“When I grow up I want to be a butterfly,” says Firstborn.
“Really?” I respond. “Well, perhaps you will.”
“I’ll go into a chrysalis and I’ll be a butterfly.”
“Or maybe a moth.”
“When I grow up I want to be a fireman,” say Firstborn.
And my instinct is to say something like “Yes, you could be a firefighter.”
And later, I’m singing “Brown-eyed girl” to Secondborn, only I’ve changed the words to “Brown-eyed boy.”
So what is it about gender? Why can I easily let my kids play that they’ll grow up to be a different species, but my instinct is to “correct” them when they play that they’ll grow up a different gender? I’m probably more relaxed than most, in that Firstborn’s saying “I’ll grow up to be a man” doesn’t get “corrected”, but it’s the smaller daily things that I let slip by – the smaller things that build up to constructing a child’s world where the only thing that isn’t mutable is gender.
Of course, there’s a feminist pressure to remove the “man” ending in order to make it clear to Firstborn that women do the job too. But how to balance that with the conscious desire to leave gender boundaries a bit blurrier than the rest of the world seems to?
And that doesn’t explain the song lyrics, does it? What’s wrong with singing “Brown-eyed girl” to Secondborn? I sang it to Firstborn, and her eyes are blue.