“Oh, look! Batgirl! How adorable!”
My daughter grimaced and shook her head. “I am BatMAN,” she said with all the seriousness a three-year-old could muster.
The well intentioned older lady smiled politely and said, “Oh, princess, but you are a GIRL!” before giving me a look that I couldn’t place and walked away.
“But Momma,” my daughter said, her giant blue eyes welling up with tears. “I AM Batman. I don’t wanna be Batgirl. Or a princess.”
I explained that the lady must not have had her listening ears on and we talked about how sweet Elsa could be whoever, and whatever, she wanted to be. I beamed as she seemed to understand and skipped away in her favorite shirt.
I had bought her the shirt a few weeks earlier. It was a tunic style t-shirt with a black tutu stitched to the bottom. Across the chest was a bright yellow Batman symbol. The instant my daughter caught sight of it she was in love. It was perfectly her. Superhero meets tutu. I could have kissed whoever designed it.
We had spent the year buying her underwear from the boys department because the toddler girls underwear was thinner and skimpier than what I would wear on myself. Also, she wanted superheros, not princesses. As it turned out, boys briefs are more durable, softer, and cut with more coverage anyway. Most of her t-shirts came from the same section. She didn’t want the girly heros, essentially princesses in capes. She wanted the real deal.
She also wanted to come home, wearing her Batman cape, and nurture her dolls in her play kitchen. She would then gingerly place the baby in her stroller and push it outside where she would play trucks in the dirt for an hour, or follow a line of ants through their adventures.
Gender roles and what she was supposed to be interested in never came into play, unless some well-meaning yet misguided stranger made a passing comment in the grocery store. I remember the first time someone called her beloved yellow dump truck a “boy’s toy” she looked confused and then shook her head. “Nope, it is mine. I am a girl. It is a girl’s toy.”
And that was that. Our approach to toys and clothes and hobbies and interests. If our children liked it, then it was gender appropriate.
Our second daughter followed in her sister’s yellow dump truck loving footsteps, falling madly in love with the weekly garbage pick up routine. Since about 18 months old she has been able to hear the truck as it rumbles down the block and nears our house. Her entire world stops and she watches in amazement as the two men who gather the recycling and then the other two who gather the trash collect the bins from the end of our driveway. The garbage men have noticed her and last year started to make a habit out of crushing the trash in front of our house. Little Aria smiles and waves as she screams, “Momma! Momma!! CHOO-CHOO!!” Which is what she calls any truck or train. I refuse to correct her just yet, it is far too adorable.
She waves her tiny hand at the men as they make their way down our street shouting bye-bye to them and blowing them kisses. Usually she will insist that we play trains after.
And construction sites? It is like driving through Disney. Our little girl LOVES trucks and machines and vehicles of any sort, although, the bigger the better. Twice now, in the midst of her joyful clapping and jumping, a stranger has assumed that she was a boy. I tend to not correct and instead use female pronouns when responding.
We are not raising our daughters without gender, we are, however raising them to know that their sex has no bearing on what they can and can not accomplish. It has no weight with what they are allowed to like. They know they are girls and, so far, identify as such. Mostly, to them, it means that they have a different name for the parts of their body that they use when they use the bathroom or have a diaper change than daddy or their male friends have. At 6 and 2, there are no other factors that come into play for them.
Our girls love glitter and Batman, trucks and baby dolls. They play dress up with my clothes and Daddy’s boots. They dream of being writers and photographers and mommas and superheros when they grow up. Mostly, we just hope they hold onto their fierceness and stay our free spirited, happy children for as long as possible.