Despite the fact that they regularly breach accepted norms of polite society (e.g. prancing around in their underwear into which they have stuffed some lego and shouting “look at my penis!”) preschoolers can also be sticklers for form. That is to say, they police social norms and are quick to express outrage over even subtle deviations from standard protocol.
Hereunder, I provide three examples.
- All does not mean “some.”
Elder: Whose house are we at tonight?
HWMBP: My house, we’re all at my house tonight.
Younger: Not all! Not Mom! [jovially]
D-R: Ha [laughing, painfully] Right. Not Mom.
- There’s this thing called “narrative point-of-view,” Mom
Yesterday, the younger wanted to wear as a T-shirt the top of some pajamas. She refers to it as her “whale shirt” because it has a picture of two whales on it. For me it is more notable because it has the words, “I love my Mom” emblazoned on the front, which always makes me cringe a bit, a) because I always cringe when I am interpellated as a “Mom,” and b) because when she wears it in public I always feel like everyone is thinking, “what douchebag Mom makes her daughter wear an ‘I love my Mom’ T-shirt”?
So, anyway, we’re in the playground and she’s swinging above me from some high monkey bars so the phrase on her T-shirt is right at my eye-level, which brings it to my attention. As she drops from the monkey bars and I catch her, I ask her, genuinely curious, “do you know what it says on your T-shirt?”
“I love my Mom,” she replies.
“That’s me! I’m the Mom!” I declare smugly.
“No,” she clarifies for me, patiently, “she loves her mom; the whale loves her Mom. Which whale do you think is the Mom and which is the baby whale?”
I am unable to answer this question because I am too busy being floored by her response. My children constantly outsmart me, but never have I been so devastatingly out-English-professor-ed.
“What,” I want to say, “are you, like, teaching a graduate seminar on focalization?”
“Is Gerard Genette like, your best friend?”
- Get Yer Kilt Off
“Mom!!!” in scandalized tone. “You’re wearing a MAN’S SKIRT in this picture!!!!”
“I’m wearing a what?” I ask, genuinely puzzled.
I look at the photo. I’m about 8 years old and I’m wearing a kilt. So: technically, she is right.
For the record, the younger’s Scottish grandmother agrees with her granddaughter that a kilt on a girl is quite improper. In fact, that may be precisely why I insisted on wearing one.
But, Scotsmen, you can rest easy tonight, safe in the knowledge that an Angeleno preschooler is out there bravely decrying Sassenach females’ unconscionable appropriation of your MAN’S SKIRTS.
2 thoughts on “Day 123: in which several transgressions are duly noted”
There’s a nice bit about this in Cordelia Fine’s Delusion of Gender, actually, where she argues against some kind of innate gender identity, and notes that what is innate is actually a mania for categorization, especially in children. So for example, if you start your kindergarten class by saying “Hello boys and girls!”, the children immediately go “aha, so there are boys and there are girls and the task is to figure out which is which!”
Oh, mania for categorization is an excellent way of putting it! And this mania extends to everything. I’m thinking of how my daughter will happily eat pasta and pesto but in any other circumstance nothing green may touch her pasta; if it does, there will be expressions of disgust and injunctions to “take it away!” Me arguing that pasta with pesto is essentially pasta with ALL GREEN STUFF ergo she sometimes likes green stuff carries no weight with her. She will only eat green stuff in pesto form. Because I read your above comment pre-coffee, I read the title of that book as “Cordelia’s Fine Delusions of Gender,” and IMMEDIATELY wanted to read it. 🙂