I got myself a son... a two-year old son to be exact. Why is his age so important you might ask? This just happens to be his own, personal cave man peak. He cries and screams, "No, never!" when offered ice cream. (Ice cream people! I have often wondered if he is really my son.) He hits his chest and yells, "MINE!" at least four times an hour. While I know that much of this is developmentally appropriate, the intensity of these recent bouts of the "terrific twos" has really got me thinkin'.
Disclaimer: Participant above is a child actor. Real tantrums were too dangerous to be captured on camera. Picture was taken by a professional. Do NOT try this at home.
While I have always dreamed that I would be the parent that would combat gender stereotypes with my progressive parenting ideals, I can't help but wonder if it is a lost cause. From the five month anatomical ultrasound, monster trucks and dinos, trains and baseballs seemed to pour into our lives just as quickly as the squeals and yelps for joy echoed in from the speakerphone as we called our loved ones on the car ride home from the appointment on that fateful day.
We were having a boy. Preserving the family name. Rough and tumble sports. Hanging from the rafters....We were surely in for it, right?
Not if I could help it.
I was convinced that my son would be gentle and sweet. That those weren't necessarily in-utero kicks. I mean, they could have just as easily been jazz hands, right?! Hey, my son was going to be whoever he was, not who he was pressured to be. No assumptions allowed. No way.
Well folks, laugh as you will. As I sat yesterday morning playing "doll house" with my son, watching him wipe out the entire colony of freaky dolls with his garbage truck and half-chewed, plastic dino, I thought, why fight it? Let's look at his record over the past six months: Black eyes, questionable broken nose, stitches. Yeesh!
My son is....a boy.
So, I hereby give up. I won't fight it anymore, BUT I will question it. I will also subtly encourage other families to question it too through what else, but my picture books!
Last week, I was BLOWN AWAY that my pitch won the Would You Read It? contest on Susanna Leonard Hill's wonderful blog. (One of the bestest resources for picture book authors out there.) Up against some pretty stiff competition, my pitch was sent to editor Erin Molta for critique. Yay! Inspired by the need to define the nuts and bolts of the storyline for the pitch, I have really started to analyze my other manuscripts.
While my contest pitch was about synchronized swimming elephant calves turned ballerinas, (VERY intense), my other two finished manuscripts are intended to be boy books. A Facebook post I read yesterday, The 22 Rules of Storytelling, According to Pixar, inspired me to analyze a little deeper, to look at why I read what read and why I write what I write. More specifically:
"Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it."
(Isn't that AWESOME?! I am seriously considering getting some kind of semi-permanent tattoo of this.)
So immediately I thought of my manuscripts and my favorite picture books and realized that for me personally, what I like in them, what is me, is feeling that life is all about doing whatever your little heart wants to do, no matter what gender you have been assigned, how much you weigh, or how smart your high school algebra teacher thinks you're not. Whether you are an elephant who wants to wear a tutu or a tough cowboy who loves to cuddle, this is the common thread that connects the themes of the stories I like to write.
My stories are me fighting those battles that in real life, seem a little more difficult to win.
So I ask you this: Look at your work. What are your stories about? What part of you do you see in your favorite books or manuscripts? I bet you'll find it interesting. =)