Naked Pictures of Faceless People: Yes, Tinkerbell!

Welcome to RMB’s Naked Pictures of Faceless People, a series of guest posts from diverse anonymous bloggers. (Read more about NPFP’s origins.) These are the posts that are jumping to get out of us, but for whatever reason — safety, embarrassment, conflict of interest, protection of loved ones’ reputations or feelings, or so on — we don’t or won’t or can’t post at our own blogs. Anyone, whether blogger or reader only, is welcome to submit or discuss a potential post by emailing me at arwyn at raisingmyboychick dot com.

Yes, Tinkerbell!

I am the mother of a toddler boy (or apparent boy, but I’m going to stick with the male pronoun since as best we know it applies), and recently he had his second birthday. We took him out to do several things. Including pick something (modest, not huge) out at the toy store, and get a toddler pillow for his new bed.

At the toy store, we were wandering with him in his dad’s arms (where he had chosen to be), trying to spot things to offer him as choices. As we strolled through the books, he lunged down to grab at a book on a shelf that was waist-high to his dad (ie, down around his feet) and clung to it. Well, then. The book in question was a Tinkerbell book, an oversize board book with a little keyboard that played some pre-set sounds related to the story. My husband was briefly concerned but, to my relief, his concern was whether or not the book had small parts (our son still tries to eat his toys and books) — it was age-suitable, and my husband relaxed.

Our son loves this book. He punched buttons all the day he got it, and he comes back to it frequently. One button is a pink sparkly heart that makes a sound I can only describe as sparkly, and the first time I heard it I said “Awwww!” (in that sappy voice you do) and now my son says that about every fifth time he hears that button.

That evening we went to get him a second pillow for his newly-converted bed (he already had one I made him). There were a number of options, but once we offered him the Tinkerbell pillow he rejected all others in the “this one or that one?” game and clung to it throughout the store. So Tinkerbell came home again.

When we got home, he poked the pillow in Tink’s nose and frowned. “Bwoken!”

“No, honey, it’s not broken. The book makes music. That’s a pillow. It’s still Tinkerbell, but it doesn’t make music.”

He set the pillow down on a chair and went back to playing with the book. I left the tags on the pillow, waiting to see what would happen (and to give him time to forget the disappointment), and he appeared to ignore it for the most part. Two days later I asked him if he wanted the Tinkerbell pillow in his bed (the Tinkerbell book stays downstairs; we try to keep loud toys out of the bedroom). “Tinkuhbell upstairs!” He hugged the pillow. I took the tags off. He’s cuddled it many nights since.

I don’t personally understand his love of it: it’s very pretty, and the back side is soft, but the Tinkerbell side is scratchy because of the fabrics and threads she’s done in. All the same, he does love it.

To those of you who, when told this story, give a sigh of relief when I describe his disappointment to discover that the pillow didn’t make music, and to whom I never tell the ending: fuck you. The Tinkerbell pillow is cute, my son loves it, and I probably ought to tell you that but I also refuse to pull him — a living breathing person you know — into a battle he doesn’t even realize exists.

To those of you who are neutral: thank you.

To those of you who visibly bristle when I say I left the tags on the pillow (often before I say why, because of how I normally tell it, feeling out my audience), and who relax or smile when you hear why, and that he did keep it? Thank you. Thank you for caring enough to be ready to tell me off (or at least be contemplating it) if I was squashing my child. I remember, and I appreciate it.

Thank goodness, none of the people who disapprove of his love of Tink are close to him so far. (At least as far as I know; maybe someone hid it better, but if they hide it, it’s their problem, not his or mine.) Because if it were someone who would bring it up to him, I’d have a Conversation to have.

A few things for you to think about, if my son’s love of Tinkerbell bugs you:

1. He’s two. Just barely two. Nothing about now is permanent, unless it is. There’s no way to know.

2. What is he supposed to do, hate girls or fairies? I’m not too worried about him being antisocial with faeries (the Tinkerbell kind, not using this as the modern slang, thanks), but he does have to attend school and work with girls and women as he grows, and I’d rather he liked them than not!

3. If you’re worried he’ll grow up feminine, or gay, or…let me just say that if he turns out to be a lesbian when he grows up? My one hope would be that he’ll be a happy one. Which means that if you disapprove of this kind of thing, you’re not the person I want much involved in his life, in case I’m using all the wrong pronouns now.

He’s young, and he’s a person, and he’s finding his own way. I won’t push him to like or dislike Tinkerbell — or trucks, or dragons, or roaring, or anything else that isn’t harmful to himself or others. And if I can help it, I won’t let others, either.

Because I want him to grow up whole and strong. Whoever he is, whoever he will be, he is my child and I love him. And I expect you to at least respect that he is and ought to be his own person.

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From Arwyn: For more posts on this topic which, serendipitously (or unsurprisingly, given my known interest in gender and parenting) I recently ran across, see Tinkerbell Valentine of Much Consternation and And Another Thing! at Pax (Ro)mama and My Sons are Gender Conformists at Blogging When the Baby Isn’t Looking.

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21 Responses to Naked Pictures of Faceless People: Yes, Tinkerbell!

  1. This is a great idea for a series. Kudos to this writer for supporting her child in what they like even if it goes against what you might expect support on. Tinkerbell must be awesome for two year olds. My 2yo son went dressed as Tink to his older brother’s Peter Pan. They both still wear the purple fairy wings all the time during dress up. I need to snap a photo of Fairy Darth Vadar one of these days :)

  2. Do you have an elevator speech ready to go? I always find myself composing one, just in case, because my little boy loves pink and glitter, but I’ve never actually had an opportunity to use it since he seems to attract more confusion than outright tsk-tsking.

    (Also, so cute that he’d hoped the pillow would make the same noise as the book – gotta love that toddler logic! ^-^)

  3. I confess, I mentally flinched over Tinkerbell love, but no more than I do when my children are in love with something so commercial. I’d gladly provide my kids with faeries galore but WHY must they love Di$ney SO MUCH???? Anyway, I’m sure that’s not what you meant :) Glad he likes his pillow!

  4. I personally avoid purchasing Disney products or character toys/books in general….but I could care less if a boy wants fairy stuff! My daughter likes dresses, glittery shoes, hair bows, fairy wings, etc….but she also digs frogs, castles, dragons, dinosaurs, trucks, and bugs. I imagine my unborn son will have similar interests when he’s older. Glitter appeals to all toddlers! So do trucks and fairy wings because at that age everything is amazing and gender doesn’t exist…so who cares?

  5. Great post! I think a really important point here, and one I have to remind myself of, is that we are allowing our children to *choose* for themselves what they prefer. We make sure it’s age-appropriate and safe but let them choose after that. I do not like the colour pink and so of course all 3 of my children wanted as much pink as possible. My 11yo has outgrown pink, thankfully. I see no problem with clothing as long as it’s weather-appropriate, I don’t even care if it’s matching as long as my child feels like their choices have been respected and they feel good about themselves for being able to dress themselves. The only other barrier is money so we rarely buy things new and the selection is smaller. I also avoid “cheap” stores where all the toys are made of cheap plastic that only lasts 1 play. I just don’t understand squashing children at such a young age and trying to mold them into what we adults want. Let them be!

  6. My son is also 2 and at this age, things that are shiny and pretty are the most fun. As much as I can (within safety requirements) I allow my son to make as many decisions as he can for himself. Granted, at 2, they aren’t earth shattering decisions but I want him to grow up to be his own person. If you are interested I have a blog that I follow and her son LOVES his princess dress. She’s written a few great posts on her own inner battles –not because he wears dresses –but because of society and one day other children said mean things. And one day, they all dressed up in princess dreses (even daddy) to go out to the store!

  7. I was very relieved when he poked the pillow and it didn’t make noise because A PILLOW THAT MAKES NOISE IS THE WORST THING EVER.

    I’m glad he’s exploring his world and that you’re permitting him and not boxing him into certain ways of being. That’s so awesome!

  8. That’s an awesome story. Your point in #2 always occurs to me when I think of the problems people have with little boys liking so-called ‘feminine’ things. I wouldn’t worry about the commercialization of Disney because often having a mainstream primer in something like faeries kindles that interest that will go beyond the mainstream version and seek out more interesting less commercialized incarnations of that interest.

  9. My toddler boy also loves tinkerbell. He loves the Tinkerbell movies and plays with the fairy dolls my 5 year old has. My little brother loved little mermaid. Boys can like “girl” movies. It’s the parents who tell them ita wrong. Why is it wrong? The movies are sweet. Tink is cute. Nothing wrong with it.

  10. I think it’s awesome he knows what he wants. I also think it’s awesome the pillow doesn’t make noise (gods how I hate those electronic noisemakers…)!

    I don’t like Disney, and have “lost” the princess coloring book my ILs got my daughter for her birthday.. but it’s about Disney, not about princesses. I love fairy tales, but can’t stand the whole Tinkerbell thing. So any cringing on my part from your lovely story is about Disney, not about a boy liking fairies!

  11. When I was two, I named our first cat tinkerbell. Well, after I named him noodles. I kept naming him after my favorite thing, you see. Thank you for this story.

  12. My son likes Dora the Explorer and some other ‘traditionally’ girl toys, but he’s also into hot wheels, dinosaurs and other ‘boy’ things. He’s 4. You’re def. doing the right thing by not squashing any of his interests, even if they’re seen by some (close minded idiots) as not ‘right’.

  13. I have 2 boys who are interested in “girl” stuff, too. When I was reading this post, I kept waiting for the punchline or the big twist. Then, I realized that Tinkerbell was supposed to be the big deal. Since we’re into so many different toys and types of play here, I didn’t realize that until I was almost done with the post.

    I am in agreement with the author of the post in allowing children to choose their interests and hobbies regardless of what society tells us is “normal”. I do find it sad that some day someone is probably going to tell this child that Tinkerbell is for girls and this little boy might have some sad feelings or mixed feelings about Tinkerbell at that point. Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but unfortunately that is the way that society leans, so it’s more than possible it will.

  14. My 2 year old son isn’t so much interested in fairies per se (I don’t think he’s ever even seen Tinkerbell), but he does love to play dress up in one of my old party dresses – it’s red and shiny and sparky and fabulous – and I have no problem with it. He also loves to step into our dog’s cone (medium sized, 50-lb dog with a history of obsessively licking any dink on his skin until it is a raw mess) and playing “princess bear” (thank Word World for that one). I think it’s great that young children indulge in such imaginative play and aren’t constrained by such arbitrary limitations as gender expectations.

  15. Original Author

    To everyone who’s replied so far: thank you!

    @lovepeaceohana – I don’t have an elevator speech. Except for Tink, he mostly is attached to gender-neutral or “boy” (cultural, augh!) colors/things. I don’t know if anyone would comment if he weren’t, but it’s really not a question we’ve had to face.

    @lovepeaceohana, @Brigid, @Katie – yes, when he was disappointed the pillow didn’t make music, I had such a hard time not giggling. I did giggle later, when he couldn’t hear me. And my comment to my husband (also later) was that I would NOT have wanted to buy the pillow at ALL if it made music, no matter what it looked like.

    @Sandra, @Kim, @Katie – I think kids love Disney because it’s everywhere so they see it, I think. I don’t think he’d even SEEN Tinkerbell before he saw the book, but it was there and glossy and neatly marketed and he liked it. His day care doesn’t have a TV, and we’re pretty limited in what we let him watch here. I’m not real thrilled by Disney, but the reworked Tink isn’t too bad and the story book is simple and cute, so it could be worse.

    @Casey – Yeah, for some people this is not a big deal. Thank goodness. It wasn’t for me, it was just a giggly story because of trying to get the pillow to play music, until I saw a face tighten for the first time. That’s when I started telling it to feel out my audience before finishing it. I just felt…almost queasy, to see that look on someone’s face. And if and when someone tells him that, if I haven’t already, I will have the sad task of explaining some of these issues to him in as supportive a way as I can. I’m hoping it can wait until he can better understand the explanation, though; two is a bit young to ask that of.

  16. Jenny Islander

    I think the Tinkerbell reboot is surprisingly good. Come to that, some of the Barbie CGI movies are astonishing. Look up Barbie Rapunzel sometime for some deftly executed preteen psychological horror.

    As for your son liking Tink, good for him! May I suggest the Society for Creative Anachronism as a family activity? SCAdians, as amateur students of history, know that gender is fluid. Depending on the time and place, knitting, embroidery, body-conscious clothing, blacksmithing, dressing in bright colors, wearing flowers, reciting poetry, cooking, riding to war, etc., etc., etc. might be proper to men or women or both.

    • @Jenny – I’m the author of the Tinkerbell Valentine of Much Consternation post at Pax (Ro)mama, and made the same comment in defense of the Tinkerbell reboot (although her appearance in Disney’s original Peter Pan film deserves no defense. And — oy! — the racism! But I digress). And I’m glad someone else is of the same mind with regard to those Barbie CGI movies, too! You have no idea the degree of guilt I harbored when I allowed my son to check out Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus from the library and found myself thinking, “You know … this isn’t half-bad!” (message-wise. The CGI is … well, not on par with Pixar).

  17. I love this post! Thanks for sharing. My 3 year old son has a 5 year old sister. She’s the center of his world, his favorite person ever. And so, he loves painted nails, dresses, and tea parties. I have fiercely defended his right to play in ways that are fun for him, for all the reasons you outlined in this post. It’s wonderful to hear that other parents are having the same thoughts–and one of the things that made me cheer was that your husband seems to be an active participant in supporting your son’s exploration of his interests!

  18. I have a 6-year-old girl and a 2 1/2 year old boy. This makes for a very gender-neutral house, because even when relatives buy my kids “boy” or “girl” toys, it tends to balance out. And they all end up in the same place.

    My son, having an older sister, is well acquainted with Tink. He’s quite a fan. In fact, over Christmas, not knowing what a jingle bell is, he morphed the popular holiday song into: “Tinkerbell, Tinkerbell, Tinker all the WAAAAAY!”

    You sing what you know, I guess. ;)

  19. Pingback: Are We Too Isolated To Fight the Pink-v.-Blue Battle? : Ms Magazine Blog

  20. YES!
    *ahem*
    I think people have it all wrong anyway. Once I asked my four year old why he always wanted to dress up like a girl to play… and his answer? “Because I like girls” Take that dumb-ass people that are constantly concerned with gender stereo types. Not because he wants to be a girl or even because he thinks the dress makes him pretty but simply because he thinks girls are cool. Why does every little thing have to “mean” something anyway?
    :)

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