No bear for me, thank you very much….
Our close friend’s daughter had a party at Build-a-Bear Workshop. Mateo was an invited guest. I knew right away that my very gender-identified son would not be keen on it. He has rejected all things girlish since he was old enough to express likes and dislikes. I remember going through the Pottery Barn Kid’s catalog with him when he was two and he’d look at the photos to search for toy cars. He’d yell out “there’s a toy!” when he saw one. When we got to the pages where the rooms were painted pink or lavender, he’d skip by them and declare them to be “girl’s rooms” or “girl colors”. I’d always say the same thing “No such thing!”. I didn’t want him to be afraid to express his feminine side, were it to exist somewhere deep inside next to the love for matchbox cars and wrestling with Dad. I didn’t want him to feel like it was suppressed and suffer damage later in life “My Mother never let me wear pink!”. He never wanted to hear it and definitely never wanted to wear pink (many arguments over the fancy pink polo which remained tucked away in his drawer only to be given to another boy who loved it). I wondered how a two-year old already knew pink and purple were supposed to be “girl colors” and why he was so set on rejecting them. I had friends whose boys played dress-up and with dolls? Is he not enlightened or something? Who knows what makes a little boy’s mind tick?
Fast forward to four years later and he’s still set in his beliefs. His reply to the party idea – “I’ll think about it” followed by “I’m not really into stuffed animals”. I had to fess up and tell him that not only would the party be attended by an all-female cast, but they would be younger than he was. I remembered his reaction to a preschooler’s party years ago when we got out of the car only to discover it was a princess-themed costume party. I didn’t have the heart to spring that on him the day of. Needless to say, he wasn’t keen on attending but ultimately cooperated with me as the party was for his friend. When we were parking at the mall parking lot he repeated “I will not build a bear”. Not even as a gift for someone, and not even for someone who doesn’t have toys of their own. Kind of like that Dr. Seuss character won’t eat green eggs and ham. Except that Mateo was serious.
We arrived at the party and I am embarrassed to admit that I tried various techniques to get him to go into the store and to participate. I thought at the time that I was frustrated by his supposed rudeness but I think it was more that I was worried about what people would think. Of him. Of his Mother. That he wasn’t a nice boy and that I hadn’t taught him manners.
Ultimately, it was actually a lesson for me and not for him after all. I have to check myself before I behave like the parent that I don’t want to be. It’s a bit of a contradiction to tell my two-year old that it’s okay to play with dolls and like pink because you can do anything that you want and it’s okay with Mommy and Daddy (politically correct parenting) but not wanting to do it later on when at a party – that isn’t okay. That is, if other people are watching and your Mom is telling you to. Stuffed animals are really just fuzzy dolls when you think about it. So why the push to participate? It was more about me then it was about him.
In the end, we actually had fun. And I saw him for who he was, not for who he wanted to be. And I was reminded that he is one awesome kid. He ran around outside of the store and enjoyed a donut and juice. He bonded with an older boy who’s little sister was at the party, I took a Match.com profile photos for one of the Mothers who was there and he participated in all the important stuff like cake and silliness with the Birthday Girl. Plus, in the end, I saved my friends $10 for the bear – and that doesn’t even include the bear’s clothes.
Lesson learned. Score one for Mateo.