My daughter was recently given a gift for her birthday that featured her favourite group of rescue puppies. Those of you with children under 5 will know exactly the pups to which I’m referring. They are the equivalent of magicians in our household as they have the near-impossible ability to capture our toddler’s attention for an extended amount of time, giving these tired parents a small break in our day.
As my daughter opened her gift and saw her favourite canines on a special place mat, excited shrieks erupted from her. Eyes shining, she pulled out the place mat and stared at her new treasure. Then, with questioning eyes turned up to her mama, she asked where the little girl puppy was. I glanced down at the place mat, thinking that she must have been so excited for her present that she missed seeing the little pink pup.
But there was no pink pup to be found.
Instead, five little boy pups stood proudly staring out at us, and I was rendered speechless. In fact, to borrow a line from the show, I was “fired up”.
Thinking there must be some mistake about the absence of the pink puppy on the team, I spoke with some friends about the missing pink pup, and was informed that this was not the only pup-themed item from the beloved tv show that excluded the sole female member. I was told she was left off numerous show paraphernalia, and that for some items they segregate the puppies into male and female specific items complete with stereotypical male and female colours.
And so I ask, what am supposed to do when my little blue-eyed girl looks up at me from her all-male placemat wondering where her pink pup hero is?
I realize that I am not in control of television merchandise. But I am in control of how I respond to this and many other similar situations that are bound to arise in the next 18+ years of raising a daughter.
To begin wrapping my head around how I am going to help address the glaring oversight on my child’s present, I press play on Beyonce’s Who Run the World song and let it play on repeat. Loudly.
Then, I make the following commitments to my little girl.
– I will not put my daughter into a gender pigeon hole, and will encourage whatever her interests end up being. Whether she enjoys dancing, painting, building, strumming, or throwing, this mama will be cheering so loud that ears will be ringing.
– I will talk endlessly to my daughter about her amazing grandmas; their strength is envious and their love is endless.
– I will talk equally as much about her wonderful grandpas; their perseverance is tireless, and their compassion is palpable.
– I will help foster relationships with my daughter’s biological aunties, and with her aunties-of-the heart. These women are my tribe. They are my sister-joists. I know they will become members of my daughter’s tribe as well.
– I will provide space for my daughter to have special dates with her daddy. This is one of THE MOST important relationships in her life, and I will tell my ego to take a backseat once in a while.
– I will encourage my daughter to nurture friendships with both boys and girls. Real or imaginary. Gay or straight. Blonde or brunette…or pink, or green.
– I will help build coping skills for possible moments in my daughter’s life that make her feel less-than because she’s a girl.
– I will surround my daughter with books and television programming that feature all kinds of people, in all kinds of roles, from all kinds of places.
– I will chant “Be True to Yourself, Be True to Yourself, Be True to Yourself, in the style of The Little Engine that Could until she is old enough to roll her eyes in annoyance. And then I’ll chant it again.
So. What do I tell my sweet girl when she asks her mama why her pink pup hero is absent from her place mat?
I simply respond “Baby girl, the pink pup could not make it that day. She was too busy running the world”.