Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys. Or so we’re told, but in an ever-evolving color-neutral society, even the toy world gets caught in controversy. Recently the makers of the Easy Bake Oven reassessed their color scheme. It didn’t matter that for five decades famous chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay overcame pink and purple play ovens to find success in their careers. Today, chef-hopefuls of either sex, eager to improve their novice cooking talents, have a palate of hues including blue, black and silver—to choose from when buying the iconic oven.
As a young girl, I didn’t own the once light-bulb heated range that now looks more like a microwave. I never bought one for any of my children, either. In fact, as a young mother, I never placed tea sets, glitter lipstick or even training bras in my shopping cart. But if you need advice on where to get the best deals on trading cards, athletic supporters or wiffle ball bats, I’m your girl.
As mom to three sons—Shawn, Jake and Seth, there’s not much pink in my home. From the time the oldest was in diapers, my house was strewn with soccer balls, dump trucks and building sets. There were no ribbon dance wands, dream houses or stuffed pandas tucked into corners of my family room. Naively, I lived through my thirties without ever trudging down the all-pink Barbie aisle in Toys ‘R Us. Too much time spent in the Hot Wheels section, I guess.
I would envy mothers who could french braid their daughter’s hair, spend time shopping for ballet slippers and attending jewelry design class. While those women were splurging on pedicures, I was digging rocks, pogs and unidentifiable gooey substances out of my sons’ jeans pockets.
There’s an upside to being the queen of the house, though. I was among the first subscribers to ESPN the Magazine, before most people even knew the sports publication existed. I can list eight ways a baseball player can get to first without getting a hit. (In case you’re interested: walk, hit by pitch, error, catcher interference, fielder’s choice, obstruction, dropped third strike—either wild pitch or passed ball). Not so long ago, I readily named all the characters in the “Thomas the Tank Engine” series. In a pinch, I could probably still come up with ten or so. I can hold my own in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em.
Even in an evolving world where opportunities for both sexes continue to even out, mothers know their sons and daughters see things differently. Their interests, tastes and preferences vary from the TV shows they like to their choices of what to wear to school – jeans and a t-shirt vs. lacy tops and leggings.
Whether you live on the pink or blue side of the fence–or if your family contains representation of both–it’s tough mingling the two. The harder job may be teaching boys growing up in an all-guy household how to treat women and in an all-sister home, teaching girls how to relate to boys. My sons love their girl cousins and their friends’ sisters, their first contacts with the other side. Still, it’s not the same as living with a female relative, other than mom. (Mom’s not really a girl anyway.) No tiaras and doll babies were crammed in the toy closet alongside the trucks and car tracks. My sons didn’t have tubes of mascara, lipstick or a curling iron crowding the bathroom countertop.
They learned from their parents that pink or blue didn’t equal weak or strong. It wasn’t unusual to for my fellas to witness me fixing sticky doors, replacing the car’s broken sun visor or digging out an overgrown honeysuckle bush. Their dad throws in a load of laundry, cooks his Sunday morning breakfast scramble and moves my yoga mat aside without so much as a whimper.
A balanced life uses every shade in your paint box. My sons know it doesn’t matter who does the shopping, the cooking or the cleaning as long as the work of the family is accomplished well and with love. Chicken casserole, frozen pizza or chocolate chip cookies taste just as good in any color oven, not matter who’s doing the baking.