I have a three year old son, which means playing pretend is something that happens every day. We go from being dinosaurs to jungle animals to different vehicles. Sometimes this is free choice, but often times he announces our different roles. My wife and i are pretty used to being greeted but a chirpy voice telling us that “Daddy is a triceratops, Mommy is a T-Rex and Leo is a Pteradon.”
Since I am a fan of superheroes, that means that slowly and surely my son is also becoming a fan of superheroes. Who knows how long this will last, but I have to admit I am enjoying it. But there is also something I am a little worried about.
I think there are a lot of great things about tales of superheroes, and a lot of subtle lessons that can be learned from them that are good for a three year old to learn. Being honest, and standing up for others are pretty useful ideas for him to come away from.
But, let’s be honest here, while there are some great female role models in the four-color world, women aren’t always portrayed in the best of lights. I almost wrote “haven’t always been portrayed” but it isn’t like this issue has been resolved. I’m not going to go into specifics with this post, as it isn’t really what it is about, but I am aware that there is a lot of damseling, fridging, cheesecaking, etc. that can happen. And I really don’t want my son to think of girls as something that “other” from himself.
Another layer on the cake is that I live in Japan, and again I don’t want to get lost in specifics in this post, but let’s just say that the idea that boys and girls are different seems to be extreme over here.
So, I worry.
But then days like today happen when I pick him up from daycare and he tells me that I am Superman, Mommy is Batman, and Leo is Wonder Woman. Then he takes his little daycare towel and tucks part of it in his pocket, because Wonder Woman wears her lasso on her hip, and he proceeds to go into saving the day mode.
I know I’m going to have to keep reassuring him that women can be just as strong as men, and they aren’t as different as maybe his future schools and friends will tell him. But, for now, he sees nothing wrong with playing pretend as Wonder Woman. Because she is a strong superhero, too.
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