Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gender roles at Garden Time

In the playground my floaty, thin scarf was liberated by one of the tykes. She ran around with it over her face (it was see through) haunting people as a ghost. A little boy lifted up the side of it to poke his head under as well. She yanked the scarf away and ran off to haunt some others, and since neither child seemed put out I didn't say anything about sharing.
I kept an eye on her to make sure my scarf didn't end up in one of the mud puddles and eventually the scarf morphed (as all good dress up items do) from being protoplasm to being a princess skirt. She pranced around with it held tightly around her waist, dancing about the garden. The same little boy came over and lifted up the side of it to poke his head under...and this time? Was it okay? It's still a scarf. But since it was representing a skirt,and since he was a boy, and since she clearly didn't want him to put his head under her I put a stop to it? Or is that just me projecting adult thoughts and motivations onto a pair of three year olds? (I suspect the latter) At the same time, at what point do we start teaching boys that when a girl says no, she means no. At what point do you go beyond saying "be nice to everyone and respect every one's space" and into "but particularly girls' because there is a massive history there that you don't yet understand."
I wouldn't have been that bothered by it, only giving that encounter a passing thought, except that I kept watching her the whole garden time (I really didn't want my scarf getting muddy) ("why didn't you take it back?" you may ask. I don't know. I just didn't.) And later on when the reception tykes rushed onto the field one of the bigger boys came over and grabbed her, wrestled her and kissed her. Is that still okay? Is that still rough housing? Or is that something where I should step in and say not okay. She fended him off just fine, and maybe I wasn't paying attention to other combinations of children where one is fending off another, maybe it is fine and this is just part of what happens. But should it be? She can take care of herself, but should she already have to?

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