Before having a little boy, I never really believed that they just become "all boy". I assumed that they were led to an interest in what I call "The Three Big T's" (trains, trucks, tractors) by way of their parents and caregivers. I didn't believe that it could just happen.
But I kind of believe that now. Looking at my own child, who happens to be currently obsessed with trains, I wonder where this obsession came from. The same is true about tractors and somewhat true with his interest in trucks. As I examine how this happened, I just can't pinpoint a time where I actively steered him in the direction of any one of those toys. In fact, we don't even have many trains-- he has two larger wooden ones, and one small wooden/ magnetic train. So how did this start? Where did it happen?
When we were visiting the Spencer grands, he noticed train tracks. (We don't have tracks in our small town) Since he was driving with his grandmother, he convinced her to drive around town looking for a train to go on those tracks-- which they spent a half hour doing--until they found one. (I'm told I'll understand this behavior when I myself, become a grandmother. Right now, I just find myself making up stories about the missing trains--"Oh, they're all at the engine shed getting washed." "I think they're all taking their nap!" "All of the trains are at a birthday party in another town." "These tracks are just to bump our cars over-- there's no trains on them.") Just recently, he was playing with his tiny wooden magnetic train when he looked up and asked me, "Mommy, why I not have any tracks?" (Hmmmm..... actually the answer is because we're banking on Santa Claus coming through with those!) Lately, we have been bribing him with a trip to Barnes & Noble if he is a good boy in Target (which he typically loves anyway). Although he is crazy about books, it's the train set that keeps him occupied long enough for me to read a few chapters.
Tractors are another mystery to me. Maybe this really shouldn't be a surprise because we do live in rural Iowa-- tractors are abundant. And, our backyard is a field-- sometimes we're lucky enough to witness planting and harvesting with the big tractors. But other than that, we don't have any farmers in the family and really nobody talks about tractors a lot. Yet, they are one of his favorite things to play with. His grandma gave him a vintage metal tractor with a trailer attached and I swear, he plays with that thing almost every day-- mostly hauling plastic animals but occasionally we'll see the odd shipment of plastic toy food or wooden blocks.
And what little boy doesn't love trucks? Again, I've never found myself encouraging C to play with trucks, yet that is what he tends to want to pick out when given the chance. And lately, he's become very interested in the fact that his daddy has big trucks at work. The other day when M used the work truck to bring some materials to our house, C insisted upon playing inside the big truck. His eyes sparkled with excitement as he climbed up into the (grubby and manly-smelling) big work truck. He was in little boy truck Heaven. (Imagine his excitement when his daddy takes him for a ride in it someday!)
So what's my hangup with The Big Three T's? I guess nothing, really. It's just that I'm not for him being considered "all boy". I'm not crazy about that description. It's like suggesting little boys are that simple-- they like dirt and mud and frogs and balls. They are loud and energetic and boisterous. They like to run and jump and crash into things. They like big stuff like the big three T's. Even the "boy toys" assume this is the case. And have you ever tried to buy scrapbook stickers for a boy? Tons of everything I mentioned.... but missing plenty as well.
I feel like my little boy is more than "all boy". (Doesn't every mother feel this way?) He doesn't really love mud or messy stuff. In fact, he usually asks for a napkin or wet wipe of his fingers are sticky. He'll tell me the instant he spills-- because he wants it cleaned up. He is particular about his clothing. No tags, no khakis, no jeans, no sweaters, no layering of any kind. He loves cooking/ baking/ playing with pretend food and grocery shopping. He is obsessed with Minnie Mouse and always wants to be Daisy. He loves Polly Pockets, playing "babies", and playing "dollhouse". He's crazy about singing and dancing and is pretty gross-motor-skill challenged at times. He often asks to paint or draw and likes fine motor skill tasks. He has an attention span and is a pretty good listener. He thinks a lot and questions everything. He loves books so much and is often found reading on his own just for fun.
Maybe the reason that I point this out is because so many of the things that C loves to do are considered "girly" things-- for little kids. It's interesting to me that it's totally normal for men to be clean, become chefs, buy groceries, take care of their homes, become singers/ dancers/ actors, have artistic abilities, become "helping professions" like psychologists or teachers, and enjoy reading. But when you talk about little boys enjoying these things, or try to buy toys for boys, the message is clear that girls play with cooking/foods, dolls, doll houses, art stuff, and music. Boys play with the Big Three T's.
As M & I are deciding what to get C for Christmas this year, I'm noticing the toy thing again. And like I've mentioned a zillion times before, I just wish toy makers would do a better job at keeping things gender neutral. That being said, I know there are some amazing companies out there with gender neutral toys-- I just wish was true with the majority of companies.