It was about 94 degrees last weekend here in LA, and my son refused to take off his brown, calf-high Ugg boots. You might be curious as to why a child would want to spend an entire day with his feet encased in a pair of fuzzy, insulated sweat boxes, and rightly so. But Davis has discovered that when he dons a white tee-shirt, tan pants, a white, zip-up jacket and those brown Ugg boots, he bears, with his sandy-colored hair and light olive complexion, a striking similarity to Luke Skywalker. You try telling him that he’d be more comfortable in sandals.
As much as I enjoy the Star Wars franchise, Luke Skywalker and friends have become a bit of an issue for me over the last several months. Like most second children, Davis has been exposed to things that might not necessarily be appropriate for a child of three and a half, simply because he sometimes plays with six year-old boys who are friends of Harper’s. Whether it’s Power Rangers, Transformers, or Star Wars, Davis is on the cutting edge among the boys in his preschool class – most of whom happen to be sheltered, over-protected first children who are still on a steady diet of Blues Clues, Thomas the Tank Engine and Lightening McQueen. Here’s a conversation I’ve had at least six times in the last several weeks:
Appalled mother: So, [insert trendy name here] has been coming home talking about Darth Vader and Chewbacca and light sabers. I asked him where he learned about these things, and he said that Davis taught him.
Me (looking sheepish): I know. I’m sorry. He has a lot of older friends. But actually, he calls them Dark Vader, Twobacca and life savers. Which is kind of cute, don’t you think?
Appalled mother (glaring): No, not really.
I have reason to suspect, too, that some of these mothers have complained about Davis to the teachers, because they’ve implemented some new rules in the classroom, such as, no pretending to fight with light sabers, no pretending to be a Power Ranger, and no pretending to kill other kids with guns. But as much as I wish that Davis wasn’t so obsessed with these things at such a young age, I find myself needing to cry foul.
I never thought I would say this – not in a million, bazillion years – but I think that boys are being discriminated against, at least when it comes to play. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a violence-free, utopian world, and I understand why parents don’t want their kids pretending to play with guns. If there had been a boy like Davis in Harper’s preschool class, I have no doubt that I would have been one of the parents complaining. But Davis isn’t aggressive, he’s not rough, and when he does pretend gun or sword or light-saber or karate-kick play, he never touches other kids or tries to hurt them in any way. He understands that it’s pretend, and I’ve tried to be responsible about teaching him what the limits are. And while his teachers can implement all the “no” rules they want, they’re not going to stop him. The simple truth is, shooting and sword fighting is as much a part of boys’ DNA as princesses and tea parties are of girls’. Honestly, try to imagine what would happen if a preschool instituted “no princess” or “no dress-up” policies because some well-meaning teacher thought they were anti-feminist. Could you even imagine the backlash?
What’s most upsetting to me, though, is how the evolution of Davis’ play has been viewed by his teachers and the other moms in our class. In the beginning of the year, when Davis had just turned three, he was into princesses and his favorite outfit was a blue and silver ballgown with a matching feather boa. The teachers adored him. They used words like sweet and gentle and calm to describe him. In so many words, they liked him because he acted like a girl. But as the year has gone on and he has transitioned to more traditional boy games and role playing – like shooting, light saber fighting, and dressing like Luke Skywalker – the words, and the tone, have changed. He’s active. He’s energetic. He’s forceful. In other words, he’s not as good now that he’s acting like a boy.
Thirty years ago, when a little boy dressed up in girl clothes, people freaked out. Today, it has somehow become more acceptable for a little boy to dress up in girl clothes than it is for a little boy to holster a pretend gun. I’m not saying that I want to go back to those old,homophobic days, but I am starting to think that maybe we’ve over-corrected for them just a bit too much. Call me crazy, but it might be time to let boys be, well, boys again.