Has your child ever asked for a gift that didn’t seem to “fit” their gender, and if so, how did you respond?
My boys have recently celebrated birthdays. One son was very interested in Minecraft, Pokémon, Yo-kai, and other popular games for kids his age. My other son wanted the Anki Overdrive starter kit *and* the Barbie Dream House. My first thought was, wow, my kid has expensive taste. My second was, hmmm, I loved the Barbie Dream House when I was a kid. I literally begged my parents, I wrote what I thought was a compelling letter to Santa, and prayed to God and anyone else who would listen to my plea until it arrived one year, but was I okay getting this (or another Barbie product that was actually within our budget) for my son? As open-minded as I’d like to think I am, his request gave me pause. Personally, I could care less if he has the Barbie Dream House and all the Barbie’s he wants (though I have no idea where it would fit in our house), but what would people say? Would they make fun of him? I felt really conflicted. I want to support him and his interests and don’t want to try to steer him away from something he wants towards something I’m more comfortable with. It’s not right or fair to him.
My son helped me with the issue. We were riding to a car museum for his birthday party (he also loves old-fashioned cars and has recently taken a real liking to NASCAR), and had his two best friends in the car, Carly and Dan. My son had found the Target holiday magazine (darn you, Target, and your compelling marketing devices!) and brought it to share with his friends on the ride down. As they flipped the pages they each called out what they hoped to get. “I want this robot,” one shared. “Look at the Paw Patroller, how cool,” said the other. My son got to the Barbie section and confidently said, “I want the Barbie Dream House. I know it’s a lot of money, but I really, really, really want it.” Dan broke out into innocent laughter thinking my son was kidding, and said, “but that’s a girl toy!” His reaction was exactly what I had feared. My son turned to Dan and quickly and confidently responded, “Don’t make fun of me. I like it. There’s nothing funny about it.” Dan stopped, and within seconds it was like the entire conversation had never happened. They just flipped the page and kept going. My son brought up the Dream House again later and there were no giggles or additional words. My son seems to know who he is and what he likes, and he’s not going to let anyone tell him otherwise. I was impressed. I don’t think I had that level of self-confidence when I was his age.
My hesitancy to get my son a ‘girl’ gift is fading. I’d be lying if I said I was completely comfortable, but I’ll continue to work to be so over time. My son deserves that. After all, he’s representing himself very well, and I owe him my support and encouragement to help him continue to be comfortable with who he is.
How do handle situations when your child asks for something you’re not comfortable getting them? How do you help them be comfortable with who they are?
My thought is this: If your concern is because the product is unsafe, then don’t get it. But explain to them why, in short terms. If your concern is because you think others will not like them having it, well it is not for them. Never base a gift on your likes or dislikes, it is not for you. Childhood is tough enough let them have the things that make them happy.
I completely agree.