My daughter can be a tomboy at times. Not because she likes to roughhouse or excels at coed sports (her legs are so long that she runs like Phoebe from friends and she’s so klutzy that the other day she literally tripped over her own foot on level ground). She’s a tomboy because she likes to play with boys and boy “stuff”; she loves dinosaurs, trains, cars and superheroes.
She is well rounded. She’s still been tapped by Disney’s magic wand and loves all things princess, but given the choice, a dinosaur in a princess dress would suit her best. I’ve always loved this about her. She’ll wear a pink, superhero cape and a rhinestone tiara, while her stuffed dinosaurs watch her build a train track.
She’ll giggle and run around with the boys, because she thinks it’s fun. There is no drama in site, just a simple game of chase, while they sprout off silly words like poo poo and butt. Each time they say it, one of them says, “you said poo poo,” and they all crack up. Not much different than a man in his 30s (aka, my husband), if you ask me. Finding childish laughter in simple silliness is my daughter’s forte. She is the epitome of happy-go-lucky.
Well, that was up until a few weeks ago. Now, she secretly plays with these things at home and pretends she doesn’t like boys. She’s only four and the segregation has begun. It makes me sad because she’s suppressing a side of her that she loves so much and I wish she would still embrace.
She has started to say, “Girls don’t play with boys.” It’s like someone suddenly handed her a rulebook and she’s ready to show me the footnote in her daily activity sheet, because it simply is the truth. When she’s around other kids, boy “stuff” is taboo. After a day at school, dolls, dress-up and girl role-play are all I hear about. Then, she comes home and runs for her crocodile puppet, while she sets up the train tracks for Thomas to take along his friends.
She only likes to wear dresses because all of her girlfriends are wearing dresses. I’ve bought so many cute and even girly pants, but they’re gathering dust in her drawers, while she rotates the same few dresses over and over again. This year, I have not purchased a single pair of pants for winter, because I know she won’t wear them. She used to love pants with flowers on them, just a few weeks ago. Now, if there isn’t a dress to match the pants, then they’ll never see the light of day. Leggings with dresses pass the test, though. The only way I can assure she will stay warm.
This is my first glimpse at her trying to be something other than herself in order to fit in with the rest. I ask her, if she’s played with her friend Timmy recently and she says, “no, girls don’t play with boys,” but I always sense some sadness at the end of that sentence. It’s like she’s remembering a past relationship that wasn’t good for her and she’s trying to move on. I hope I never see that expression again, until she’s at least 18.
Trying to tell your four-year-old to be herself and embrace the things she loves, regardless of the rest, always ends in, “Okay, Mommy,” but the next day she hits the reset button and she repeats exactly the same thing. It takes a month for her to figure something out. She’s like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. She has to do things over and over again and I have to have the same conversation with her over and over again before the light bulb finally flickers on.
Anyone else dealing with a preschooler that likes something they suddenly feel they have to hide?