My little girl turned two just over a week ago, I’d organised for my dad to “do up” my old doll’s house as a present for her. My fiancé on the other hand had another idea. He’d noticed recently that she’s been “fixing tings”. She has a little toy cake server that she’s been jamming into doors and banging on tables and sometimes people. Andy said that when he asked her what she was doing, she replied “I fixing tings, daddy!” So a few days before her birthday Andy went out and bought her a mini tool set of her own. Goodbye spatula, hello plastic screwdriver stuck in all the door locks.. But she’s ecstatic, it’s her new favourite thing, she bangs her tiny little hammer against the doll house walls and loves pretend renovating Barbie’s house. A friend, in passing suggested “maybe she’ll be an engineer like her dad?” I didn’t really think about it at the time, but maybe? This also got me thinking about what I was encouraged to play with when I was little and how it affected my interests.
I had a lot of stuff I guess but I particularly liked books, toy cars and my Pop’s rock collection. I told my Nan one day that I wanted to be a mechanic in the navy. The conversations that followed included the following type of words “lesbian” “I-knew-it” “run-away” “over-my-dead-body” “school teacher?. In retrospect, this saddens me.
My grandfather was into geology, and so was I, in a recent uni subject I relied heavily on a manual of field geology he gave me with a little sticky note in the front that said “To Kiri, for being a good kid.” He knew where it was at. He told me that I should study rocks, because I like them, and because not many girls did. So I did, that is after 15 years of the women in my family encouraging as much reading and English based studies as possible. I didn’t study science or maths in high school and it wasn’t overly encouraged. When I asked my maths teacher, “what can I use maths for?” she replied “everything” and I thought to myself, that’s total crap, I don’t need maths to pick up hot boys (I could not have been more wrong, but that’s a different story…) Long story short I went to uni and studied writing and philosophy, and I was good at it. But I didn’t like it. So, I transferred into Engineering and Science and suddenly I was not so good.
I was starting from scratch, basically six years of maths and chem worth of scratch. When I went in I was determined that having babies would not stop me excelling at whatever I wanted to do, and it hasn’t changed my ability to do well in my chosen fields, but what I want to do has changed. I still want to be a scientist, I still want a phd and I still want to poke my tongue out at my old deputy principle and tell her (amongst other things) that she was wrong. But I want to be a hands on, canteen volunteering, sideline cheering mum, (don’t get me wrong, I’ll never drive a Tarago or a six door, but you get the jest), so I’m back studying what I was trained to; humanities, and I can’t help wondering, what I could have done, if I was encouraged to expand my horizons and pursue my interests.
This is why I love that my little girl decides what she wants to play with and do and is encouraged to. I could not be happier that she loves to “fix tings” and that my fiancé openly encourages her to do whatever she likes. I have in the past sometimes found myself steering my oldest son away from the things he’s interested in; shamefully enough, I caught myself trying to discourage him from his interest in dancing and drama. He’s a beautiful and flamboyant little boy and he has a flare for performance; it’s fantastic. But I was afraid he’d be picked on if he was the only boy in his year in the dance troop. I started thinking about this in greater detail, and what effect it would have upon him, in say five years time, if we encourage him to pursue other things and suddenly we have an awesome footballer who secretly wished he was a dancer. I would hate for him to pursue something simply because what he’s interested in was discouraged. If he’s doing what he loves, who cares? He’s awesome and he loves it, and if any macho little kid wants to pick on him for it; he has a bad ass little sister who’s particularly good with a hammer so they can bring it.
Meanwhile I’d like to think they can decide what they’d like to do for themselves. What I want to do might be temporarily on hold, but it can always wait; because what I really want to do now is make sure they never have to.