Last week I had a tearful tantrum on my hands as I tried my best to attach Tibbs’ blue trainers to her flailing feet before nursery. In between the enraged screeching, I managed to decipher the shrill shriek of ‘NO BOY’S SHOES!!!’
I was shocked. Never have we discussed the concept of girls this and boys that. Never have we labelled these innocent, fun shoes as being for boys.
The answer lay in wait for me at nursery itself, when I picked her up later that week. “I have blue shoes!”, proclaimed Tibbs proudly to her key worker. “Oh, you means the BOY’S shoes?”, replied the key worker.
This comment cost me 20 minutes of tantrum time earlier in the week, and, I worry, an entire childhood of insecurity and doubt over which clothes are ok for a little girl to feel proud of wearing.
This, I’m happy to say, has been the only testing experience I have had in the nearly two years of Tibbs’ attendance at her wonderful nursery, but, as she gets older and her capacity for mimic and understanding grows, I’m wondering when it’s appropriate to give them my views on gender neutral education. Is it ever appropriate?
The most recent addition to the nursery’s toy roster is a pretend hairdressing salon, where I’m told my curly haired girl spends lots of time playing with the pretend straighteners. The more I think about this, the more I’m concerned. Nobody should be telling my daughter that her hair would look nice ‘straight’, even in play, should they?
But, I acknowledge that beauty is not my strong point. I don’t paint my nails or put make-up on every day, or even have a full-length mirror in my house. I don’t dry my hair. I don’t ask her if I look pretty in my outfit.
So, should I rely on nursery to do this for me, bearing in mind I lean on them four days a week for other aspects of her learning? By not leading the example with feminine beauty, am I setting her up for a fall if I don’t let them teach her to ‘make the most’ of herself? Or by tucking her into her trainers and letting her choose her own clothes every day, discussing diggers and adjusting her fairy wings whilst she plays with her toy cars, am I letting her blossom into the person she naturally would become?
This is one of the toughest issue I’ve faced as the mother of a girl yet. What are your experiences? Should I be explaining my concerns to nursery?
**UPDATED** I had a fantastic conversation with our nursery manager this morning who allayed all my fears and explained how they encourage gender neutral play with all their toys and games. I feel lucky to have such responsive childcare!