As gender roles change in our larger society, they are also changing on the playground. It isn't atypical to see a boy caring for a doll or a girl pushing a truck around in the sandbox. And at our park, all the kids gather near the three play kitchens and make meals.
My daughter has made spaghetti and hamburgers and everything under the sun while my son usually keeps breakfast foods covered -- pancakes, bacon, and sausage. The food is always delicious, of course, and never once has it occurred to me that my son, as a boy, shouldn't be in the kitchen.
Writer Judy Ketteler says, in an essay for AOL, that she has experienced otherwise with her 2-year-old son:
About a month ago, I started searching for play kitchens. What I discovered is that the majority of them were clearly geared toward little girls. If they weren't pink and purple, then they showed girls playing at them. Not only that, we've endured some teasing from people; it's more in-fun than mean-spirited, but still, it's enough to bring home the fact that we're traipsing on the hallowed ground of masculine identity in America.
Maybe it's because I live in the most progressive state in the union where almost everyone leans left, especially in my urban, educated area, but never once has it occurred to me that my son couldn't have a play kitchen. He loves them. When we go out to our favorite restaurant with a playroom, he always plays quietly with theirs. At school he does the same.
My daughter turns 4 next week, and for her birthday, we finally bought her the play kitchen she's been asking for, but really, it's a gift for both of them. We make them share his train table and we will make them share the kitchen. But I'm sure they will have no problem with it. My uber-masculine, truck loving toddler boy will love making dinner and lunch in it.
So, all this time, I thought I was raising a renaissance man. Until the other day.
"Can you help mommy make the birthday dinner?" my dad asked my son, who shook his blond toddler head vigorously.
"No! I a boy!"
Where did this come from? It turns out that somehow, despite his progressive preschool and family who splits household duties evenly, he was getting the message that only mommy cooks. I know where he got it, too. Daddy's idea of cooking has always been "if it takes longer to make than to eat, it's a waste." Yeah. His daddy isn't a foodie.
Mommy is almost always the one who bakes the bread and cookies or takes the lead in major cooking projects. A lot of this is because I love it, but somewhere my son got a different message and I hope the play kitchen will change that.
It will be interesting to see how my children use it, but it makes me sad that in this day and age, a boy with a play kitchen would even get a second glance. Maybe if my husband had a play kitchen, he might have learned the value of cooking from scratch and using good, local ingredients. And while I can't go back in time and change him, I can certainly help my son realize from an early age that cooking isn't just for girls and that creating good food in the kitchen is very manly, indeed.
Does your son have a play kitchen?
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