“Can I be a Storm Trooper?”
“How about a Power Ranger! With a gun??”
“All my friends can be those things. Why. Can’t. I.??”
My son has been dying to choose his Halloween costume since July. So earlier this week, with the first of the Halloween costumes sprouting in the stores, we went for our first go see. I told him he didn’t have to choose one today, but he was determined to walk out the door with his Halloween costume. So we started negotiations and as you read above, it didn’t start well.
It’s a good question he was asking. Why, when I allow his sister to pretend to be a princess or a ladybug or a superhero or a doctor, I have boundaries on his choices? I have friends who don’t allow their daughters to dress up as princesses, and I have friends who really discourage any type of princess toys because of the message it sends.
I’m not one of those parents. If my daughter wants to dress up like a princess, I’m okay with it. I don’t think the message is dangerous. I think for little girls, the draw of dressing up is the sparkles, the twirling skirts and the pretty accessories. They don’t connect the negative connotation of “princess,” like what adults do. Our issue with girls playing with princesses comes from our preconceived notions, not theirs. My daughter can still be strong, smart, kind and pretend to be a princess for Halloween…if she wants to.
However, my husband and I are much more controlling with our son’s toys and costumes. You will not see any toy guns or swords in our house. You will not see any toys with guns (if they come with one, they are promptly thrown away.) While I do allow superhero costumes, I don’t allow swords or guns or weapons as accessories to those costumes. I also don’t allow him to dress up in costume as a “bad guy, like Darth Vader.” Why? Because that message is loud and clear. Bad guys hurt people. Guns hurt people. Swords hurt people. And a six year old is not ready for the nuances, so we just don’t allow any of it. And some will say, boys will be boys, and it’s totally normal for them to play with guns and swords. Well, maybe that’s true because it seems that even if the toys don’t make their way into my house, when little boys get together, often “fighting” is the theme of the play. So I’m not going to condone it even more by creating more opportunities.
Maybe my son doesn’t think this is fair. Maybe he doesn’t understand why I don’t put these boundaries on my daughter’s play, but I do on his. But it’s because we’re trying to steer him in a certain direction. We want him to know that there is NOTHING funny about pretending to hurt or kill people. That is not a game. Never a game. Playing with princesses doesn’t send a dangerous message. Playing with guns does.
And in case you’re wondering, we settled on a fireman. He’s thrilled to carry the walkie talkie and fire extinguisher. Like I said, I’m all for superheroes.