Pink for a Girl

Thirty-odd years ago, I was born into a world where a woman ran the country and that simple fact made me feel that one day I could do the same if I wanted. My daughter has been born into a world where there is now a pink version of Lego just for girls and Paris Hilton is somehow a role model.

I have a rule that Squeak is not allowed pink – not on clothes, not on toys, not on bags or plates or, well… anything. I have no problem with her having things which are feminine, but I do have a problem with the pinkification of being a girl. Some of my friends think it is ridiculous. They tell me that Squeak will rebel and want to be like her peers and have nothing but pink as soon as she is old enough to have an opinion and that may be true. They say that I’m the one being sexist because I let Quibble wear blue, but that is where difference lies.

Quibble has some blue clothes, but he also has orange, red, green, brown and yellow. His toys are a variety of bright primary shades. If you ask him his favourite colour, it changes every time. But it is almost impossible to buy anything for Squeak which doesn’t have at least some pink in it and there are pink versions of toys which aren’t even particularly gendered; tricycles, pianos, trampoline, shape sorter, art table, sandpit, ballpool… In many ways, the fact that I have to actively seek out non-pink items makes me even more determined, because it really shouldn’t be this difficult to want your child to know more than one colour.

I need Squeak to know that just because there is a pink version, doesn’t mean that if things aren’t pink they are only suitable for boys. And for me, taking pink out of the equation makes things much more gender neutral. Because yes, she’s a girl, but she’s also so much more than just a gender.

She will be a person in her own right. She will be the product of her upbringing. She will be influenced by her age, by the media and by her friends. She may become an engineer, like her father, or a teacher, like her mother. She might be very into crafts or cooking or reading or dolls and I would accept any of those (Quibble has tried all these). But I need her to know that if she wants to watch racing cars or kick a football or climb trees, she can. There’s more than one way to be a girl.

Most importantly, at the moment she’s a baby who has no concept of gender – hers or anyone else’s. She loves making things move; cars, balls, the pages of a book. She loves cuddles and tickles and being thrown up in the air by Stanchion. She just doesn’t wear pink.

What! You too?

 “It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 My circle of friends has changed a lot since I’ve had kids. Those who don’t have kids, except for my closest friends, have drifted away to be replaced by a new crop of Mum Friends.

These Mum Friends are women I have met, at antenatal classes or playgroups, purely because they are the mother of a child the same age as Quibble or Squeak. These women, who I would not know but for the timing of a pregnancy, and I joined together as pioneers in this new frontier of Motherhood. We have become bonded by a shared experience. Supporting each other through sleepless nights, comparing notes on milestones (the hits and the misses) and getting dizzily excited going to the pub for a few short hours. They are easy to be with precisely because they understand what life with children is like – the challenges and the fun.

But while I have been going through this, so have some of my best and oldest friends. The friends I first met at university back in that time Before Children. On slightly differing timescales, we have all morphed from a group of laidback, silly, loud, drunken students we once were into respectable, sober, hard-working mothers.

Last weekend I met up with them all at a wedding. All except the bride have had a baby in the past twelve months; one first, three second and one third baby. And even though no children were present, conversation covered breastfeeding, childcare, maternity leave, weaning, nappies and even vasectomies. And because we were friends before we were Mums, because we bonded first over Lambrini and washing up rotas, because we can go months without speaking yet feel it’s no time at all when we do talk, we can speak with complete honesty and know we won’t be judged.

We admitted that we let our kids watch more TV than we meant to. We admitted that, in the middle of a tantrum, it was sometimes hard to like our kids. We admitted that our first family holidays made us miss those holidays where we had a lie-in, spent an entire day doing nothing, then went out for a meal. And we all knew that it didn’t mean we loved our kids any less or that we wished we didn’t have them or even that we weren’t good mothers.

We joked about the ways our offspring mimicked our words and actions catching us off guard and forcing us to laugh at ourselves. We shared our children’s cleverest, funniest and sweetest moments, reminding each of us how lucky we were. And, of course, we reminisced about those student days; our own cleverest and funniest moments.

As the night wore on, we became more laidback, a bit silly, very loud and quite drunk. And I realised that we really hadn’t changed all that much after all.