It’s amazing how two children from the same family can be so different. What’s more amazing is when both children are of the same gender and they display different traits. We have two boys and they are very different in many ways. Sure there are lots of things they have in common, but even though one is a few months short of six and the other other has just turned three, we can see the difference in their respective personalties.
The older one is a sensitive child. Believe it or not, he gets that from his dad. Okay, his mum too, but he definitely shows traits that are pure me and some of his gentle traits are definitely from me. The younger one on the other hand is a rough head. He loves to fight. He loves to get dirty. He would rather be outdoors doing something rather than being holed up inside watching television. He is active.
And even though he shows many more characteristics of being a traditional boy than what his brother does, there is something that he is into that is definitely left field.
He loves owls.
I’m not sure if his love of owls came from the television show Giggle & Hoot where the character of Hoot is a stuffed puppet owl, but wherever it came from, he is somewhat obsessed by them. Obsessed might sound too – what’s the word I’m after? – obsessive, so maybe I’ll change that to engrossed because he really takes an interest when we see an owl in a book, on television or at a zoo or wildlife park.
But here’s the thing that I have learned since we discovered his love for owls; owls are a girls interest.
I’ll tell you what I’m talking about. When we discovered his love for owls I decided to do his room up to reflect his new love. As I was out shopping I looked for bedspreads with owls on them. All I found were pink and purple ones. Now that’s not so bad seeing that this little boy loves the colour purple. Not the 1983 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by American author Alice Walker or the 1985 Steven Spielberg movie based on the book. He loves the colour purple.
So what stopped me from buying them? The girly motifs. The flowers, the hearts, and the other “girl inspired looks” of the covers. So I decided to look online. I went to Google and typed in “owl quilt covers” and “owl bedspreads” and what I got in return was the same that I found in stores. Purples, pinks and girlish motifs galore.
Now I must declare my slight gender bias here because I wasn’t prepared to buy our little boy an owl bedspread that looked like it was better suited to a girl’s room. But then again, I’m not sure many people would. Now it’s not like he had asked me to do this so by not doing it was not as though I had disappointed him. But it did disappoint me.
When my wife took the boys out to the shops one day they all got healthy smoothies to drink from one of those chain stores. They have kid’s sized cups so they are not forced to drink those Homer sized drinks from the Simpsons. The cups for the kids have fancy designs or licensed pictures from the latest kid’s movies. On the day in question, the little one chose his own cup from the various animal designs. And what did he pick?
You guessed it. The owl. Again though, the owl cup’s colouring was pink and purple. He doesn’t care. He’s not embarrassed to walk around the shops carrying a pink cup. Sadly, that will change. There will come a time, as his older brother is displaying now, that he will reject things that are perceived as too girlish. In fact, on this day in question, his older brother picked the green frog cup. Nothing girly about that. (Side note; both of the boys love Frozen and refuse to believe that it’s a girl’s movie so they were happy to pick the Frozen cup on another occasion).
Giggle & Hoot started some time back in 2009, maybe 2010 (different sources give different dates). Like many children’s shows there was merchandise released. Now without speaking to the producers of the show to confirm this, I am of the opinion that the merchandise didn’t sell as well as they expected. My reason for this school of thought is because in 2012, whether it was two or three years after the show started, they introduced a girl owl name Hootabelle.
Whilst Hoot had a big blue body with orange and white features on his head, torso and feet, Hootabelle has a big purple body with pink and orange features. Yes my dear reader, Hootabelle was created solely for the purpose of shifting more merchandise. And seeing that owls are traditionally for girls according to my research, it is only natural that Hootabelle would be created to be every little girl’s ideal.
Just as we did for our son’s second birthday where we bought him the Peppa Pig playset that he really wanted (you can read about the craziness of buying THAT for a boy here), I decided to go with my heart and make him the cake that he wanted even though many might have thought that it was more appropriate for a girl. For his thrid birthday party I made him a Hoot cake.
I have had this in my drafts since the 9th of January when I took the photo of the cups and the owl and uploaded it to Instagram and Facebook with the comment “There’s a story in this…” And I like many of my posts I sometimes have them sit in the drafts until something inspires me to finish it off or look for a whole new angle. Well that happened today when a friend of a friend who is a freelance writer tagged me in a tweet on Twitter;
— Lisa Almond (@lis_almond) August 26, 2014
Seeing that Lisa Almond just wrote another article earlier this month that resonated with me there was no way I was going to ignore this story. If you have a son or sons of your own I would suggest reading both of those articles. Click here to read today’s article from her if you can’t click the one in the tweet.
And that mutual friend of mine and Lisa’s is the wonderful Brooke Lumsden freelance writer who wrote an awesome piece for Mamamia called “Mummy. Why can’t I just be normal?” which is another article about raising boys that you must read.
The thing is, I want to encourage my sons to be into everything so that they can better relate to girls and women. I feel that if can get them in touch with “their feminine side” or allow them to play with or just be in tune with things that aren’t traditional subjects, toys or topics for boys, then surely they will be empathetic towards women’s rights, and for those who have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I believe that a win for women’s rights is a step in the right direction for equality for all.
Do you have boys? Do you let them play with non-traditional boys’ toys? Do you encourage or discourage them to be into things that are traditionally girls’ things?