Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Boys and their toys

MY SON is a typical wee boy. He loves Bob the Builder, Noddy and Thomas the Tank Engine and gets terribly excited when he claps eyes on a 'PC Plum' (police man), fire engine, "ambliance" or airplane.

He looks every inch a boy- from his curly bap to his battered sneakers. He always has looked like a boy, to the point that he has never once in his entire life, even as a week old infant, been confused for anything other than a little boy. (I do remember one well meaning old dear peering the pram and saying: "That can't be anything other than a boy, can it?")
But love for cars, trains, planes, footballs and rough-and-tumble aside, the real love of his life at present is a TV character most certainly aimed at little girls- the wonderful Fifi ForgetMeNot.
He has not one but two talking Fifi dolls (he did have a third but she met a sorry end under the wheels of a passing car). Fifi must go everywhere. In her pink welly boots and denim dungarees, complete with flower motif, she must sit in his high chair with him at every meal time, must go to bed with him, to his Auntie Stella's with him, in the car with him and dare he wake in the middle of the night and she is not to be found there is all hell to pay.
I have taken to avoiding Foyleside because Joseph has renamed it "Fifi's House". He knows that Adams sell Fifi clothes and that the Early Learning Centre stocks a variety of Fifi toys- all of which he thinks he has an automatic right too just because he loves her so much.
Similarly I have lost count of the amount of times I have been woken during the night to Jane Horrocks' voice announcing "Hello, I'm Fifi ForgetMeNot, you're my best friend" as Joseph brings his cuddly best friend into the bed beside me. The added joy is that Fifi also has the power to automatically switch herself off after two minutes declaring loudly: "Don't forget to come back soon!".

Fifi's world...
As a doting mammy I don't really have any problems with my son's fascination for Fifi (who comes scented with a real flower smell). At times she is a welcome relief from the endless episodes of Fireman Sam or Noddy but other people are perhaps not so understanding of my son's love for a girl's toy. In fact I have received a few odd looks when people see my child cart his treasured pink and yellow doll around with him.
Earlier this week I bought a bright pink Fifi ForgetMeNot duvet cover for Joseph and some of my mammy friends were shocked. A few said that while their sons loved Fifi too, there is no way they could put a pink duvet on a boy's bed- and their husbands would go mad at the very notion.
It seemed strange to me. My friend's little girl, Amy, who is the same age as Joseph happily sports a pair of Bob the Builder pyjamas. They are dark blue and clearly designed with little boys in mind. No one has batted an eyelid. Amy loves "Bob De Da" (as she so very sweetly pronounces it) so why shouldn't she have pyjamas emblazoned with the Bob the Builder logo?
It would seem it is more acceptable for a little girl to cross the gender boundaries than it is for a boy. No one would be concerned if Amy had a Bob the Builder duvet cover. I doubt they would bat an eyelid if they saw her peddling around the streets on a Bob the Builder bike- but should you put your average Derry young fellah on a pink bike or in pink pyjamas and you would be asking for trouble.
Personally I've never had any problem at all with Joseph playing with toys for girls as well as boys. He owns a tea set (admittedly he is about as interested in it as he is in molecular biology), a pram and a rag doll. He has been known to dress up in a Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus costume and practice his Bella Ballerina dance steps in his granny's living room. I don't think any of this will have done him any harm. He is just as likely to spend three hours driving the same truck up and down the garden path or to run around the garden dressed as Superman shouting 'Super Joe' at the top of his lungs.
So I don't have a problem with letting him go to sleep at night under a pink duvet cover. I'm aware that as he grows older and spends more time with his peers he will more than likely die with embarrassment at the very notion he once took Fifi to bed every night, but for now, while there is still a touch of babyness about him, he can do whatever makes him happy. (That said I'll be vetoing his his repeated request for Fifi pants to go alongside his newly acquired set of big boy underwear- a mother has to draw the line somewhere and wearing girls' underwear is a bridge too far, even for me.)

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