Nature and Nurture

15 Dec

Pink Nail PolishHave I created a monster? (Although if I have she would be the cutest, most adorable kind of monster you could imagine.) My 21-month-old niece is the girliest girl possible, and I fear I may have a lot to do with it, since I look after her three days a week and she sees me putting on makeup, using various lotions and potions, wearing high heels etc. She insists on copying me, putting on pretend make-up and real hand cream, and picking out high-heeled shoes for me to wear even when the weather, and carrying a two-stone toddler, would make them quite impractical. She loves playing with my handbag, which keeps her amused for minutes on end. (That’s pretty good, with a one-year-old.)

But I don’t think I deserve all of the blame for this. Her mother would have to take a portion too, since my niece often comes to my place smelling of mummy’s perfume and dressed in very cute outfits, but that’s not what I mean. I don’t think this girly obsession is entirely due to her upbringing at all. I think pink blood runs in her veins, so to speak. I know it’s easy to fool yourself that you’re not imprinting gender stereotypes on your kids when in reality you are, without realising, but I have good evidence that there is something deeper. For instance, she’s obsessed with handbags, and often goes after other people’s on the train (I really must train her as a pickpocket). She’s also fascinated with painted nails. Now I rarely paint my nails and, as I’ve written before, I’m just not that into handbags. She’s not getting that from me, and I don’t think she’s getting it from my sister, either.

The thing that decided me, though, was watching her with my husband yesterday. She adores her uncle, and follows him round watching what he does – but she doesn’t copy him. She doesn’t want to put shaving foam on her face or gel in her hair. When I use deoderant she’s after me for the bottle to pretend to spray it herself, but when he does, she’s content to watch. (So am I. He has the body of a Greek god.) In other words, she knows she’s female without being told, and knows that mummy and I are too, so she models herself on us and other women. This is not conditioning, this has to be inbuilt.

Actually, she’s not as much of a girly girl as this post makes her appear. She’s also quite tough and loves being tossed into the air or chucked on the bed, and as well as handbags she likes to carry all sorts of other bags and containers, some of them very heavy. She’s also taken recently to sticking her finger up her nose, which I consider very unfeminine. Of course, children go through phases and in ten years’ time we may be laughing at the fact that she was every girly. She has a baby sister on the way now, so it will be interesting to see how that affects things, for both of them. In the meantime, I’ll just keep a wary eye on my blusher.

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