I bought Liam a scooter yesterday. Liam has been riding a bike since before he was two years old. He has two bikes and numerous other wheeled toys, so it never occurred to me that he might want a scooter too. About a month ago, we attended a birthday party for one of his friends. It was at this event that he got to try a scooter for the first time. He’s been asking for one ever since.
I am cheap. I buy EVERYTHING at the thrift store. I like to believe that I am principled and wanting to do my part to reuse, reduce, and recycle. But the truth is, I just can’t pay full price for anything. After determining the price of a new scooter was $30-40, I became determined to find one used. I’ve been combing the aisles of thrift stores and driving by garage sales. I finally found one for $6. What a steal! The only problem- it’s purple and has “Barbie” written all over it.
Liam was the one who actually found the scooter. We were wandering through Savers, my home away from home, when he happened upon it. He immediately started riding it down the aisle, looking back over his shoulder to ask “Can I have this?”
I noticed the “Barbie” logos, but decided I could spend an afternoon spraypainting over the pink lettering. Liam smile stretched across his entire face as I affirmed that he could indeed have the scooter.
We walked to the register to buy the item and the young male cashier, scoffed and said “Barbie scooter, huh? Nice.” I was annoyed. Why can’t my son have a Barbie scooter? If a three year old girl rode by on a Hot Wheels scooter, most guys would think that was cool. My son is three. He is versed in fun, not gender politics. All the same, as we left the store, I told Liam I would paint the bike any color he wanted.
“It’s already painted,” Liam replied. “It’s purple.”
This left me a bit perplexed. It shouldn’t have. Liam was happy with the scooter, that should be that. He already has a Barbie tea set he plays with, as well as a Ken doll. But he plays with those toys at home. He would want to take the scooter to the park.
Liam loves to ride bikes with the older boys. Older boys are not always so keen to have a little kid tagging along after them. Would they go beyond being annoyed by his presence and start to make fun of him? If so, at what point would he understand he was the subject of ridicule?
As a feminist, I should be glad that the merchandising of the scooter had no impact on Liam. As a mom, I wanted to protect my little boy.
That evening, he rode the scooter to the park. He happily rode along with two boys on their bikes, and no one seemed to care that Liam was a Barbie boy.
The capacity for acceptance among preschoolers is astounding. In some ways, it is a model environment. I volunteer at Liam’s preschool once a week. I can always identify which kids dressed themselves that morning because they are individual rainbows of mismatched prints and clashing colors. There is one girl who wears pink rainboots nearly every day, despite the fact that it rarely rains in Phoenix. Pink is her favorite color, she feels good when she wears them, enough said. That logic makes perfect sense to a three year old.
A third of the students in Liam’s class have disabilities. Upon looking at the students, I could not tell which of the children had disabilities. They all just looked like kids. However, as they talked and interacted, I began to pick up on several students having speech and behavioral delays. These delays caused them to have trouble annunciating words, and becoming increasingly agitated when they were not understood. My heart broke for them as I listened to them working with the speech therapist, doing their best to mimic her sounds and pay attention to the way she formed words.
But then free time kicked in. The kids could care less whether these children knew how to make a proper “N” sound. They simply relied on shared interests. You like cars, I like cars, let’s play. I know our society is not so accepting of differences, but in that room, no one cared about differences. Similarities ruled the day.
I really loved watching the kids during music and movement. How many high school dances did you go to where half the crowd leaned uncomfortably against the wall, arms crossed, terrified to step onto the dance floor and discover their arms and legs did not move in conjunction with their thoughts?
Preschoolers cannot be contained. They flail. They jump. They swing. They sing. It’s awesome. It is the most freeing experience to be in a room where no one understands the concept of being self conscious, and movement is based on what feels good.
I decided to let Liam decide what he wants to do with his scooter. Maybe he’ll want to cover it in stickers. Maybe he’ll slather it in paint. Or maybe he’ll simply ride it along without thought other than how fast he can go.
Besides, he could be riding a scooter made out of black leather, barbed wire, and steak bones. It wouldn’t help. He still has his little brother tagging along behind him. While Liam was falling in love with his scooter, Kellen had his eye on a little pink stroller, perfect for his favorite baby doll. What kind of mom would I be if I said no?