Mom and Buried has worked in theater – musical theater – for a long time. She’d been angling to watch Annie on one of our movie nights for months, having depleted our stores of Pixar, Star Wars, and age-appropriate superhero flicks.
Last summer, thanks to “CBS Sunday Morning,” she finally had her chance!
One day, after seeing a segment about the play on the sleepy morning news show, my 6-year-old asked Mom and Buried if they could watch Annie.
Later that day, my wife queued up the original Carol Burnett/Alfred Finney movie and had a Sunday night movie night with my son. Detective Munch sat rapt through the entire thing. When it was over, he told us he loved it. Then he told us something that broke my wife’s heart, and that makes me mad even just thinking about it.
Our 6-year-old, a first grader, told us that he would have to keep the fact that he likes Annie a secret, because one of his friends at school would make fun of him for “liking a girl movie.”
Before you get out your pitchforks: I don’t blame the kid. Or his parents.
I’m realistic. Mom and Buried and I do our best to instill open-mindedness in our kids, and to prevent them from viewing things along superficial gender lines – we honestly don’t care if he plays with toy kitchens or dolls or likes the color pink. Yet despite all that, our 6-year-old still finds his way to being a stereotypical boy.
He’s all about superheroes and Star Wars and toy guns and play-fighting. And he can’t stand the color pink. So the fact that some other kid at school doesn’t like girly stuff isn’t necessarily a result of his parents having taught him to “be a man” or anything like that. Some of that stuff is just ingrained. (To paraphrase Christopher Walken in Wedding Crashers, “Nature vs. Nurture. Nature always wins!”)
All that said: I blame the kid. And his parents.
But regardless of who or what is to blame, the fact that there’s some little jerk out there making my son feel bad about liking something, and potentially stifling that side of him, makes me furious. What parent doesn’t want their kid to be able to express themselves fully, however he or she seems fit, without regard for what some bully, or some stereotype, or society has to say? (Please know that that’s a rhetorical question; I don’t want to get more angry!)
I want my children to grow into whomever they’re going to be with as few restrictions as possible. I made these people, and I’m excited to see what becomes of them. I’m not interested in programming my kids like robots, I want them to become themselves. I don’t want their development to be warped by external nonsense that, quite frankly, you’d think/hope would be extinct in 2017. Wonder Woman is dominating the box office, and it’s not just girls and their moms who are going.
So who honestly cares about this stuff in this day and age? (Again: RHETORICAL!)
It’s okay for boys to like the color pink and Wonder Woman and musical theater (Hamilton FTW!), and it’s okay for girls to like Star Wars and baseball and playing in the mud. But the specifics aren’t the point. The point is that we shouldn’t be dictating the things little kids are allowed or not allowed to enjoy. The point is that it’s NOT okay to tell people what they can and can’t like, or who they’re supposed to be, based on whatever random criteria you adhere to.
The point is acceptance. That’s what we should be teaching our kids, whether they like Annie or hate the color pink or not. That’s what we try to teach ours.
So we dressed my son in an Annie wig and sent him to school with a pair of brass knuckles. JUST KIDDING! (He took a Wonder Woman lasso.)