"Need help," Gracie said, tugging me over to the toy box and pointing inside. "Need tac-tor."
Since the tractor was already in her hand, I deduced she wanted a driver for it. I asked, she confirmed, and I scooped two little people out of the box without paying much attention. Only after the driver was settled in the seat, and the extra person sitting happily in the wagon, did I look more closely to see that I had given my daughter two females.
Boo-Yah, that's right, girls can drive tractors too!
Wait, did I really just say boo-yah?
Growing up in farming land, it was never really that unusual for me to see girls on tractors. So it surprised me, this instinctive and vehement reaction. It had to be, I surmised, in response to having daughters, rather than being female myself. After all, I worked eight years shoulder-to-shoulder with the guys in the local hardware store, hauling freight and unloading trucks with the best of them. Dad taught my sister and me both to fish, to shoot a gun, to throw and catch a baseball (I hate softballs - they are so much bigger; it's nearly impossible to throw them well) ... at my grandparents' summer camp, all the grandkids would chip in with Gram and Grampie to haul brush away, all seven girls and the one lone boy cousin. My family moved to a fixer-upper house when I was nine, and since Dad worked all day, it was Mom, Lis and I who would tear down walls and help put up new sheetrock.
In other words, when you grow up without people throwing stupid ideas at your head about what girls (and boys) can and can't do, it's not too likely to feel violent feminist emotions on your own account.
But when people start making assumptions about my daughters, and trying to impress on them from birth that there are some things off-limits or unacceptable just because they are girls ... well, Mamma gets pissed.
"Be gentle!" one mom of boys chirped to her sons as they were playing with Joy. "Girls are fragile flowers."
"Oh, she's all girl," someone else will say about Joy, for no reason but that she's tiny with delicate features.
"Oh, girls run and scream and act crazy too?" a friend asked as we tried to talk on the phone, as her boys ran wild on her end, and my girls did the same on mine. (Another time, it was, "Girls put their underwear on their head too?")
"They like to play with trucks?" people will ask blankly, staring at their toy collection.
And it drives. me. nuts.
Why shouldn't they play with trucks? Who was the idiot who decided vehicles had to be for boys alone? Joy's latest fascination is with trains, while Grace, as mentioned above, is showing a bit of interest in tractors. And do people really expect that they are going to sit quietly and play softly all day long, simply by virtue of being girls? Aren't all kids supposed to run and shout and act free and crazy, isn't that just part of being a kid?
(This works the opposite direction, too, as I realized with something of a sad shock when I heard one mother worrying about the fact that her son would rather spend time cooking in the kitchen than playing war outside with his brothers.)
And yes, Joy also likes baby dolls and the color pink, and Grace is a darling snuggler who showers affection on everyone and everything in her vicinity, but that's awesome, too, that they are already so diverse, that Joy can like trains and dolls all at once, that Grace can be my crazy wild child and my sweet darling in the span of ten seconds. I want them to pursue anything and everything that interests them, to not succumb to societal pressures, to not be ashamed of "non-girly" interests, or even, on the other end, not to feel like they have to be embarrassed if they really do like pink or purple or sparkles. I want them to be their own person, regardless of what others think.
So yes, boo-yah to girls who drive tractors! As for their driving abilities ...
Well, the less said about that, perhaps, the better.