A Letter to Bella, and Other Girls With Blue Shoes

Bella and her blue shoes.

Dear Bella,

Your mom told me all about your awesome blue shoes. I like blue. My little girl, Amelia, she loves blue because it is the color of the ocean. But if you asked her, she would tell you her favorite color is rainbow. Rainbows are so nice because they include all of the colors.

I heard from your mom that someone at school said your shoes were for boys. Maybe because they were blue or maybe because Buzz Lightyear was on them. At our house, we say, “Colors are for everyone.” Sometimes people get mixed up about that because they don’t think about it very hard. That makes me feel frustrated. All you have to do is look around the world and know that colors are for everyone.

But Bella, isn’t that silly! How could your blue Buzz Lightyear shoes be for boys if colors are for everyone and Buzz Lightyear is from a movie made for all kids and you are a girl standing in those shoes! I think people get confused about that, because they think something is only for boys because they never took the time to consider girls. I think people should consider girls.

Since you are four years old, you know a lot of stuff, and you know that girls can like or do anything boys can. And boys can like or do anything girls can. Things are kind of silly right now because grown ups keep getting in the way of kids, and some grown ups who are in charge of the companies that make stuff for kids like toys and clothes, they don’t have good imaginations like you and I do. These grown ups try to fit kids into little boxes that are labeled “Boy” or “Girl”, and then they only let certain colors or ideas into each box. They do that because it makes it easier for them to sell their stuff. Since boys and girls don’t grow in boxes, you can see how really goofy this is. But I have to be honest with you, there are a lot of grown ups who don’t question these pink and blue boxes, and then they teach that thinking to their kids, and then their kids lose their imaginations. Those are the kinds of kids who say stuff to you at school about your blue shoes.

Bella, your blue shoes are double scoop awesome, it is just that people have lost their imaginations. Little girls like you, with sparks in their eyes and fires in their hearts, you challenge what they think and expect from girls and they don’t know what to do. You make people think harder and that scares them.

The thing is, Little Girlfriend, that people have become so narrow-minded about what girls can do or what girls can like that real girls like you and like my Amelia don’t fit into their little pink boxes. You pop right out of them. Rip them at the corners. Knock the top right off.

And you should. There is nothing in this world that is off limits to you. There is no space nor dream nor challenge that you can’t conquer. There is no set of rules you must follow, no appropriate way to act. There is no person who holds the right to tell you what to think. You, Bella, are the great-great-granddaughter of a generation of women who fought like heroes to make sure there were no more pink boxes to stuff little girls into. Somewhere along the way, we forgot those lessons and grown ups let things get messed up.

Bella with your blue shoes, we really need girls like  you. We need you to remind people what real little girls are like. We need you to remind people that little girls can do anything. I’ll tell you a secret, and you can tell your mom, but I think if grown ups got out of the way of little girls, little girls would have the space to become so amazing and so powerful the Earth would shake right to it’s core and when the ground moves, all those people who lost their imaginations would fall right over.

So Kiddo, next time someone says something to you about something you like, or a color you are wearing, or what you look like, just politely remind them they have lost their imaginations. Rude comments will come your way and you just need to brush them away like a bothersome fly. The problem is not you, the problem is them and the limitations they do not challenge.

In fact, take a look at all of these girls, just like you, proving them wrong. Take a look at these girls, because you fit right in. You fit right in.

Make the ground shake, Baby Girl.

Love, Melissa.


Garage Sale Genius

The kids and I were at a garage sale this morning, tipped off by a girlfriend of mine that the boy who lived at that house would be getting rid of massive amounts of super hero toys. Since Benny (3yo) has become a newly-minted Spiderman aficionado, and because he has fully potty trained in under four days, I thought it would be fun to let him pick out some “big boy toys”.

We pull up to the house, and see that the driveway is full of two long rows of low tables, about 24 inches off of the ground, completely FULL of toys. Smart merchandising, Garage Sale Family.

My kids descend upon the table like locusts, and Amelia spots and scoops up a stuffed killer whale and dolphin in under 14 seconds. Impressive.

Benny, new at this game, doesn’t know what to do at first so he follows his sis to the stuffed animal section, and picks up two kittens he likes because he says they remind him of “Milo and Otis”. Directly behind him lays the selection of super hero paraphernalia, and he does a little jig right there on the spot. He has struck super hero gold. He picks out three 12inch tall figures – Batman, Superman, and I think Ironman (still learning all the guys). He then selects two sandwich bags stuffed with all of the guys – Spiderman, Captain America, Hulk, Iceman, and some guy who looks like he’s made of gorgonzola.  Amelia finds a giant 24inch plush Batman she likes, but then decides she wants to give it to our little friend Chloe who really loves Batman. Chloe has a twin brother Connor, so Amelia busies herself finding him a toy as well.

Here’s where the genius comes in — as I’m watching them discuss the merits of each new toy, I take notice as to how drastically different this is from shopping in a toy store. There is no color-coded aisles here. No boy side, no girl side. Toys aren’t segregated by gender, they are divided into “Type of Toy”. I know, it almost makes you want to fall off of your chair in shock. Amelia never would have found nature/science stuff in the pink-washed girl aisles, nor would Benny have found kittens in the dark blue-green aisles dripping with testerone.

More goodness — there is no packaging, a two-fold bonus: no gender coding from color, and no preconceived instruction as to how the toy should be used, or who should be using it. And since everything is out of the package and 24inches off of the ground, it is perfect for little people to explore and touch what they might want to purchase.

Earlier that morning we had been at Target, buying paint brushes, art tablets, and finger paint for a birthday party we were headed to. I try to avoid the toy aisles at Big Box shops whenever I can, and we usually shop for toys at independent, locally-owned shops or handmade online (read: etsy).

$8.00 later I am thanking Sam, the kid who sold us all of his old toys, and happy with our bag full of stuff that involves zero garbage or twist ties when we get home. And since the toys came with no instructions, the kids are in complete control — the killer whale and dolphin immediately get integrated into the Shedd Aquarium that Amelia retro-fitted our doll house into, and the stuffed kittens become the children of Batman and they are packing to go on vacation to Texas.

$8 worth of Sam’s junk bought me an afternoon of peace and quiet while the kids played, but it also bought me an really great experience for my kids to shop for toys the way it should be.

Let imagination rule. Long live childhood.

Benny chose kittens and super heroes.

Amelia found more sea creatures to love.