Joni’s birthday is coming up in February – she’ll be three. I am so, so proud of the little girl she is – despite being described as ‘spirited’ (which is code for really hard work i think?!) on more than one occasion, I just think she’s fantastic. Obviously.
Her imagination is the most surprising thing for me – she always wants to be playing a character and we all have to join in. For the longest time Wilbur was only referred to as Mike and now this has changed to Pongo. She plays game after game with the things that her unbridled imagination allow her to – she was given a dolls house for christmas, but we’re yet to get any furniture for it – no bother, she uses her toy food from her kitchen as people and furniture. Her imagination coupled with her brilliant memory are the things I really want to enhance with her birthday presents this year.
When buying toys we have focused on the things we see as ‘staples’ for every toy collection. The children have a huge train set and lots of duplo. They have puzzles and tonnes of books. They have cars and trains and a good helping of loud musical instruments and electrical noisy things with lights and buttons. We have, somewhat intentionally, made sure that most things we have are neutral in terms of whether they are aimed at boys or girls. I must admit that this is mostly for selfish reasons – we wanted toys that would appeal to both Joni and Wilbur without making them feel that their toys were unsuitable for them. But, of course, it’s not as simple as that (nothing is).
Joni loves pink. She loves all things pink and glittery and pretty. For her birthday she has very specifically asked for a dolly in a pink pushchair with a bath and a highchair. My Mum has one of these pushchairs at her house, incidentally it is Wilbur’s go-to toy there. Initially this request made me feel a bit uneasy. I do not want her to aspire to be a princess or think hoovering is an exclusively woman’s job.
Then I began to realise something: if she wants pink, girly toys for her birthday then she should have them. She won’t want them forever, and what does it matter if she does? It’s not like we’re going to give them to her and declare ‘now you have this toy you are officially a girl and you must only do all the things that some sections of society deem only appropriate for girls, at the exclusion of all ‘masculine’ activities’. Surely we have more influence over how our children see the world than their toys do? It could be that she loves pink now and will hate it in a years time so what is the big issue?
Then I started thinking about Wilbur and the toys that he plays with and realised that he just loves cars and trains. He’s had the same level of exposure to these toys as Joni but he just loves them. He also loves anything that is technical – buttons are his favourite, so different to Joni. I guess they are just naturally drawn to certain things. I’m at a loss as to why.
So for her birthday I will get Joni what she wants (not least because supermarkets have really good versions of these toys and at a really reasonable price). They will be in the house and I’ve no doubt Wilbur will play with them too. I also have a list of games that I think she would like to play with us (Orchard Toys games are fantastic, good value and great quality) so we’re hoping some family will get her those too.
So, for her third birthday I am embracing the pink and leaving my over thought concerns at the door (to her pink birthday party).