Sunday, August 09, 2009

Dress Up

I am an amateur psychologist. I am especially interested in child psychology having three children and being a high school teacher. They are a fascinating breed, both the little ones and the not so little ones. One topic that I am interested in is the nature v. nurture argument that I imagine will never be settled. Like most people, I think that there are strong elements of nature in children, but they are amazingly susceptible to molding it seems so I cannot deny a nurture component. When it comes to the genders I am highly opposed to the idea that we as parents and a society instill basic gender roles on our children. To further my understanding of the topic, I am conducting an ongoing case study in my home. Here is one piece of evidence.

My son is a warrior. From birth he has been different from his older sister who is a mere 18 months his senior. There is something in him that compels him to hit things, throw things, smash things and build things. Few of the toys his sister had held his interest unless they could be fashioned into something that could be used for the afore mentioned purposes. It is fascinating for me to watch. For instance I have seen him put on one of his sister's princess dresses. Naturally his older sister wants to play dress up, and since he was not really at the dress up age yet he had none of his own. Instead he came around the corner in a princess dress. Seeing my son wearing a dress, I had a serious decision to make, and one that could heavily impact the nurture side of the argument if I were to respond poorly. I chose to act as though it were perfectly acceptable because I figured he was far too young to be embarrassed about it and punishing him seemed completely idiotic. I let it be as the Beatles song goes. It turned out it was the right choice. Once dressed up, his sister handed him a magic wand. Not a magic one like Gandalf (Lord of the Rings) would have, but a princess wand that one might associate with, well…fairies. I was slightly more concerned but had already committed to seeing how this would play out without my interference. I watched…admittedly nervous. Would he twirl and spin? Would he sprinkle magic fairy dust on things? Would he hope a prince saved him and gave him true love's first kiss? The outcomes were unnerving. Alas I was spared the more controversial results. With a princess dress on and a magic wand in his hand, my son proceeded to try and whack his sister with the bejeweled wand as though it were not a wand at all but a club instead. I sighed and smiled. His sister ran in terror afraid of the savage attack. He chased her making crashing sounds with his mouth as he pretended to club her with his wand. At that moment I saw the scene from a different point of view. I no longer saw my son in a beautiful, elaborate princess dress accessorized by a jeweled wand, I saw a savage warrior in a kilt wielding a club and engaged in a primitive battle for survival. He has not changed my image of him one iota since that day. Score one for nature. You can put a dress on a boy, but he still wants to smash things.