Motherhood

What The Pink Pool Toy Taught Me About Gender

What The Pink Pool Toy Taught Me About Gender www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Liz Parker-Cook

It all started with a pink pool toy. It was just an ordinary toy, but this one pool toy made me question my values and my deeply held beliefs. It took me down a peg. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a little bit. 

During the summer, my husband, one-year-old son and I took a short vacation in a nearby town. We were staying in a hotel with a nice pool and I had bought the perfect pool toy for our son. It was a small boat, with holes so he could stick his legs through and float around the pool. There was just one problem. I had left that toy at home. 

Determined to enjoy the pool, I sent my husband across the street to Walmart to buy another one. He came back shortly and tossed the bag on the sofa. I opened the box and my heart sunk. 

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It was pink. Bright pink. It was not just a pool float toy either. There was also a shirt with a built-in flotation device. It was also very bright pink. With flowers. 

“I’m not sure this will work,” I said

“Why not?” he asked. “It will fit him, I think.”

I didn’t want to say why not. So I tried another excuse.

“Maybe he can just use the bottom part?” I thought out loud. “Oh no, you need both pieces. Hmm, maybe we can just carry him.”

“Okay,” he said, taking another look at it. “It is really bright pink. I didn’t see that when I bought it.”

“What was the big deal,” I asked myself. My son certainly wouldn’t care. But I did. I didn’t want to care, but I found, to my dismay, that I did care. What was I so afraid of? Sure, I would probably have to explain that he was a boy if there was anyone else in the pool. Maybe it would be awkward for a minute, but I would probably never see anyone at this hotel again. 

I knew this, but I still hesitated.

Every part of me wanted to say that it was not a big deal – that it was just a color. Every part of my brain told me that I should just put my kid in that darn toy and go to the pool. I knew this, but that pink pool toy remained in the box. It remains there to this day, unopened. Every time I see it, I feel the shame creep over me. 

I am absolutely embarrassed by my visceral reaction to this toy. I consider myself a very educated person about gender issues. My master’s thesis was about gender in music, for goodness sake. I spent two years of my life reading everything I could about gender issues. A pink pool toy should not elicit such a response from an educated and accepting person like me. Or, the person I thought I was. What if I wasn’t that person at all?

You see, it is one thing to think you will champion a cause or be completely accepting of a new idea in theory and quite another to do it in practice.  I am the first person to rant about the unnecessary gendering of children’s toys, but when I was challenged to put my ideas into practice – to reject the idea that pink is for girls –  I failed. The pink pool toy, in five minutes, has changed my perception of myself. I failed and I am ashamed. 

So, what is a flawed parent to do? Well, luckily, I also have a good memory. I will remember this experience. I will remember those feelings of discomfort and shame and use them to become better – not just in theory but in practice. 

About the author

Liz Parker-Cook

Liz Parker-Cook is a proud mom of a 3 year old boy, 6 month old fraternal twin girls and a 4 year old chocolate lab. She lives in Toronto with her wonderful husband Dan, and the aforementioned dependants. She is currently on maternity leave and during nap time she writes her thoughts in her blog http://https://newbiemomsite.com/ for other new moms. In her other life she is a high school music teacher, which is much louder than parenting but has fewer dirty diapers.