of mindfulness.

Birthday Gooberness  1487

Obviously, we have the holidays coming up. Rather than spoil her with everything she wants, her gifts will be distributed. For her birthday, she got a baby doll and a kitchen set. By the way, I cook as well, so in Soleil’s mind, I’m pretty sure kitchen life is gender neutral. Nevertheless, there is the historical baggage the kitchen brings.

To compromise and give her choices beyond stereotype, her Hanukkah gift will be a Thomas the Train set. She may never use it (I doubt that), but at least she will have a choice. Daddy is happy to play with trains or wood tomatoes, alike.

Christmas is yet to be determined. The joys of growing up in multicultural house!

Presence in All Paths

Soleil had her three year check-up this week, and it appears that she will be a tall woman. The doctor thinks roughly 5’8″ or 5’9″. I wonder what she will be like, whether the princess phase is permanent and she becomes a model, or if she’ll jump on sand instead of my back and become a volleyball player, or…

There are many paths. They are for her to choose.

My/our job is to be present, and help her learn responsibility, the power of choice, good and bad, and then to empower her as much as possible to succeed.

It really is an honor to be a parent. I am so very grateful to have Soleil in my life.

What do you think?

P.S. Just a reminder that I wll be fundraising for my client the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) today. If you’d like to help me or the other dozen individuals fundraising, here are two easy actions:

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  • Great post Geoff! I’m on the new fatherhood journey and starting to learn this stuff. Thanks!

    • geofflivingston

      It’s the best thing in the world, don’t you think? Love it!

  • Great post – and a treacherous path. As the father to a 3yo I’m in a similar boat (box). She loves pink and her idealized ‘dolls.’ The challenge w/ letting them make their own paths (notwithstanding how smart they are – smart people succumb to peer pressure all the time) is that – as you note people get stereotyped and a single choice has a trickle down effect.

    You like pink and dolls – well then x, y and z must be true as well. It also works in the reverse – you can’t like this music you dress the role.

    We, as marketers, also out of necessity make this happen. We profile our audiences – they’re artistic then they use Macs and probably don’t have television but rely on netflix. A busy exec well then they buy lots of premade food, etc. etc.

    For the time being I’ve put pretty harsh limits (while trying to avoid being a ‘meanie’). Toy selections have to be relatively spread out in type – only a few dolls, but all the “creative” or STEM things she want. That she has two older brothers (by 5 and 7 years) may also help – one of her last toy selections was Pokemon themed.

    It’s an interesting road, but one well worth traveling!

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, I do think the demographical boxing of everything plays a big part of this. I do think what we choose to encourage is a big part of this. Personally, I just want her to be polite and decent to people. If we can get that down, she’ll have a baseline for life. Other than that, it’s basic skills and giving back. We’ll see where she goes with it.

      The toy giving point is important. She could have more, but I don’t think that’s healthy. She really needs to understand that you can’t have everything in life. Great comment, Nathan!

  • As an athletic coach, I watched far too many parents push and shove their kids into molds they themselves wanted for them, to the detriment of the child. Relax. Provide options. Love. Support. Encourage. When we’re happy in our own skin as parents, loving to those around us and a constant encouragement to our children to carve their own path (even when we might not especially like the path they choose), they figure it out. As we nurture the inherent talents and interests of the child that resides within each of us, at each stage of growth and development, it all unfolds as it should. Chill. She’s gonna’ rock the world in her own unique way. Cheers! Kaarina

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, I dealt with that a bit, and was cut off from a couple of things that I was very good at. In the end, it made me who I am, but at the same time I think experience is the best teacher. I really hope to avoid passing along as many prejudices as possible.

      Thanks much for this comment, Kaarina!

  • susancellura

    Geoff, Soleil is going to be fabulous! She seems right on track with her likes and dislikes. Emily loves fashion but is out there with her dad in the vegetable garden, washing cars, going to Lowe’s. We let/encourage her to try different things. She’s tried soccer, tennis, dance and tumbling. She likes volleyball the times she’s played it during P.E. But, she’s 8. One minute she’s obsessed with Monster High and the next, she’d rather play science games with her dad or design a house. (Fact: She received all A’s on her first report card and the one A+ was in science!)

    I agree that it is our job as parents to provide the options and nurture them, all will be well. Soleil has parents who love each other and who love her and that is the most important thing.

    • geofflivingston

      It’s so funny to watch them move from thing to thing. Some things are consistent though, like drawing and reading, and I guess those are the areas we really have to foster. THanks for your experience here. Very helpful!

  • When we took our oldest in for her 3 yr old check, the doctor said…oh, she should be about 5′-7″. My wife and I looked at each other and laughed. FYI, that daughter topped out at 4′-11″ (the other did make it to 5′-5″).

    The kitchen is gender neutral in our house, too – although I do have a penchant for cooking with fire!

    Give her time to explore the infinite possibilities. My youngest loved all things princess and weddings, and she made a boy dress up and walk her down the aisle in preschool (she was…umm…assertive). However, she went on to play a little soccer goalie and get a brown belt in judo. She preferred to hang out with guys. My youngest loves her makeup and fashion, but she just walked onto the Rugby club in college.

    Like you said, the goal is to be present for all of her decisions, guiding where you can…understanding and loving at all times.

    Have fun, Geoff – I loved raising my Vickery Girls, and we still have a LOT of fun together (one is 20, and the other is 18).

    • geofflivingston

      My 5′ flat wife Caitline will be releived to hear this story. And I agree on the infinitie possibilities. It’s great to hear about your experiences. Soliel is pretty assertive, too. I’m like chill!! But it is who she is. I really appreciate you sharing your experiences, Brian! Thank you!

  • My daughter is 9 going on 30 and she’ll tell you that she loves being a girl who can wear dresses and do “girly” things but watch her play soccer and she is a take no prisoners, not afraid to get dirty girl.

    She hates pink for what reason I cannot tell you. She tells me she can do anything her brother can and is usually happy to try.

    My two cents is to just support her and let her make her choices. I am sure she’ll let you know if she approves or disapproves of yours. ;)

    Did I mention mine likes to tell me I have no fashion sense and two minutes later will do her best to wrestle me to the ground. ;)

    • geofflivingston

      Oh she’s quick to let me know when she’s not happy, that’s for sure! LOL!

  • Being present with and for your child is the best gift you can give her. I would also add, if you want your beautiful daughter to have the best education, encourage her to explore her own interests, make her own choices and allow for mistakes. Most kids don’t get this privilege until after they graduate high school. Sending you much love love!

    • geofflivingston

      It’s very much a zen thing, isn’t it? She wants to do both karate and ballet. How cool is that?